Written by Andy | 29 January 2011

This picture showed up in my inbox today.

I think he's found that middle ground where he's thin enough to field ground balls not hit directly at him but round enough to still be called Kung Fu Panda.

No more, Pablo.  You're good just like that.  From now on, you eat carrots for breakfast, twinkies for lunch, and a sensible meal for dinner.  That should keep your weight steady.

Apologies to anyone hoping to find shirtless pictures of Buster Posey on this blog.  I only do one shirtless male picture per year.  Wait, that came out wrong.  Let me clarify.  This is the only picture I will post all year of anybody of either gender not wearing a shirt.

I'm going to go now.  I have to, um, vacuum my, uh, cat. 

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Written by Andy | 28 January 2011

As it turns out, we don’t just talk about VORP so we can say “VORG” and “VORBD” and kiss-up to our wife by telling everyone what a high VORW she has. But she really does. If her VORW were a Giant, it’d be Tim Lincecum if you know what I…never mind. I thought it might be interesting to look at the VORP’s of last year’s Giants and talk about what it all means for the 2011 Giants.

2010 Giants VORP
Huff: 48.9
Torres: 32.7
Posey: 32.5
Uribe: 20.2
Burrell: 19.4
Sanchez: 18.2
Sandoval: 14.7
Renteria: 9.8
Ross: 3.5 (playoffs not included)
Ishikawa: 1.9
Whiteside: 1.3
Molina: 0.6
Guillen: -0.3
Fontenot: -0.9
Rowand: -1.6
Bowker: -3.0
Schierholtz: -3.9
DeRosa: -6.9

We added:
Tejada: 12.1
Belt: 18 bajillion
Turns out it’s hard to track down VORP for minor leaguers. If anyone can find out just how high Brandon Belt’s VORP was, please let me know. In the meantime, I can tell you that his OPS was 1.075.

Obviously the biggest concern is replacing Uribe’s production and the projected “regression to mean” of Huff and Torres.

The response to that concern is to rationally point out that for the love of God, Sabean and Bochy gave a combined 1,163 at bats to six players with an average VORP of negative 2.5 and that if they ever did that again, bless their hearts, world series championship or not, we will attack them with shovels.

In seriousness, the big gains stand to come from:
-Sandoval returning to form (he’s already got a really big VORKFP and now he’s got a smaller stomach too)
-Ross finding some kind of happy medium between the suckfest of his September and the absurdity of his October.
-Brandon Belt existing
-In case the stats above didn't make it clear, Buster Posey is better than Bengie Molina.  So that will help in April and May.
-Brandon Belt will be here! 
-Schierholtz should do less hitting this year and more playing right field in the 9th inning.  You know why?
-Brandon Belt will be around and might, you know, do some hitting

I'm sorry, but I walk away from these stats and this offseason feeling optimistic.  I know Huff and Torres might regress and losing Uribe could hurt.  But it just feels like there's more here this year than there was last year, particularly if we're more efficient in how we assign at-bats.  I mean, giving Bengie Molina a couple hundred of Buster Posey's at-bats would be like giving Joe Martinez a month or so of Timmy's starts.  It's not 2009 when our 8th best hitter was a pitcher.  We've got the talent.  We just have to...what's that?  You don't believe me?  Remember when things were bad?  It wasn't that long ago.

From all of us at 24 Days of Magic, have a great weekend.

Behold.  The 2009 San Francisco Giants.
Sandoval: 64.2
Uribe:  25.7
Rowand 13.1
Torres: 12.2
Molina: 12.0
Lewis: 5.2
Velez:  2.7
Cain: 1.9

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Written by Andy | 28 January 2011

If I was a character on The Office, I think I'd be Jim (every guy says that because the alternatives are horrid).  Sometimes, in my less dignified moments, I'm Michael.  Today, however, I was Dwight.

(Igor would like me to remind everyone that The Office is a registered trademark of NBC which is owned by Comcast Inc. which in turn is an affiliate of General Electric which is a subsidiary of the private equity firm Manchurian Global.)

See, the good folks over at The Nats Blog are doing a feature in which they chat with bloggers from all 29 other teams to get their perspective on the upcoming season.  And I volunteered to do the Giants preview.

But then I thought...this is kind of suspicious.   Why are they asking me all these questions?  Are they pulling a Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade and spying on the rest of the league?

