Tuesday, September 26, 2006

It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over: It's Over

Needless to say, it was an extremely disappointing road trip, probably the worse I've ever witnessed. It wasn't just going 1-8 on the road trip, but also being outscored 93-51 in those 9 games, where Giants pitchers walked 48 batters in 73 innings. As Kruk or Kuip noted on their morning show (probably Kruk) on KNBR, it is a pretty bad trip when the best game was the rained-out game (at St. Louis).

Starting pitching was the let-down, as it seemed like every game started with the other team scoring 4-6 runs in the first inning. And in one fiasco, the Rockies scored 20 runs, something last done by Giants pitching in 1959. What made it worse was the offense would come back a number of times despite the huge deficit and the pitching would then give up more runs to either lose the lead or made the deficit worse again.

It's Over

As an ELO song once wailed, "It's Over." While the road trip pretty much put the team 6 feet under and mostly buried, it was the loss yesterday that was the final pat on the dirt. It was quick how the team's fortune changed so completely. Even with how poorly they played in St. Louis and Colorado, they could have swept the Brewers and stayed squarely in the race, though still too far to think you are in control, but there would have still be a steady pulse. Instead, they got swept instead and pretty much ended the season right there.

It has been a disappointing season and the amazing thing is that there were a lot of good surprises. First and foremost, Barry Bonds played a lot more games than expected, but unfortunately, it took him most of the season to get healthy and into playing shape. He was awesome the last two months - .333/.459/.638/1.097 in August with 5 HR, .317/.427/.698/1.125 in September with 7 HR - and still, even while not 100%, his OPS to start the season was 1.121, .854, 1.026, .838, showing that the old man, while not hitting for average, was still good for the power. Other bright spots included Durham's power surge, Vizquel's unparalleled brilliance at SS, and Matt Cain's rookie season, bringing "multiple 1-hitters" into our vocabulary.

It's too soon for me to do a post-mortem on the season. Then again, I think it was pretty self-evident all the problems with this flawed team. I know that we were only in the battle because of the "weakness" of both the NL West and the NL in general, as others have called it - and I think the proper way to term it is equalness among teams, at least among the NL teams - but the playoffs really redials things back to zero and all you need is a nice hot streak to get a team shooting through the playoffs. The Giants had their times when they were hot enough and even more times when they were not. That's a chance I would take anytime.

You Never Know

Because you never know. You never know if some unknown guy on your team suddenly becomes the hottest hitter on Earth, like a Gene Tenace of the A's in 1972, or that guy for the Yankees, Brian Doyle, in 1978. You never know if some old, washed up pitcher suddenly rejuvenates for one glorious series, like Grover Cleveland Alexander in 1926 for the Cardinal's.

And you never know if you will never make it into the playoffs for the next 10-15 years: the Giants won the NL West the first season I started following them, in 1971 and never got back to the playoffs for another 16 years, in 1987. Then there was another 8 year interval from 1989 to 1997.

That's why I stand by Sabean, unlike a lot of other Giants fans. People think that the playoffs are no big deal, Sabean has had the team competing for it every year he has been GM. I saw the playoffs 3 times in my first 26 years of following the Giants, then 4 times in the 10 years Sabean has been GM. You do the math.

Not that Sabean has an infinite leash with me, but I think he has earned the right to guide the Giants through their transition period, in their post-Bonds era. He has the right to enjoy - or suffer - the fruits of the farm system he has nurtured into players like Lowry, Cain, Sanchez, Hennessey, Correia. And hopefully players like Wilson, Lincecum, Misch, Taschner, Munter, Sadler, Andersen, Griffin, Joaquin, Perreira, Tanner, Frandsen, Linden, Ortmeier, EME, Schierholtz, Ishikawa, Sanders, Burris, Sandoval, Pill, Villalona (and I'm sure I'm missing others, I haven't been watching the farm system as closely this season because of familial duties).

