Saturday, December 20, 2008

Why? Fred Lewis

Much has been said about the Giants lack of offense of the Giants need for a power bat in the middle. Most like to say, just go out an sign a FA and take care of it. There are, after all, a few good ones on the market. The problem is, they are all outfielders, at least the ones who want to come here or whom the Giants can afford and the outfield is the Giants most set position. Now, I'm not saying the Giants can't upgrade at any of the three positions, but is it really the right move? I don't think so, what do you think? Let's take a closer look.

Aaron Rowand is starting the second year of a 5 year/$60 mil contract, that leave around $49 mil to go. While he is not completely untradable, he is close based off last years performance and his existing contract. Put it this way, he means more to the Giants having him vs. dealing with the return they would get for him. In a better lineup, different spot in the lineup, or just less pressure, it is safe to presume he can return to his career .800+ OPS.

Randy Winn is the Giants most consistent hitter and a leader in the clubhouse. He is in the final year of his 3 year/$23.25 mil deal that pays him $8.25 mil this season. The Giants need the offense he can provide and being it's his walk year, we should be able to expect bigger things than last year. Rumors are he wants to be extended here ( The Giants may be able to get a decent return for him but it would probably be better in July when the trade deadline approaches. Keeping Winn for the first few months would also help better gauge whether or not Nate Schierholtz is ready for more than just 4th outfielder instead of throwing him in there and having him fail.

That leaves Fred Lewis. If an outfielder has to give this offseason, it more than likely would be him. So, should he be moved out for a power hitting outfielder?

Lewis just turned 28 Dec. 9th. Last season was his first full season as a starter. Considered a late bloomer in the baseball world as most good ballplayers make a name for themselves by 23-24, not 26. His season ended slightly prematurely as he had surgery to remove a bunion on his foot that he had been dealing with most of his life. Even still, the Giants received ample opportunity to evaluate him as me took over Barry's Yard. The bunion surgery isn't supposed to alter his performance in the future as he should make a full recovery but it is a fairly rare thing for baseball players so whether or not he is ready for opening day is yet to be seen. We'll see come spring training.

Last season, Lewis played in 133 games, most while batting leadoff. Lewis had to concentrate on getting on base so his 2008 stats are more likely to be scued some. Even still, he showed alot of promise that he could be a solid #3 hitter in the future. In 2008, In 468 AB's Lewis had 25 2B's, 11 3B's, and 9 HR's. He also had 81 R to 40 RBI, swiped 21/28 bases, had 51 BB's to 124 K's, and a batting line of .282/.351/.440 with a .791 OPS. Given a full season batting in a more appropriate spot in the order, Lewis should post some pretty nice numbers.

Earlier this offseason, Bill James posted his projections for Lewis next season. They are not nearly as accurate as I believe. What he didn't factor in is a move in the order nor an improved offense, which even with the sole addition being Edgar Renteria and an entire year of Pablo Sandoval, the offense is better. Even still, James shows Lewis hitting, in 498 AB's, 25 2B, 7 3B, 10 HR, 84 R, 49 RBI, 57 BB, 115K, 21/29 SB, and a .277/.353/.416/ with a .769 OPS.

For the simple fact that he should receive more AB's, likely 60+ more, his pure numbers should be higher. With the move to the #3, hitting behind Randy Winn and Edgar Renteria vs. the flavor of the month number 8 hitter and the pitcher, Lewis should see many more run production opportunities. Last season Lewis had to learn to be patient as a leadoff hitter and took a lot of good pitches early in the count. Because of this, Lewis' walk total was up but so were his K's. a move down in the order would decrease his K's slightly but I think it would actually increase his BB's. Lewis learned to be patient and his intentional passes would probably go up due to increased runners on in front of him, especially without a true cleanup hitter. There is no reason, with his speed and power, to think the triples last season were an aberration, nor a more aggressive approach won't produce more extra base hits. His BA may dip some as he figures out his approach but most likely rebound by the end of the season and his OPS should be much higher. His projected totals should be much closer to:
557 AB, 156 H 31 2B, 12 3B, 19 HR, 79 R, 81 RBI, 62 BB, 106K, 24/32 SB, and a .280/.359/.481, with an .840 OPS.

This is an extremely conservative evaluation in my mind and I wouldn't be surprised to see the totals exceed 35 doubles, 15 triples, 23 homeruns, and 30 steals. The Bill James model appears to be flawed and is probably the far low end of what Lewis may produce.

One other thing, most baseball people believe a player has his best years between the ages of 28-32 . If so, hat would mean Fred Lewis is just about to enter that and the Giants still control him for another 4 years with Lewis being a late bloomer.

So I ask you, Why Fred Lewis? Why Not? Do you really want Adam Dunn? Pat Burrell? Bobby Abreu? Milton Bradley? Jermaine Dye? At the expense of Fred Lewis? Or wait one more year...

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