I mean, if the CIA had a team....stands to reason....

Never fear, Giants fans.  Much like our bearded mental assassin, I was ninja.  Below is a sample of the Q & A.

Q: How do you feel about the 2011 team?

Uh....Rob Neyer says we're going to finish 3rd.  We think that's about right.  I mean, you should check out the Dodgers.  They're really good.  They have Casey Blake.  Have you talked to them yet?  You should talk to them.  And the Padres have more Hairstons than us.  it's an uphill climb, for sure.

Q:  What was the best move the Giants made this offseason?

Probably trading Huff to the Pirates and Posey to the Cardinals.  That frees up some cap space.  We also feel good about the four injured Mets we acquired for Matt Cain.  Cain never really won a lot of games, you know, and wins are a great measure of pitching talent.  So when the Queens hospital called, it was really an easy decision. 

Q:  Are you excited about the prospect of Brandon Belt joining the team?


Brandon Belt.

Dan Ortmeier?

Belt...he's a AAA 1st baseman who could make the majors this year.

Oh yes, him.  He broke his head.  Out for the year.  Tragic, um, gas-pumping accident. 

Q:  What's your projection for the lineup this year?

Rowand, Molina, Zito, Garko, Dave Roberts, Benard, Alex Smith, and then maybe lure Shawon Dunston out of retirement.  

Q:  What is Timmy's dog named?

Bob.  Bobert.  I think Bobert.  (twiddles thumbs nervously)


After that he asked me some questions about what it was like to be a Giants fan last year and I told him how wonderful and relaxing it was, how truly enjoyable the whole experience was for us fans. 

Of course, if he watches our opening day game against the Dodgers, he'll know I was lying.  But by then we'll be 1-0 and it'll be too late to stop us.  

Can we start the season now?

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Written by Andy | 27 January 2011

The first time I ever read a Giants blog was when my friend emailed me this article back in the summer.  It was also the first time I’d thought about the Giants and laughed in a very long time.  Usually I cried.  Or punched something.  Or both.

Later, when I decided to start my own blog, I was told that I must approach Grant of McCovey Chronicles for permission, as he was the BlogFather.  I did so in mid-November and found him sitting in his office talking with his consigliore, Brian Bocock.

“BlogFather,” I said.  “I would like to start a blog.”

“Yes, yes,” he replied.  “I can see you are eager.  First, let me ask you a question.  Who sucks more, Ryan Garko or…”

“Ryan Garko,” I said.  “Nobody sucks more than him.”

“I am disturbed that you have interrupted me but you have certainly answered correctly.  I will allow you to start your blog, but you must give it a stupid name.”

“Yes, BlogFather.”

“You may go.”

“Thank you, BlogFather.  May your first child be a masculine child and may you name him a masculine name like Madison.”

Fast forward to December…

You know how when reporters talk to athletes it’s an “interview” unless it happens on Sunday night and Bob Lee is the reporter in which case it becomes a “conversation”?  Isn’t that weird?

Anyway, Grant was nice enough to have a “conversation” with me.  It was a Sunday night and we both wore sweaters and sat down in plush armchairs in a room lined with bookshelves.  It was very pleasant.

24D:  Thanks for doing this interview.  For those who don't know, Grant runs "McCovey Chronicles," a fantastic Giants blog (www.mccoveychronicles.com).  His website is linked to on Yahoo Sports and all that.  Buster Posey routinely texts him for driving directions.   So, how did that happen for you?  Are you now incredibly wealthy as a result?

MCC:  I started my first site, Waiting for Boof, after the 2002 World Series. There were really only two Giantscentric blogs then -- Only Baseball Matters and The Southpaw -- so it was pretty wide open. My goal was just to practice my writing -- I fancied myself a screenwriter, but I didn't write nearly enough as I needed to if I wanted to accomplish anything. But whenever I was on the internet discussing the Giants, I figured out that I could rip off 1000 words about the Giants like it was nothing.

When SB Nation started almost six years ago, I was the first blog other than Athletics Nation. SBN's software and partnerships are the biggest reason for the site's growth, really. My knock-knock jokes are cute, but that's only going to go so far. Auto-refreshing comments, reader participation, and Yahoo!/SI.com visibility are what keep people coming in and coming back. The move also forced me to write every day, which is a discipline I didn't know I had.

