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Comparing the 2015 Giants to past and current players

Baseball Prospectus 2015 is out, and it has comparisons for you.

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Did you know that the Baseball Prospectus annual has been on the New York Times best-seller list before? Did you know that I wrote the introductory chapter for the Giants section in the 2015 edition? Did you know that makes me a best-selling author? You should support my burgeoning, impressive career as a best-selling author. Buy the book.

In the book are three comparisons for each player. They're spit out by the sentient PECOTA algorithm, and I'm here today to bring you some of the best ones. Not best as in "Oh, one of Belt's comps is Adrian Gonzalez" or "Joan Gregorio has a Corey Kluber comp," which, while true, aren't that interesting on their own. No, this is about comparisons that are mortifying and/or hilarious from the perspective of a Giants nerd. There are some doozies.

A ranking of the funniest:

8. Juan Perez (comp: Scott Cousins)

Dammit, I wrote "funniest." This isn't funny. THIS ISN'T FUNNY.

If there were ever a reason to Minority Report a player off a roster, though ...

7. Dan Uggla (comp: Jeff Kent)

The news that Uggla might have been suffering through an undiagnosed concussion sure takes the wind of the sails of all those jokes that were powering this site for a month, there. If that were the case, I feel tremendously awful for him. He was an All-Star, and it couldn't have felt good for him to stumble around a baseball field in front of tens of thousands of people, especially when the only thing he probably knew for sure over the previous two decades was that he was exceptionally good at baseball.

Still, just focusing on the product on the field, here's an honest question: At what age do you think Jeff Kent would have looked that bad at baseball? Keep in mind that he retired after his age-40 season with a .280 average and 96 OPS+. It's too glib to suggest a 46-year-old Kent would have fared any better ... or is it? I'll play it safe and guess "42." Kent could have eked out a couple additional Jason Giambi-style years on a bench somewhere. He probably should have.

Boy, I wish the Giants signed Jeff Kent after 2002.

6. Ryder Jones/ Christian Arroyo (comp: Charlie Culberson)

Culberson comes up for both of the Giants' first two picks in the 2013 draft, which is both frightening and reassuring. Frightening because Culberson's ceiling is almost certainly as a utility player, and that's not what the Giants should be looking for in the top of their drafts (where Culberson came from in the first place).

It's reassuring because Culberson was eventually traded for a World Series. Who will Jones and/or Arroyo get traded for in 2016?

/spins wheel

Michael Bourn? Okay, if you say so, wheel of even years forged out of the blood of virgin sacrifice and dark arts. If you say so.

5. Gregor Blanco (comp: Rajai Davis)

Funny, or just perfect? Probably the latter, considering that Davis followed the same path through the fringes of baseball to become one of the better fourth outfielders around. Davis is right-handed, but he mixes baserunning tomfoolery and inexplicable fielding whoopsies into his game, so it's one of the better comps in the book on several levels.

I was irritated when the Giants let Davis get away for nothing, but not as irritated as Pirates fans when their team gave Davis away for a broken and laughably expensive Matt Morris with .3 seconds left in the trade deadline. I was also irritated when the Giants let Travis Denker go, so you shouldn't really listen to me about anything.

4. Ryan Vogelsong (comp: Jason Schmidt)

And then I felt bad for prematurely using my only Pirates-trolling quiver on the last one. I love the Pirates. Hey, some of my best friends are Pirates fans.

Look at the beauty of those two names together, though. PECOTA takes size into account, and Schmidt and Vogelsong are both large men. If you figure that 2003 was something of an outlier for Schmidt, which it clearly was, it's not a wacky comparison. Schmidt wasn't much of a strikeout pitcher for the early and late portions of his career, and their career walk rates are similar.

Did you know that Schmidt is the same age as Bartolo Colon? While I enjoy the hitting and baserunning of Colon too much to wish him away, a Schmidt comeback would have been more appealing to me back in 2011. And just as likely, when you think about it.

3. Kyle Crick (comp: Zack Wheeler)

Oh, well, at least we get trolled right back. The good news is that Wheeler is already an average pitcher and still has ace potential, so this is a positive comp for Crick. The bad news is that Wheeler was traded away in one of the lousiest contending seasons we'll ever watch.

