Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Your 2006 Giants: Lineup Analysis

The 2005 Giants were an unmitigated disaster. From losing Bonds to Grissom, Tucker, Alfonzo all having a senior moment for a whole season and essentially disappearing from the offense to Durham and Alou missing significant time from the lineup to Ellison, Linden, and Niekro showing their youthful inconsistencies, the regular lineup was among the worse in the NL. Averaging the overall ranking by lineup position and by OPS, from leadoff to 8th, the Giants average was 10.5. Only the Dodgers and the Nationals had a worse average ranking.

OPS Rankings by Positions

The 2006 Giants, assuming Bonds is in most lineups, will return to past excellence. The addition of Winn, and the use of Alou after Bonds, will greatly improve the lineup, back to recent norms or better.

By lineup position, the Giants are back to past excellence. From 2002 to 2005, these were their overall average rank in the NL by OPS and runs scored plus total runs scored:

Season stats - 2002 - 2003 - 2004 - 2005
Average rank - 6.8 - 7.3 - 7.3 - 10.5
Runs rank - 3 - 6 - 2 - 15
Runs scored - 783 - 755 - 850 - 649

For 2006, assuming past 3 years performance except for Bonds, which I used his worse performance in the past 5 years, and Niekro, since he has less than 3 years, the average rank, using 2005's NL results, is 7.1, which is within the range for the 2002-2004 seasons. This suggests that the Giants should have a Top 5 NL team in runs scored, based on how they performed in previous years with such an offense.

By defensive position, they are the best for the five seasons I have tracked. Here is their ranks for the past four seasons as above:

Season stats - 2002 - 2003 - 2004 - 2005
Average rank - 8.0 - 7.9 - 7.8 - 10.9
Runs rank - 3 - 6 - 2 - 15
Runs scored - 783 - 755 - 850 - 649

For 2006, same assumptions as above, the average rank is 6.4, which is much better than the past four seasons. Again, this suggests a Top 5 rank in runs scored, if not Top 3.

This illustrates why I have been telling people that having offensively subpar firstbasemen and thirdbasemen do not kill a lineup. Niekro ranks a poor 13th among firstbasemen but for the 7th position in the lineup, he ranks 7th. Feliz does a little better, ranking in the middle, 9th, among thirdbasemen, however, he is much worse for his position, 11th. They are not that great for their positions, but the excellence we have at other positions, which some Giants fans are missing, counteracts that to a great extent.

Again, the big assumption is that Bonds will play a lot of the games in the lineup. These rosy lineups will take a hit if Finley is playing in Bonds stead, but it seems like it won't be too bad a hit. But I am hopeful that Bonds will be in a majority of the games played, Felipe seems to be playing Bonds more, thus far, then before.

Forecast Comparisons

For this section, I am using Bill James Runs Created forecast. For Runs Created, the Giants lineup (including Finley as the semi-fulltime outfielder) looks close to past lineups. Here's the data:

Season stats - 2002 - 2003 - 2004 - 2005
Runs Created - 609 - 627 - 784 - 541
Runs scored - 783 - 755 - 850 - 649
Runs rank - 3 - 6 - 2 - 15

Total forecasted runs created for 2006's lineup is 624, which would suggest a runs rank of 3rd to 6th in runs and approximately 750-785 total runs scored, which would have ranked 4th or 5th in 2005.

Giants Offense Looking Good

Obviously, with Bonds in the lineup, the lineup will always look pretty good. But any way you cut it, you still need the offensive support of the other players to bring up the team offensively. This season, if everyone performed to past levels of performances, the Giants offense should return to the past glories from 2002-2004 when the Giants were one of the most productive offenses in the NL, scoring a lot of runs. Even with Bonds out of the lineup, it should still be productive as long as Finley is back to his past norms and not playing like it is 2005 again.

But the key again is IF the players play as they have in the past three seasons. If a number of players fail to play to expectations without a corresponding over performance to counteract that, the offense would fall to the median easily, if not below. However, the main players I would be afraid of not meeting expectations are Bonds, Alou, and Durham, because of their age and injury history, but I think there are a number of players who could make up for that: Winn, because of how well he played last season for SF; Feliz, who I noted in a previous post showed marked improvement in a number of key hitting indicators but just didn't have the overall results to show that; and Niekro, because I think his history of hitting in the minors suggest that he is a good enough hitter to adjust to the pitchers eventually and I liked his attitude about not taking things for granted this spring, about earning his starting position, of improving his hitting. Plus I think Vizquel and Matheny will have a better season because they have valid backups that Alou would not hesitate to use whereas last season Alou felt he had to play Matheny and Vizquel once Haad and Chavez became their main backups after Torrealba and Deivi Cruz were traded away. But this is all predicated on Bonds not falling to the ground offensively, that he returns to some past glory, the worse season in the past five seasons besides 2005. At this moment, I don't think that will happen, though it is certainly a possibility.

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