24D:  My least favorite knock-knock joke is:  Knock Knock:  Who's There?  Eric Hinske.   That's the whole joke.  Anyway, as your blog has taken off, have you gotten any support or recognition from the team itself?  Have you had the opportunity to interview players or coaches? 

MCC:  Hinske's down the mountain when the fox is chasing her in the snow? Yeah, you're probably right.

The organization has reached out to me on a couple different occasions, and they've been supportive. I think they were a little worried that I'd be a fist-in-the-air blogger, fighting for press access and the ability to ask Bruce Bochy why he double-switched in the ninth inning. When I told them that I preferred to do my thing from my mother's basement -- call me when they get Bagel Bites brought down the stairs with love in the post-game spread -- they were probably a little relieved.

That's not my thing. I think it's better if I solely write from a fan/outsider perspective. That's the only way I can be effective. If I had a press pass to get clubhouse quotes and inside information, I'd just be doubling up what Extra Baggs does, and he would do it much better.

That definitely goes for player/coach interviews, too. When I find out that Aaron Rowand is a really nice guy, maybe I'm less likely to write something satirical about him. Because, really, that's a guy's livelihood I’m  writing about. He struggled through a lot professionally last season, so the last thing he needs is to give time to some clown with a blog that pokes fun at him. But if I stay an anonymous nerd and he stays an image on my TV screen, our arrangement works just fine, and I can write the best content I know how.

24D:  That makes sense, especially the bagel bites part.  Maybe that's why Randy Moss threw that tantrum when he saw the post-game Vikings spread...no bagel bites.  So, speaking of that fan/outsider perspective...as a Giants fan, have you been able to process what just happened this past year?  Do you still wake up in the middle of the night screaming in horror about Scott Speizio and then go "wait...but..."?

MCC:  I haven't been able to fully process the World Series. Starting to, but still not there yet. After popping the champagne and jumping around, I sat down to write...and just stared. I had absolutely no idea what to write, and after about an hour, I posted what might be the most boring thing I've ever written -- and that's saying a lot. I couldn't put my thoughts into written words.

24DNow that a little time has elapsed, have you found it easier to write about the title?

MCC:  A little bit. It's tough to maintain the same edge in a lot of ways. It was so, so easy to rail against something completely esoteric, if not meaningless, like Eli Whiteside over Steve Holm because the San Francisco Giants had never won the World Series. Jose Vizcaino playing innings at first base? Why, that's the end of the world because the San Francisco Giants had never won the World Series. Bruce Bochy being weird when it came to giving Buster Posey playing time? Unacceptable, because if the Giants are ever going to win the World Series (yeah, right), it will be on the backs of young players like Posey.

Now? Just about every decision Bochy made in the postseason worked out to the Giants' benefit, so am I really going to get fired up about him bringing Ramon Ramirez into a tie game, or something like that? The same goes for Sabean -- if you want to remain cynical, you can. There's roster ammunition there. But what's the point right now?

Time will take care of this contented feeling, I'm sure. It's not like I watch the Niners and say, gee, that's okay because I have such fond memories of watching Super Bowl XXIX in my dorm room. And I still think that Sabean is the kind of talent evaluator who believes Jose Guillen is a nice complementary piece to a major league lineup, which is to say the kind of talent evaluator with whom I will often disagree, so it will all come back at some point. It'll be like riding a bike.

24D:  Single best offseason move?  And single worst?

MCC:  Best move? That's tough because it's a close race. Pat Burrell is barely making more than the minimum, so that's an obvious contender, but Eugenio Velez is operating under deep cover as a Dodger now. I guess I'll stay positive and go with Burrell, but it's close.

Worst move is a big N/A. They didn't do anything outlandish at all. I can see the justifications behind Tejada and Mota, even if those might not have been the exact players I would have picked.

24D:  Alright, last question:  Based on a recent tweet and not on any weird internet stalking I understand that you're married.  How did that Fever-Pitch-esque conversation with your wife go when you first started dating, you know, the one that starts:

"So, there's something you should know about me."


"I really like the Giants."

"That's great!  So do I!"

"No, you don't understand.  I, like, REALLY like the Giants..."

MCC:  We were roommates before my nerdy hotness pulled her in like a tractor beam. So she was well aware how deep I was in. The first year we were dating was the first year Pac Bell Park opened, and I went to about 50 games.

