Friday, May 01, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: It's Getting Better All The Time

Seems as good a point to get out from all the grey clouds and examine where we are.  I would probably normally put this under my PQS for April, but don't have time to get to all that before game time.   I posted much of this at Shankbone's and put it here for those who haven't (or don't) go there regularly (which they should, good stuff there).

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Enough With the Duvall Talk!

I've been seeing a lot of talk about bringing up Duvall because of his hot hitting.  Here's where sabermetrics comes to the rescue, from the hype.

ogc thoughts

First off, I have to state that I have nothing against Adam Duvall.  I like him as a prospect, particularly his power, but he needs to prove that he can field a position as well as just hit in the majors.  Like any fan, I would love for a guy to come up and do what he's doing in AAA right now, hitting .431/.455/.824/1.278 with 4 homers in 51 AB (13 AB/HR) and 15 RBI in 12 games.  Sign me up!

But, unfortunately, AAA is not the majors and he's only had 51 AB.  SSS to the extreme, it is two weeks worth of games, a drop in the storm.  And remember, the vast majority of pitchers in AAA are not good enough to pitch in the majors, lacking a major out pitch, for the most part.

Nobody is mentioning his 15 K's in those 51 AB.  This is a miserable 70.6% contact rate.  Which would only get worse in the majors, where most of the major league pitchers have out pitches that enable them to stay there and not end up in AAA.

Nobody is mentioning his .545 BABIP, which nobody in MLB history has ever duplicated in a season.  Even the best hitters of our era, like Ichiro, never maintain an BABIP that high over a full season.  He did reach .399 (again, he was one of the best of this era) in 2004, and .389 another season, but his career BABIP is .343 and over his best period of years, .357, which are considered great for a hitter.  And he was one of the fastest players around, which helped him beat out grounders for infield hits.

Duvall is not much of a runner, so he's not going to get many of these.  So what are the odds of him having a .545 BABIP in the majors?  Especially in light of his sad 70.6% contact rate.  Which might be fine if he was walking a lot, but with only 3 walks in 55 PA, he isn't much of a walker either.  Which is another sign that he's not that great a hitter (because good hitters generally walk a lot, while doing other good things with his bat), and therefore unlikely to be able to maintain such a high BABIP.

Even his career numbers for BABIP are not as good as that.  Individual hitters attain their own levels of BABIP.  And remember, these were achieved in the minors, there will be a reduced ability to achieve these numbers in the majors, what sabers call Minor League Equivalencies.  Each has their own methodology, but essentially the idea is that the competition is that much tougher in the majors, and thus, say, an 1.000 OPS guy in AA, might be a .800 OPS in AAA, and a .600 OPS in majors (my own made up numbers to illustrate how the process might work)  I'm not sure what the exact translations are, but I would note that I noticed that guys who hit 1.000 OPS in AA is a sign of a guy who will get chances in the majors:  Sandoval, Bowker, Ishikawa (but against RHP), Schierholtz, Belt are ones who come immediately to mind, so you can see the checkered history of that (and again, they hit over 1.000 OPS in AA!).

Some are able to learn at each level and advance, like Duffy or Panik, but the vast majority of players who hit very well in AA do not necessary make it in the majors.  There is a severe weeding process and many a prospect (Linden, Feliz, Ishikawa, Bowker) come up from AAA after killing the ball there, and not do all that well.  Swing and miss guys like Duvall usually just end up missing even more in the majors.  If he could get his contact rate up into the 85% rate, I would have greater hope for him.

And I wish him all the best, as I do all Giants prospects.  But calling him up now is just an act of desperation, a hope to catch lightening in a bottle.  Just because Duvall has been very very lucky thus far in just a couple weeks of games does not mean that he's going to duplicate that at the major league level, particularly given his lack of overall contact, his high BABIP and low walk rate.

He will need to continue to hit like this into June before I would start to take notice and think that this might be real, it is not impossible to strike out so much and still do well in the majors, but two weeks is not enough for me to believe. If I were totally tied to statistics, the amount of time statistically necessary to verify him would be too much time to take, probably a couple of season's worth, and that's obviously too long a time.  I don't think that you can wait for confirmation in baseball or you will never make any moves at all until the guys career is over.

