Brian Sabean, Bruce Bochy

If you’re painting the Giants as some sort of anti-Moneyball team you’re delusional

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Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle has a column today in which he praises the Giants for being a scout-based anti-Moneyball organization, claiming that they have no use for advanced analytics, that they base their decisions on “visual evidence” and that they are superior to “organizations cutting their scouting staffs and stocking computers.”

He then predictably paints a ridiculous caricature of statistical analysis and those who find value in it:

Numbers, they believe, tell the entire story – and their approach is worshiped by thousands of fans and bloggers who wouldn’t last five minutes in a ball-talk conversation with Tim Flannery, Mark Gardner or Ron Wotus.

Jenkins then goes on about the way the Giants put together their two-time World Series championship team, claiming that it’s all about old school scouting and experience and grit and all of that stuff and how the people who employ advanced analytical tools to build baseball teams have it all wrong.

It’s bad enough on its own, but it’s much worse when one realizes that Jenkins simply has his facts wrong. Dreadfully wrong. Wrong to the point of basic journalistic malpractice.  Why? Because he doesn’t once mention the name Yeshayah Goldfarb. Who is Yeshayah Goldfarb? Glad you asked!

Goldfarb’s title is long and clunky: He’s the Giants’ director of minor league operations/quantitative analysis.

What that means is that Goldfarb had a role in just about every player personnel decision the Giants’ baseball operations department made to shape this year’s team — from past amateur drafts to in-season trades to off-season free-agent signings.

“He’s one of our ‘Moneyball’ guys, if you will,” Giants president Larry Baer said last week, alluding to the process of finding valuable players that other teams might overlook. “He does a lot of our really important analysis on player acquisitions.”

Goldfarb’s job, that 2010 article from JWeekly.com notes, is to “focus on taking a mountain of statistics and data and “putting it into a simple, understandable format for people that need the information.”  And it’s not just some make-work job to satisfy some affirmative action for computer geeks requirement:

Goldfarb and his cohorts in analytics also were instrumental in re-signing Uribe before the season, trading for two relief pitchers in midseason (including lefty specialist Javier Lopez) and going after mid-season discards Burrell and Ross. He also helped convince officials to draft college stars Lincecum (2006) and Posey (2008).

That article is from 2010, so it describes the key, improbably useful pieces which helped the Giants win that title. Jenkins notes the similar improbably useful pieces that went into the 2012 title and would have you believe that it was all a bunch of lone wolf, Clint Eastwood scouts finding those guys. I have no doubt that the Giants’ scouting operation is top notch, but I’m willing to bet that Goldfarb — and his statistics — was every bit as important to the building of the 2012 champs as he was in 2010. Yet Jenkins doesn’t mention his name once and denies that his job function has a place on the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants President and CEO thinks this stuff is important. So too does the general manager. They both go out of their way to praise Goldfarb and the kind of work he does, crediting it with helping the team win a world championship.  How, in light of that, people like Bruce Jenkins can write the literally counterfactual sorts of things like he wrote today is beyond me.

There is no baseball team that sees the world like Jenkins thinks the Giants see the world. There is likewise no baseball team that sees the world the way Jenkins’ caricature of statisticians sees the world.  Every team uses advanced and often proprietary analysis. Every team has scouts and uses them.  Yet for some reason Jenkins and his ilk continue to fight a false war on bad information.  It boggles the mind.

Masahiro Tanaka throws off mound for first time since October elbow surgery

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According to the Associated Press — via Chad Jennings of The Journal News — Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October.

The throwing session took place in New York, and Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild later told the media in Tampa that all of the reports he heard were good.

Tanaka might be behind some of the Yankees’ other pitchers when spring training officially begins, but he should be ready for the start of the 2016 regular season.

The 27-year-old native of Japan posted a 3.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season for New York. He owns a 3.16 ERA (123 ERA+) in 290 1/3 innings since becoming a major leaguer in 2014.

Tanaka is still pitching with a partially-torn ligament in his right elbow that could eventually require Tommy John reconstructive surgery. His surgery last October was of the arthroscopic variety and simply removed bone spurs.

Bud Selig to teach a class at Arizona State law school

Bud Selig
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Before Bud Selig ultimately retired, he had a couple of false start retirement announcements only to have the owners beg him to sign on for one more term. In one of those false starts he talked about how the University of Wisconsin had set up an office for him in the history department and that he’d be doing some research and teaching a class now and again. And he has, in fact, taught some one-off seminars at Wisconsin’s law school and the like.

Now something a little more permanent along those lines is in the works for The Greatest Commissioner in Baseball History. The Arizona Republic reports that Selig will join the Sports Law and Business program at Arizona State University’s law school where he will teach and advise as well as start up a speakers series in which he will bring in high-powered guests. No word on how many speakers will talk about big, important historical sports law cases like, say collusion in baseball, which was orchestrated by an ownership class in the mid-to-late 80s, of which Bud Selig was far and away the most influential member. That could get sort of awkward, I suppose.

Either way, it’s a good way to keep busy. I mean, that’s what it has to be as he’s not hurting for cash, what with the obscene $6 million severance package the owners gave him to, I dunno, not give interviews about bad stuff that happened back in the day like Fay Vincent does all the time. Stuff like collusion. Maybe he gets the $6 million for some other purpose. Who can say, really? It’s never made any sort of sense otherwise.

Anyway, good luck in Tempe, Bud. Maybe I’ll stop by your office at ASU when I’m there next month — I always stay in Tempe — and we can chew the fat or climb that butte with the big A on it or something. First round at Four Peaks afterward is on me.

White Sox sign first baseman Travis Ishikawa

Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Travis Ishikawa hits an RBI-single off Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Raisel Iglesias to drive home Neil Walker in the seventh inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015, in Cincinnati. The Reds won 4-3. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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First baseman Travis Ishikawa has agreed to a minor-league contract with the White Sox that includes an invitation to spring training.

Ishikawa was previously reported to have a minor-league deal with the Mariners last month, but the signing was never finalized. Now he joins the White Sox, who have Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche ahead of him on the first base/designated hitter depth chart.

Ishikawa had some big moments for the Giants in the 2014 playoffs, but he’s a 32-year-old journeyman with a lifetime .255 batting average and .712 OPS in 488 games as a big leaguer.

It’s possible the White Sox could keep him around as a bench bat and backup first baseman/left fielder, but Ishikawa seems more likely to begin the season at Triple-A.

Mariners sign reliever Joel Peralta

Joel Peralta
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Right-hander Joel Peralta has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mariners that includes an invitation to spring training.

Peralta spent last season with the Dodgers and was limited to 29 innings by neck and back problems, posting a 4.34 ERA and 24/8 K/BB ratio. Los Angeles declined his $2.5 million option, making him a free agent.

He was one of the most underrated relievers in baseball from 2010-2014, logging a total of 318 innings with a 3.34 ERA and 342 strikeouts, but at age 40 he’s shown signs of decline. Still, for a minor-league deal and no real commitment Peralta has a chance to be a nice pickup for Seattle’s bullpen.