The first time I ever went away with her family was on a houseboat trip, and it was during the 2000 playoffs. I tried to play it cool so her family didn't think I was a freak, but I ended up on the top of the houseboat, alone, listening to 13 innings of torture on the radio, only to have Benny Agbayani ruin it all. And then I had to re-enter society, answering all of the well-meaning "Did they win?" questions.

I drank a lot that night.

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Written by Andy | 26 January 2011

Our very own (ok, that sounds weird, but you know what we mean) Eric Surkamp was rated the #2 pitching prospect in the Giants' farm system by Baseball America.

Eric was also rated as having the best changeup, curveball, and control of any pitcher in the system. 

Now is the best time to join the Eric Surkamp fan club

Now is the worst time to join the Jay Cutler fan club.

Now would be a pretty good time to join the Timmy's Dog fan club, if it existed.  Yesterday my wife asked: "who takes care of the dog when the Giants are on the road?"

I'm raising my hand. 

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Written by Andy | 26 January 2011

I'm hoping to post a couple different things later on today.

Posts with "substance" to live up to the comment that Grant at McCovey Chronicles made about our interview with Eric Surkamp being "actual substance."

Don't worry, Grant.  Mostly we're going to be posting fake conversations between ourselves and our fictional personal assistant Igor.  And making up non-flattering nicknames for Mat Latos.

In the meantime....

This video is awesome.


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Written by Andy | 25 January 2011

I love advanced baseball statistics.  To me, the Bill James crowd are geniuses who have taken the most beautiful form of entertainment and competition ever created and added common sense to the way in which it is watched.  There's one Giant (pun intended) problem with these stats, though, and that would be sentences like this:
"You may think Albert Pujols is better than Ben Zobrist, but you're just a dumb-as-a-stick know-nothing RBI-lover.  The fact is, Zobrist's VORP and WAR numbers, set as a logarithm to reveal expected wins or losses and combined with UZR and other advanced prognosticatorial projections related to anticipated values of defensive range adjusted for park demonstrate a BABIP that steeps heavily toward the conclusion that Ben Zobrist is in fact the greatest baseball player ever.  Pujols.  Please.  Go back to your cave."
The problem with sentences like these is that they leave the traditional baseball fan feeling like:
a) I've just been called stupid
b) I have to be a geek to truly understand baseball
c) I don't even believe this because there's no way Ben Zobrist is better than Albert Pujols
My goal is to start a segment here at 24 Days of Magic that turns these complicated advanced stats into something tangible that we can relate to every day life so that all fans can use them comfortably.  Because they are better.  But you shouldn't have to be a geek with a superiority complex to believe that.
The inspiration came on a sunny day back in October as I had lunch with my friend Jon.
Me:  Yeah, and she's watching the baby tonight so I can go to the playoff game.
Jon:  That's awesome of her.
Me:  I know.  Her VORW is so high right now...
Jon:  Her what?
Me:  Her VORW.  Value Over Replacement Wife.
Allow me to explain:
WHAT VORP STANDS FOR:  Value Over Replacement Player
WHAT VORP MEASURES:  How many runs a player produces as opposed to a replacement player that is defined roughly as a player at 80% of the league average in run production.
HOW VORP WORKS:  The idea behind VORP is that in the end, the stat that matters the most for hitters is how many runs they produce per out.  But rather than just assign a number based on stats, VORP attempts to measure a player's value by comparing it to the value of a mythical replacement player who has the same percentage of the team's at-bats. 
WHO IS THIS REPLACEMENT PLAYER?  The replacement player is the kind of player you'd get if your starter gets injured.  In most cases, you don't have an "average" player on the bench.  In the majors, average players are starters.  The backup is usually a guy who is below average and who could be picked up on a waiver wire, traded for bad prospects, etc. 
So how can we correlate this to the real world?
VORW!  Or VORG, if you're not married.  Or VORB or VORH if you're female.  Or VORBD (Value Over Replacement Baby-Daddy).  Think about it like this...
You're in a relationship that ends and you're suddenly single.  Life is great until you realize you're a complete emotional/physical/gastronomical mess without your boyfriend/girlfriend and you need to get back into a relationship RIGHT NOW.  The replacement boyfriend or girlfriend you find is not going to be "average."  He or she is going to be the kind of boyfriend/girlfriend you find quickly because, "hey, they're not ugly" or "we both like food" or "he hasn't been arrested in months."  It's a quick fix.  It's the best you can do.  It's (I'm so, so sorry) the Eugenio Velez of dating.
WHAT'S A GOOD VORP?  Last year, Albert Pujols led the league at 81.8, which means he produced 81.8 more runs over the course of the year than the Replacement Player.  Aubrey Huff led the Giants at 48.9.  Barry Bonds in 2001 put up a VORP of 145.1.
CAN YOU GET A NEGATIVE VORP?  Yes.  Neifi Perez in 2002 had a -27.4 VORP.  Which is payback for that homerun he hit in 1998 against the Giants.
-Your wife watches the baby so you can go watch Timmy strike out 14 Braves even though she'd been watching the baby all day:  96 VORW
-Your boyfriend pretends to forget your birthday so he can lull you into being surprised by a fancy dinner and flies your best friend in from across the country to see you:  86.4 VORB
-Your girlfriend walks around wearing a Buster Posey shirt and can tell you his OBP:  65.9 VORG
-Your husband walks around wearing no shirt and wiping orange Cheeto dust on his stomach: 8.1 VORH
-Your girlfriend says things like "baseball is so boring."  1.9 VORG
-Your boyfriend says things like "you're so boring."  -8.7 VORB
-Your baby daddy is running for president and slept with you while his wife was battling cancer.  -22.7 VORBD
Which means Neifi Perez must have had a REALLY bad year.
Why are you writing this post?
Two reasons.
First, I want to help make VORP an understandable concept.