The great news is that the Giants won two more World Series after that trade so, you know, it's probably time to stop complaining about Zack Wheeler, he said in the same tone that he might say, "Maybe it's time I start working out."

2. Hunter Pence: (comps: Scott Hairston, Jose Guillen, Cody Ross)

All three are glorious. Simply glorious. Start with Hairston. Is there a player you like less? Is there a player you like more than Pence? They are reciprocal players on the spectrum of love, and PECOTA knows this. It's messing with us.

If you don't think it's messing with us, consider the next two comps. Not just Jose Guillen. Not just Cody Ross. Both of them at the same time.

Man in flowing robes appearing in Hunter Pence's dream: You have the capacity for great heroism. You have the capacity for great evil. You must choose with your heart, Hunter. You must reveal your true self, and I cannot tell you which path you must take.

Hunter Pence: /stares intensely, panting

Man in flowing robes: So I'll ... I'll be going. Choose wisely!

Do you know how many at-bats Guillen had for the Giants? 128. Do you know what can happen in 128 at-bats? Anything. With three or four more homers in those at-bats, Guillen starts for the Giants against Roy Halladay. Maybe there's something to the secret drug investigation forcing the Giants' hand, but I'll just assume it was a baseball decision that kept Guillen off the roster. What happens if the Giants choose him over Ross? Do they still win in 2010?

Do they play a little tighter in 2012 if they don't win in 2010?

Do they panic more with their offseason moves and sign Shin-Soo Choo before 2014 because they still haven't won a championship?

Don't know. But Cody Ross is just about the best, and Hunter Pence is almost certainly the best, so we know which path Pence has already taken.

1. Madison Bumgarner (comp: Geno Espineli)


Geno Espineli.


There have been 22 left-handed pitchers who have thrown fewer innings as a Giant than Espinelli. One of them was Matty Alou. Some of the other pitchers were remembered for being inexplicably bad decisions (Alvin Morman) and some were eventually traded for useful players (Troy Brohawn). Erick Threets will be remembered for throwing well over 100 back when that meant something, and 10 of the others on the list threw at least 50 innings in the majors for other teams.

It's possible that Geno Espineli had the least memorable career of any left-hander in Giants history. Well, he might be tied with Gino Minutelli, which is just weird, but you could make the argument that Espineli is the one. For whom does he show up as a comparison? The most memorable left-hander in Giants history. The lack of symmetry is gorgeous. It's too good to be true. Is this real? Is PECOTA real? Am I the kid at the end of St. Elsewhere, and is baseball a sport that's entirely within my own head?

Unfortunately, I did the responsible thing and reached out to Sam Miller, one of the co-editors, and he said it was a typo. Well, that's not funny. He sent over the 10-best comps for Bumgarner.

Rank Score Name Year Run Average Trend
1 89 Erik Hanson 1990 3.36
2 88 Johnny Antonelli 1955 3.56
3 88 Stu Miller 1953 6.77
4 87 Masahiro Tanaka 2014 3.10
5 87 Curt Simmons 1954 3.80
6 87 Dwight Gooden 1990 4.10
7 86 Fernando Valenzuela 1986 3.48
8 86 Rick Reuschel 1974 4.86
9 86 John Butcher 1982 5.06
10 85 Roger Clemens 1988 3.17

Much more reasonable. And less funny. You have famous burnouts like Hanson and Valenzuela, you have a should-be Hall of Famer in Clemens, and you have a couple of pitchers who had long, distinguished careers. The full spectrum of what could be with Bumgarner. I'll go out on a limb, though, and suggest that if he has the exact same career statistics as Reuschel when he retires, he'll go into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. All he needs to do is get the exact same career statistics as Reuschel, and we'll see if I'm right.

Still, of all the left-handers in all the gin joints in this world, PECOTA spit out one who through 15 innings for the 2008 Giants. If you don't think it's sentient after that ...

Those are the comparisons of note. Buy the book. Did I mentioned that it features best-selling authors, such as myself? It does. You should probably buy it.