Stats help point out stuff, but then intuition and guts (i.e. scouting) need to be part of the overall equation.  I don't have the scouting, so two months seems fair to me, he would have earned a chance with such hot hitting over an extended period.  But everybody is different, I recognize that.  Still, two weeks is just too short, statistically just too short.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: PQS After (nearly) Three Turns of the Rotation

I was not planning on writing anything regarding PQS this early, but with the losing and the fans' angst, I thought I would look into it.  Plus, with LA coming up, thought I would combine the two.

ogc thoughts

Again, the Giants starting rotation starts out slow, as they did in 2014 as well.  This time, it's Heston being the dominant starter (last year it was Hudson), with 3 DOM starts out of three.  Unfortunately, the others only have two DOM starts among them.

But it's not like the others were all bad.  Lincecum has 1 DOM and 1 MID, for a 50% DOM/0% DIS.  Hudson had two MIDs until his start today, where he had another MID but got BABIPed badly, so he is 0% DOM/0% DIS (but would probably have gotten a DOM today had he not thrown so much because of that one inning.    Bumgarner had one of each in his three starts, for a 33% DOM/33% DIS.  

It was really two starters who really stank, Peavy and Vogelsong.  Peavy had two DIS starts after talking his way out of not being placed on the DL, until he finally admitted he wasn't doing the team any good by not DLing and getting himself 100% healthy.  I understand the value of guttiness, but now was not the time for that, even if he just signed a new contract, he should have took the DL since we had starters in reserve for this type of situation.  On top of that, Vogelsong had a really bad start in place of Peavy's first start, and really hasn't pitched well in any appearance this season, he's been worse than gasoline, more like jet fuel.  

And here are some odd similarities between 2014 and 2015, even though there are a number of new members of the rotation.  In both seasons, the ace (#1) starter was up and down to start the season.  The second starter has not been his normal self, and eventually been DLed.  The third starter have seen a nice surprise, wasn't sure what to expect, but he came out dominating.  The fourth starter has been middling.  The only difference is the fifth starter has been better than last year.  

And the losing streak had a fair bit of bad luck in there too.  We lost the two DOM starts in that eight game losing streak.  And there were three MID starts. Plus the three DIS starts, which we rightly lost.  Instead of 0-8, most of the time, probably should have been 3-5 in that streak, winning three of the five DOM or MID starts.  That would have changed our record from 4-10 to 7-7, and even just winning the two DOM starts would have meant a 6-8 record, changing gloom and doom 6 games back to 3 game back mehness.

I'm Not Worried

I don't feel good, like everyone else.  It is never good to be 6 games back.  

But I'm not worried.  We still have 148 games to play.   A LOT can still happen.  We can still win 90 games, we still can get into the playoffs.  To reach 90 wins, the Giants only need to play at a .581 win pace to reach that.   This team has done it before with the majority of these players.  

One good win streak and we are back into the playoff race.  We have seen this back and forth action in terms of the NL West standings for years now, one or two teams will get off to a great start, but then they hit their bad patch, while the others who had bad were now good, and catch up, changing up who the leaders are during the season.  The Giants can be that team.

It is not good that Pence and Cain is still not ready to resume physical activity, but, at least for Pence, it should not be much longer.  Hunter broke his arm, but none of it was displaced, it is just a matter of time before he's back in the lineup and all that would be forgotten.  

As I noted above, the pitching hasn't been all that bad, based on their sabermetric performances per PQS.  It has certainly not been good, a 36% DOM is never good, but good starts at 40% and goes from there.   And they were similarly poorly performing last season as well, that was masked by the hot offense we had at the start of last season, but then turned it on by mid-to-late April, and that carried the offense for a long while, until June.

And we have had good pitching.  Bumgarner, would be foolish to think he's going to be like this all season.  He'll snap out of it, like he did last season when he stumbled to start the season.  Hudson and Lincecum has been OK up to now, showing some flash, but more importantly, not giving in and throwing up a disaster start.  And Heston has been a god-send thus far, can't expect him to be this good all season, but based on what he's done at each level rising up the minors, he's a battler with success at every level now, so you can't bet against him either.   

And that's the formula the Giants used in 2009 to 2014 to deliver good PQS performances each season that helps drive winning streaks.  You have the ace, you have three good contributors, and then you have the 5th starter who stinks up the place.   That will kick in soon once Bumgarner finds his bliss, like he has in seasons past, and give us the ace to go with the other good performers.  

Peavy Replacement Starter and When

Bochy has not given a hint yet who will get the last rotation spot in place of Peavy, other than to say probably either Vogelsong or Petit.  Looking at the 40-man roster makes that statement look clear:  they have no 40 man starting pitcher waiting in the minors.  If they want to bring up, say, Braulino Lara, who has done very well in two AAA starts so far, or old vet Kevin Correia, who they recently picked up, they would have to drop somebody that they have held onto very strongly so far.  Cordier and Parker are probably the next guys on the list, but the Giants have steadfastly held onto them so far.  