But more importantly, it's my goal to one day walk down the street and hear people saying: "OMG, he claimed his phone died but then I saw him texting like two minutes later and I know he was texting that hussy.  His VORB is like negative 3 billion."
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Written by Andy | 24 January 2011

We continue our preview of each division with a look at the AL West.  Remember that projected improvement is denoted with a "Spiffy Buster" and projected regression is denoted with an "Angry Brian."  Why wasn't I invited to Buster Posey's wedding?  I'm still doing some soul searching to figure that out.  After all, I'm friends with Brandon Belt on facebook and he's friends with somebody who is friends with somebody who is friends with Kevin Bacon.  So I should be right there.  Weird.

Teams Listed In Order of Projected Finish
2010 Finish: 2nd
2010 Record: 81-81
2010 Pythagorean (roughly the record they would have had with neutral luck): 86-76
2011 Projection: 90-72
Difference: 9 Spiffy Busters
There are four kinds of Giants fans when it comes to the A's.  Type 1 wears those silly Giants/A's split hats and has a crush on Ray Fosse.  Type 2 considers the A's to be their 2nd favorite team, but a distant 2nd.  Type 3 hates the A's and wants them to move to Vegas.  Type 4 goes weeks without realizing the A's exist.

Personally, I have the most respect for Type 2 and Type 3.  I'm Type 2 but I'd be Type 3 before I'd be Type 1.

Anyway, the A's got very unlucky last year, have the best pitching outside of any team that participated in last year's NLCS, and added enough offense to make a difference. The dirty little secret that Billy Beane doesn't want you to know is that Cust for Matsui is actually a downgrade in statistical productivity, but an upgrade in selling tickets.  Still, DeJesus is a legit hitter, Willingham will help, some of the young guys will get better, and Dallas Braden's grandma will bat 8th.  Should make the playoffs an interesting time in the Bay Area.
(I can't believe I just said that.  Somebody should slap me.  One world championship and I lose all sense of appropriate non-jinxing protocol.)

2. 2010 World Champion Runners-Up TEXAS RANGERS
2010 Finish: 1st
2010 Record: 90-72
2010 Pythagorean: 92-70
2011 Projection: 89-73
Difference: 1 Angry Brian

When you've got a great offense but really only one star pitcher, a couple decent starters, and then you have Tommy Hunter pitching an actual World Series game, you should probably make pitching a priority in the off-season.  Well, despite the fact that Ranger management took Cliff Lee hunting, bought him camo Ranger jerseys, and took his wife to Wal-Mart and told her to "go nuts," the Cliffster is gone, to be replaced by Brandon Webb and his fun and exciting right arm.  Adrian Beltre?  Sure.  Fine.  If you thought Nolan Ryan looked pissed off during the Series, wait till you see him this year as his team plays 10-9 games 4 times a week, wins about half of them, and fails to make the playoffs because they can't beat Gio Gonzalez.
(Side note:  how fun was it to watch Barbara Bush knitting while Madison Bumgarner was killing it?  My wife yelled: "she's knitting!" and I didn't believe her at first, but yes, she was in fact knitting.)