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Forgotten Giant Great, Roger Connor, Should Be On the Outfield Wall at AT&T Park

In today's SJ Mercury newspaper article about Barry Bonds tying Hank Aaron's National League career homerun record, it was noted that Barry was the third Giant to have held this record, joining the great Mel Ott and Willie Mays. This is incorrect, he is the fourth Giants player to have held the record.

The Forgotten Giant Great, Roger Connor

As I have noted a number of time, Roger Connor, a Hall of Famer who spent the majority of his career with the Giants, actually held the record briefly from 1893 to 1895 (based on my research; he held the MLB career record much longer, finally being passed by Babe Ruth in 1920). I wrote a post about him here, a post about the NL career record here and my original article about this record, which I wrote about two years ago and linked to yesterday, is here.

It is a shame that he is forgotten. As I noted in my article, he was the first big homerun hitter - as evidenced by his holding of the MLB career record until Babe Ruth passed him - and one of the original Giants whose size compeled the sportswriters of their day to give them the nickname "Giants". He was 6' 3" at a time when men on average were much shorter than today (probably around 5' 6" or shorter) because of poor eating habits and the lack of abundant food.

Connor Should Be Honored On Outfield Wall Like Other Giants Greats

He should really be on the outfield wall at AT&T Park, next to the other past Giants greats, like John McGraw and Christy Mathewson. He was a player who contributed to the Giants nickname. He was a leader on the early Giants teams. He held the MLB career homerun lead until Babe Ruth passed him up. And lastly, he was a Hall of Famer for his feats. He deserves a spot on the wall as much as any player currently on there.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Bonds Ties Aaron's National League Homerun Record; close to Teddy Ball's 40+ year old Season Record Too

Congrats to Barry for tying Aaron's National League career homerun record. As I had noted long ago - it was the first mention of it that I was aware of and I researched the historical timeline of it and who held it for how long in this article - Bonds was on target for Aaron's National League Homerun record, only, of course, no one knew at that time that he would not play most of the 2005 season, pushing the feat to today in Milwaukee, which is semi-appropriate since Aaron spent much of his career playing there for the Milwaukee Braves.

With this homer, he is at 25 for the season. I'm not absolutely sure but I think Ted Williams holds the record for most homers in a single season for any player 40 years or older, with 29 homers in his final season, when he was 41 years old; I think Barry's probably already got the career total for homeruns after turning 40 but I'll have to check that. Barry would need 4 to tied Ted Williams, an unlikely feat given that there is only 9 more games to play and he will probably miss at least 2 more games since they are day games after a night game, so that is only 7 more games for him to play to get 4 - not impossible for him to do when he is hot but he hasn't been hot lately. Hopefully this homer is a sign of more to come.

Krukow on Morris this Morning on KNBR

I recommend listening to Krukow's show on the Murph and Mac show on KNBR (just click on Krukow photo before his next show on Monday), he actually talked extensively about Morris and what his thoughts were about Morris' struggles this year. As Murph noted, this punches a hole in the "homer" image that people have of Krukow.

For those who don't want to listen, here's what I remember. Basically Krukow thinks that Morris have been pitching every game like it's the 7th game of the World Series because he wanted to justify his big contract. And he's dog tired now.

This is something I've been noting about Morris all season long, about how he might be over-amped for the games. But he is suppose to be a pro's pro and not prone to this type of jitters.

He also mentioned what Lefty noted in a recent post, that he's going with his breaking ball constantly now, showing no confidence at all with his fastball. He talked about what Morris needs to do to be successful now (pitch in and out, location) vs. his past when he had a fastball with a great "second stage", a stage that is lacking now. He noted that Morris at this point in the season has no "second stage" on his fastball and this is when vets like Morris should be doing great, it is youngsters like Sanchez that one would expect to do poorly, because of inexperience.