Bochy has also said that he's not adjusting the rotation by moving Heston up a start to pitch against the LADdies.  That makes sense, as then he would be pitching the potential rubber game against our hated rivals.  That would be a lot of pressure to put on the young rookie, a lot to put on his shoulders.  It would also have the stink of desperation, which a lot of fans have been giving off, but not something that Bochy would ever do this early in the season.  So Vogie or Petit would be taking that Peavy start against LA.

Thinking it over, seems to me that there are two scenarios that could affect the decision, which I expect to be announced after the second game of the series.  While it is too early to have a must win, if the Giants are in position to win the series, I think that Bochy would start Petit.  He has pitched much better than Vogelsong so far this season, and better than him the past two seasons, when Petit is given the mantle of "starter in the rotation" and not "replacement starter".  If the series is tied 1-1, I can see Petit being given the start, to go for the win.

On the other hand, if either team has already won the series by winning the first two games, then I can see Bochy giving Vogelsong the start.   At this point, he got nothing to lose by starting Vogelsong. Perhaps Vogie has been struggling to get into his relief role.  That happens to most pitchers, it seems like, I've read that comment too often to not believe that until a pitcher accepts his relief role, he can't do well as a reliever, because part of him still thinks he is a starter.  So putting him in the rotation in place of Peavy would at least place him back in a familiar role, and hopefully relax him enough to do well again.

And that circumstance, Vogie in the starting rotation relaxing him, might just be the factor that makes him the starter no matter what.  However, that was true even before Peavy got DLed, and up to now, Bochy had been deferring to Vogie's veteranness and making him the starter while keeping Petit in his great role out of the bullpen.  But instead of going there immediately, Bochy first said that they would need to think about it, then said that it would be either Vogie or Petit.  So hence why I tried to divine what circumstances could be driving Bochy's decision making.  It will be interesting to see how and who he choses.

LA Due to Cool Off

Plus, the Bridegrooms have been riding a bunch of hot streaks.  A-Gon is not going to hit so many homers and doubles.  A-Gon and Kendrick's BABIP is going to regress to career means as well.  Pederson is striking out way too much to keep up his hitting or .474 BABIP.  And Peralta is not going to be able to keep up being a good closer, his last very good season was in 2011 and he's 39 YO, not likely to get better suddenly, he's more likely to regress to his 3.79 ERA over his past three seasons.  

This is as good a time for them to return to reality.  Streaks like this rarely last more than a couple of weeks, and they have a bunch of players just playing above their talents, and these guys have good talent, just not good enough to do something that no player in the history of the majors has ever done, having such high BABIPs.  Plus, getting to play at home for 9 of their first 12 games (and the 3 road games were in AZ, hardly much of a trip and they even got an off day before the short trip), helped them a lot, I would have to think, they got to stay home and get comfortable.   Today is their third off day already.  So a lot of things have gone their way, and good times don't last forever.

Giants Get A Rest

Plus, they'll be in SF, which gives us some home advantage as well, as bad as we've been doing.  There must be some reason why the MLB starts each team slowly in April.  As much as players complain that they don't need that much spring training or that much rest, there is always a lot more days off in April than there is in August and September.  That is why a lot of teams skipped their 5th starter in April in years past and didn't bring him in until May, all the days off enabled that.  I view them as opportunities to rest and allow the players to get back into the swing of things, as well as a day to get their mind off things.

But the Giants have just had a 14 day stretch where they started the season and didn't have a rest until today.  Many teams already had two days of rest already and I read that the Cards will have their 4th day of rest tomorrow, plus as noted, today is the Dodger's 3rd day of rest already.  The Giants, meanwhile, had three travel days with no off days plus no off days.  It is almost like the MLB did that on purpose, the Giants being on the road should have gotten more days off, while the Dodgers, being mostly at home, should have had zero days off.  

So whether it's mental or physical rest that players need this early in the season, the Giants players have gotten no rest at all, which has not helped to change their mind set once the badness started to flow.  I expect the players to get refreshed some with today's off day and be better able to battle LA the next three days.  Hopefully they can get out of whatever bad habits they have gotten into, hit the mental reset button, and come out great tomorrow.

Go Giants!  Buck the Bridegrooms!


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