2010 Finish: 3rd
2010 Record: 80-82
2010 Pythagorean: 79-83
2011 Projection: 83-79
Difference: 3 Spiffy Busters

Kendry Morales is unlikely to break his leg again while celebrating a walk-off homerun.  That's about all I can say positive for the Angels who whiffed on every free agent on the market as God continues his retribution for 2002:

God's Retribution on the Angels
First: They crapped out in the playoffs (if they made it at all) every year since their Evil-Monkey-fueled championship.
Second:  Scott Speizio went and did this
Third: The rally monkey lost a "coolest monkey in the world" contest to this guy.
Fourth: They changed their name to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Pretty hard to maintain any level of dignity at that point.

2010 Finish: 4th
2010 Record: 61-101
2010 Pythagorean: 57-105
2011 Projection: 60-102
Difference: 1 Angry Brian

Stop trying to steal Timmy.  Stop trying to steal Timmy.  He doesn't want to go home.  He likes it here now.  He doesn't like the rain.  He hates mountains.  He feels uncomfortably close to Canada when he's with you.  You don't understand him.  You could have drafted him and you didn't.  You can't have him.  Go away. 

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Written by Andy | 22 January 2011

The Giants avoided arbitration with Andres Torres and Javier Lopez, signing Torres to a 1 year, $2.2 million deal and Lopez to a 1 year, $2.375 million contract.

All of which makes blogging about it difficult.

See, the following would be an approximate progression of my emotions as a Giants fan:

1982-1986:  Naivete
1987-1989:  Heartbreak
1990-1992:  Depression
1993:  Anguish
1994-1996:  Depression
1997:  Hope
1998-1999:  Frustration
2000-2004:  $#%^ this
2005-2008: Bored cynicism
2009:  Anguish
2010:  Cynical skeptiHOLYCRAPWEWON

Keep in mind that my formative years as a fan capable of informed opinion came during the "sign an old veteran and draft another pitcher and lose 90 games" era.  So whenever the Giants make a move, my first reaction is to write something sarcastic and cynical.

But Andres Torres is like kryptonite to my Superman of doubt.  Andres Torres is to cynicism as Don Mattingly is to mound visits.  Andres Torres making a video teaching young people how to be sarcastic and negative makes as much sense as Cliff Lee making a video teaching young people how to pitch effectively to Freddy Sanchez.  You get the idea.

This is simply win-win all around.  Andres gets a big pay raise but is still a bargain.  The Giants avoid having to go through any arbitration hearings at all, leaving the way clear to focus on defending the crown.  Javier Lopez returns and is making more than Manny Ramirez, which I'm guessing is probably the first time that's happened. 

Do you think Javier Lopez has a picture of every left handed hitter in a secret basement room in his home?  And every time he strikes one of them out he like puts a big red X over the picture?  I don't know if I'd be more disturbed or impressed if that were true.

The Giants' off-season is officially over, folks.  Spring training is coming.  It's title defense time, and I'm feeling good.

Of course, that might be because I haven't watched a Giants game in a while....those game thingies are horrific to watch.

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Written by Andy | 21 January 2011

First a quick note: interviewing Giants players and staff will not be a major feature of this blog.  If you want to hear sound bites from major leaguers, you can read the Chronicle or watch Comcast Sportsnet or, if you like the Red Sox or Yankees, you can watch ESPN.  I liked interviewing Eric Surkamp, though, and I like the idea of our blog supporting a player with potential who is still working his way through the system.   The end result is that Eric gets a base of support at a time when most Giants fans are focused on the big league players.  Meanwhile, when Eric makes the majors and strikes out Albert Pujols and walks off the mound and yells “that’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout, Fat Albert!” all the readers of this blog will feel part of that success.  And then Eric will sign lots of autographs for us and maybe let us borrow his Ferrari when he’s not using it.  So it’s win-win.