Kruk thinks that Morris will be better next year because it will be more comfortable for him. This is his first time he has changed teams so everything was unfamiliar, but next year he will have some continuity that will help him not be so fired up each time he pitched. It will help him to calm down.

Again, we paid him all that money to avoid a problem like this. Or maybe he mentally pitched down to the $5M we paid him this season. Either way, this is not something we were sold on about him when he signed on with us. But, in any case, that's our only hope to salvage anything from this contract, it will be pretty ugly if he pitches like this the next two seasons at $9.5M per.

Kruk also noted that Morris is not an ace or #2 anymore, at this stage of his career, he's an good innings eater with a lot to offer to his younger teammates. That was the opinion of most Giants bloggers when Morris signed, he would be the #2 on the staff but not a true #2; I was hoping Lowry or Cain would take that mantle, performance-wise, during the season but neither fully embraced it yet, though Cain looked like he was until this last start.

However, we expected a lot more than he has delivered so far. He was OK as of probably sometime in August, but then went south. Had he continued pitching well or at least not this bomb-tastic since then, his worth would not be in question, I think, but, obviously, he didn't and it is. I mean, really, I understand losing to St. Louis, but Milwaukee, losers of a lot of games this season and this month?

So that is definitely not a homer description of Morris, it seemed like a very objective description of where Morris is right now, warts and all, with a ray of sunshine for next season. So now we just have to hope that Krukow is right.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Misching Something: Some Comments on Misch

I was discussing Misch on another site, so I thought I would post my thoughts and research here as well (modified to work here as a standalone post):

According to the prospect book I got, the author projected Misch as a #5 starter debuting in 2007. It noted that Misch's command took a beating when he was promoted to AAA in 2005 and that he needs to have that to succeed because he's a contact pitcher with below average velocity (85-88) and strikeout rate. He needs to mix pitches to survive.

I wouldn't count him out for 2007, and I wouldn't compare him with Verlander or other pitchers who rely on a fastball to get batters out. Misch is a pitcher, not a thrower, and he needs to trick hitters into missing his balls or hitting them to his fielders and keeping it in the park. Even in a hitter's league like the PCL, he was able to keep his HR/9 under the key 1.0 benchmark.

Plus he made a huge leap between 2005 and 2006 in his AAA performance. He had a 6.35 ERA in 2005 and got it down to 4.02 in 2006. He had a horrible 69/40 K/BB ratio in 2005 but raised it to 57/11 in 2006 (for Fresno again). And his G/F ratio was 1.17 in Fresno, 1.32 in Connecticutt.

And as far as carrying over performance from the minors to the majors, I think Lowry would be a better example to observe - as Lefty noted, Misch has been a Lowry-lite. In 2004, Lowry's H9, HR9, BB9, and K9 were all virtually identical between AAA and majors. In 2005, they were all about the same as 2004, except that BB9 was higher (badly so, at 3.34, where 3.0 is the max you want to see) but K9 was higher as well, keeping the key K/BB safely above the 2.0 mark (2.6 in 2004, 2.3 in 2005).

Misch this season:

Team City - BB9 - K9 - HR9 - K/BB
Fresno - 1.53 - 7.93 - 0.97 - 5.2
Connect - 2.08 - 6.86 - 0.61 - 3.3

Misch has actually struck out more than Lowry did in AAA, on a K9 basis, and walked a lot less. But ignore his low AA HR/9 rate, as I've shown, Dowd totally dampens HR rates - in about equal IP, Misch gave up 1 at home, 6 on the road, resulting in 0.2 HR/9 at home and 1.0 HR/9 on road. The latter is pretty close to the AAA rate. Plus his K/BB on road is 3.9 because his BB9 on road is 1.83 (again close to AAA rate; Dowd does some wacky stuff to pitchers and hitters).

Basically, almost any prospect who isn't a team's top 10 prospect (and Misch isn't) should be happy to have a career like Zerbe. But Misch appears to be following the Lowry path to the majors, and he has arguably outpitched Lowry at each level in his climb up, following in Lowry's footsteps. So, I would not count out Misch in the competition for the 5th spot in the rotation in 2007.