I sat down with Giants pitching prospect Eric Surkamp over a plate of three-way chili at the local Skyline off route 50 in Milford, a small town just outside the city locals call: “The Nati.”  Ok, that’s not true.  We talked on the phone.  I just wanted to show off my southern-Ohio knowledge to any of Eric’s friends and family who might be reading this back in Deer Park or Indian Hill.

Moving on...

Eric Surkamp was the Giants’ 6th round pick out of North Carolina State in the 2008 draft.  Last year he pitched in San Jose and posted very good numbers, including an impressive K/BB rate and an ERA just over 3.  He was injured in mid-July and missed the rest of the season but is projected to pitch in AA this year.  He also has been mentioned as a possible spot-starter should one of the Giants’ starters go down to injury or, in Matt Cain’s case, just decide they’re tired of not having anybody score runs for them.

Eric was extremely generous with his time and we can’t thank him enough.  The Eric Surkamp Fan Club will be launching soon and our goal is to get 100 members by opening day. 
(photo courtesy of mediascout.com)

24D: Thanks again for doing this.

ES: No problem

24D: You grew up in Ohio?

ES: Yeah, Cincy,OH, Archbishop Moeller high school, pretty well known high school in terms of sports.  Barry Larkin went there, Ken Griffey Jr. went there.  We’ve had quite a run of players.

24D: Are some of those former major leaguers still involved?

ES: They don’t come back that often; I think most of them have left the area and they don’t want to come back to Cincy in the cold weather.  All those guys make their homes in Florida, Arizona, so...kinda don’t blame them not wanting to come back in the snow.

24D: Were you a Reds fan growing up?

ES: I was…I was a Reds fan growing up.  They were good when I was younger, but from what I remember, I don’t remember very many winning teams.  Cincinnati’s kinda been dying for a winner, watching the Reds and the Bengals growing up.

24D: Compared to the Bengals, the Reds are doing ok…

ES: Yeah…

24D: What would you have done if the Reds had played the Giants in the playoffs?

ES: Actually I was down here rehabbing in Arizona for my hip, I was gonna try my hardest to get back home and go to the games.  I would have definitely been rooting for the Giants, though.  Being around here, great organization, meeting the guys who are on the big league team, having a couple of buddies who are up there, Dan Runzler, those kind of guys, who kinda put you under their wing a little bit.  You always talk to them; they tell you what it’s like…you’re always a fan of the team you get drafted by.  I think I’ll always be a Giant no matter where I end up in my career.

24D: That’s interesting because I was going to ask you if you feel like a Giant or if that kind of affiliation doesn’t take hold until you reach AAA or the Majors itself, but I guess you’re saying you already feel strongly connected to the organization.

ES: Yeah, I mean I obviously haven’t made it to the big leagues yet, but I was actually thinking about it today while I was in the facility working out, just how all the people, all the staff who they have in there, ready to do anything for you at the drop of the hat.  They have a great organization, from the top down, if you ever need anything, they’re easy to get a hold of and everything like that.   So it’s really helpful.

24D: So then you went to NC State?

ES: Yeah, went to NC State and stayed in college for three years.

24D: You left a year early to go pro?

ES: Yeah.  After my junior year I got drafted, I felt it was the best opportunity for me as far as having a little leverage.  

24D: So going into that draft, sitting there on draft day, what was that experience like?  Did you have a round you were hoping to be taken in?

ES: It was pretty nerve-wracking.  In High school you get recruited, but you don’t have to really wait around for anything or for somebody to pick you up, you just have a choice of where you want to go.  Going into my junior year I think I was a little more highly touted than when I got drafted which is completely understandable since I had a down junior year.  Didn’t pitch that well and kinda fell off a little bit.  To be honest, people tell you so many things leading up to the draft.  Everything I heard was somebody could take you as early as the 2nd round or as late as the 7th or 8th and I ended up getting picked in the 6th.  Actually me and my roommate were at the (NCAA) super regional down in Athens, Georgia playing against the University of Georgia in the NCAA tournament the day of the draft.  We were just hanging out in the hotel and he ended up getting picked in the 5th round, and not too longer after that I got picked.

24D: And I’m sure he didn’t remind you of that or anything…

ES: (Laughs).  No, he actually got picked by the Reds, so that was cool.

24D: Speaking of that, did you have a team in mind, or teams, where you say “I hope they draft me, or I hope they don’t draft me?”