Monday, September 18, 2006

C&H, Pure Cain Sugar: Among League Leaders

Since I was looking at Cain among Giants rookies records, when I was looking at league leaders, I thought I would see where he stands right now in a variety of categories. There were 44 qualifiers in the NL, 84 qualifiers in the MLB.
  • Wins: 13 - Tied for 10th in NL, tied for 28th in MLB
  • Strikeouts: 163 - 11th in NL, 20th in MLB
  • ERA: 3.75 - 13th in NL, 23rd in MLB
  • WHIP: 1.22 - tied for 9th in NL, tied for 15th in MLB
  • SLG: .347 - 1st in NL and MLB
  • OBP: .299 - 7th in NL, tied for 12th in MLB
  • Batting Average Against (Opposing BA): .208 - 1st in NL and MLB
  • K/BB: 2.09 - tied for 23rd in NL, tied for 50th in MLB (want minimum of 2.0, ideally more)
  • BB/9: 4.05 - 40th in NL (5th from last), tied for 78th in MLB (7th from last) (want under 3.0)
  • K/9: 8.50 - 4th in NL, 6th in MLB (want over 5.75, preferably over 6.0)
  • H/9: 6.88 - 1st in NL and MLB (want under 9.0)

While looking at other stats, for the clouds in the coffee, he was third from last in Pitches Per Inning at 17.24. That is something he will need to work on if he hopes to last longer in games. He also needs to work on BB/9, as can be seen above. This also contributes to the pitches per inning problem as well.

But looking at the pot at the end of the rainbow, Cain is in the 75 percentile or higher in almost every statistical category above, except for any stat related to BB. And he is first in the Majors in 3 categories: Slugging, BAA, and H/9.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Caining On Giants History

I just had a thought: Where does Cain stand among rookies all-time in Giants history? So I went looking at the Giants media guide to see where he currently stands. Here is where he is right now, in SF Giants history among rookies:
  • Wins: Tied 3rd (Tied 11th franchise history)
  • Games Started: Tied 8th (maybe 13th franchise history)
  • IP: 7th
  • Strikeouts: 3rd (4th franchise history)
  • ERA: 5th
  • Complete Games: Tied 18th
  • Winning Percentage: 4th
  • Shutouts: Tied 6th (Tied 18th franchise history)

Cain has 3 more starts left. He is tied with Bill Laskey and Ryan Jensen for 3rd. One win ties him for 2nd with John Burkett and two wins ties him for 1st with John "the Count" Montefusco. If he can win all three, he will take 1st SF history and tied for 6th franchise history with Bill Carrick (done in 1889!). In any case, the 3 games started would place him in a tie for 6th in SF Giants history with Bill Laskey, tie with Bill also for 9th franchise history.

With 3 starts, he should have about 21 IP. His next start should get him to 5th place, he only needs 6.2 IP to reach there and pass up Jim Barr. He needs only 17.0 IP to beat out Bill Laskey for 5th place in SF history and 17.2 IP to take 4th place in SF history, passing up Pete Falcone.

He only needs 5 more strikeouts to reach 2nd place and pass up John D'Aquisto, which he should do in his next game too. He is too far to reach 1st, held by John "the Count" Montefusco with 215, unless Cain can strikeout on average 18 batters per game for the next three games. Not going to happen.

He only has 1 complete game. With another one, he would tie for 10th in SF history. With two, he would tie for 9th. And with three, he would be in 9th by himself.

He also has only 1 shutout. With another one, he would be tied for 2nd place with 2 with Ron Herbel, Steve Stone, Jim Barr, and Bob Knepper. He would need to throw three CG shutouts to tie the Count.