ES: No, it was pretty much I just want to get drafted.  You don’t really know anything about the teams, I mean, I think most baseball players will say it, you just want to play in the big leagues, it doesn’t matter where you’re at.  That’s the dream for all of us.  And you put so much time and effort into the game, it’s the biggest focus to play, no matter where.

24D: Sure, but I think our readers were hoping you’d say you were glad you didn’t get drafted by the Dodgers.

(Laughs, but won’t admit it’s true.  Sorry…I tried.)

24D: In terms of the minors, what is it like?  Is the stereotype of the long bus rides and everyone kind of chasing the dream…is that accurate?  Do you like the lifestyle?

ES: Yeah, I’ve actually loved it; I’ve had a blast with it.  The thing is, the Giants farm teams are in good towns.  There are definitely some towns that we travel to that aren’t as populated or in the middle of nowhere or that might not be as fun in the middle of summer to play there, but it’s been a blast.  I don’t have a girlfriend, I don’t have a wife or anything like that, where that’s holding me down or I’m in a certain town maybe missing my family too much.  My parents are able to travel and see me.  I just try to take advantage of it because you can’t play the game forever so I want to live it up while I can.

24D: Do you have a favorite minor league road trip?

ES: San Jose is actually the best road trip in the Cal League and that was our home city, but I'll say Charleston, SC.  Lexington, Kentucky was great for me because it's very close to my home and my family was able to come out and see me pitch.

24D: How closely did you follow the Giants playoff run?

ES: Very closely, I watched every game.  I was very into it.

24D: Did you get a sense for the whole "torture" thing?

ES: I did.  Although I think that's just the nature of a team with strong pitching that plays a lot of close games...you get those kind of games.  But yeah I saw the signs and all that and definitely felt the ups and downs of those games.

24D: What Giant would you want to room with on the road?

ES: I've talked a lot to my friends on the team, guys like Dan Runzler, and you hear them talking about how much support they get from veterans like Pat Burrell and Huff.  I think it'd be cool to room with one of them and get their perspective.

24D: How do you feel about the jump from A to AA?

ES: I'm excited.  They say the jump from High A to AA is the biggest jump in baseball, so I'm definitely viewing it as a challenge, but one I'm excited for.  It's an adjustment to go from just worrying about making your pitches to also adjusting to what the hitters are doing and adapting based on their tendencies.

24D: Do you have a goal for this season?

ES: I don't really set a goal usually in terms of things like ERA.  I'd like to stay healthy for the whole year, and show the organization that I can stay on the mound the whole year.  That would be a goal for sure.

24D: There was a report (the day of the interview) that if a Giants starter went on, say, the 15 day DL, you might be one of the names considered for a spot start or two.  How do you feel about that?

ES: That would obviously be amazing...I mean, that'd be a dream.  I'm definitely honored to have my name come up like that.  If it happens, I'll definitely be ready.

24D: So let's say you get called up and you're pitching against the Cardinals and Albert Pujols comes up.  What would you throw him?

ES: (laughs) I think I'd throw him whatever Buster Posey tells me to throw him.

(Eric should have said “curveball away, curveball away, changeup in.” and then actually thrown him curveball away, curveball away, fastball up because then Pujols would be completely fooled.  Because, you know, Albert Pujols reads my blog.)

24D: For those who don't know you that well, could you name some big league pitchers similar to what you throw to give us a sense of your style?

ES: I don't want to put my name in the same sentence as him, obviously, but I think there's a similarity with Andy Pettite.  You hear a lot of stuff.  I've heard Joe Saunders.  Everyone knows I don't have the most velocity but I'm not up there throwing slop.  My fastball is high 80's, low 90's, and I feel comfortable throwing it.

24D: How is the recovery from hip surgery?

ES: I feel great, I feel ready.  I'm doing everything, strength wise and my arm and hip feel fine.  I haven't started throwing off the mound yet but I'll do that on the 24th. 

24D: Are there some nerves involved in that?  You know, until you actually throw again there's a fear of what will happen?

ES: Yeah, but I try to look at it differently, as a blessing.  I've had over 5 months now to rest my arm, and maybe that'll help keep me healthy in the future, having that time off.

24D: Thanks so much for your time, I really appreciate it.  We are going to start an Eric Surkamp fan club as our way of saying thank you.  In the meantime, if I could ask one more favor, would you be willing to say "Beat LA"?

ES: Beat LA.


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