Matt Cain: The Face of a Franchise

Cain has been incredible his last 6 starts. 5 wins. 1 ER, 2 runs, in 42.0 IP, 0.21 ERA, 15 BB, 43 K's, 19 hits, 0.81 WHIP, his ERA has fallen from 4.89 to 3.75 during these 6 starts. This was even more dominating than Lowry was last season in August. He will turn 22 years old on October 1st.

I've said it before, Cain is going to be the face of the franchise going forward, and we should hopefully get to see him pitch for us for the next 20 years or so, barring any injury. Krukow noted in his morning show that Cain has a body of a pitcher who can throw 150 pitches and the difference between his horrible start and his domination today is that he realized that he was giving baseball hitters too much respect, he thought he had to be a finesse pitcher to get MLB hitters out, but what he learned, what he got huge confidence in today, is his fastball has the stuff to make major league hitters swing and miss.

And he has been relying mainly on that fastball to get hitters out and, when his curveball and slider are working, he will have enough to come close to no-hitting the other team. He already has 5 games where he gave up only 1 hit, 2 games where he gave up only 2 hits.

His main problem has been the walkies. He has four starts with 5 or more walks, another four starts with 4 or more walks. He has only 6 starts with 1 or less walks, only 1 start with no walks.

But with his confidence in his fastball fueling his recent run of domination, he should continue to do well against other teams. He should have a breakout type of year next season where he gets the attention of a lot of teams and fans. And hopefully he and Sanchez can form a two-some tandem where they constantly out-duel the other with a great outing, Krukow noted that Sanchez has the same stuff, at the same high velocity. The two of them could form an Ace-duo for us if they can just stay healthy and not suffer from the typical maladies unproven players often have that make them underperform.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Kruk sez: Cain Reminds Him of Seaver, Nolan

On his KNBR morning show gig today, Kruk was discussing Cain - again noting how Cain can get out hitters even when he only has his fastball - and noted how much Cain reminds him of Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan.

The discussion was about how Cain was different from the well-known Giants pitchers from history. Brian Murphy sadly did not know that Marichial's key to pitching was being able to throw his fastball from multiple angles, but did note astutely that Cain is unlike other Giants pitchers of the past like Gaylord Perry, Krukow, Swift, Burkett (my memory fuzzy here on list, these names were all noted at some point or other in the talk). Kruk noted that he had to fool hitters with his location to get them out, in, out, up, down.

That got me thinking, is Cain really the first pure fastballer we have had? Christy Mathewson made his name with his "fadeaway" pitch, which is the screwball that Carl Hubbell threw that resulted in his arm being permanently twisted when he retired. Marichial had his arm angles. Perry had his, um, special pitch. Most of the Giants pitching greats had a specialty pitch that they used to get hitters out, none were pure fireballers like Cain.

Montefusco did not come up in the conversation, which is too bad, Kruk might have actually seen him pitch and could have given us his view, but obviously while he was huge to Giants fans like me from the early to mid-70's, he's just a footnote to history for most baseball fans, and a trivia answer for most Giants fans (Who pitched the Giants last no-hitter?). And while he struck out a lot of hitters, I never saw much written about his fastball, how it compared to others of his day.

Why Cain So Good Now vs. Start: Confidence

Anyway, back to Cain. Murphy then asked Krukow a good question: what was the difference between the Cain suffering mightily in the early season and the dominating Cain today? Kruk said something I had heard before but that I had forgotten: the difference was basically confidence, confidence in his fastball, confidence that he could handle MLB hitters. Kruk felt Cain gave hitters too much credit and went away from the way he was pitching to get him up here, throwing his secondary pitches early in the count. But now he knows his fastball cannot be hit by hitters and so he goes for the kill from the start of each count. And when he got his curveball and slider going too, like he did yesterday, then the other team is really in trouble! And Kruk said that now that Cain has confidence, he is going to be like this for the rest of his career.

Krukow also noted, when asked what he thought about leaving in Cain to pitch the 9th last night, he said that he would have loved to see Cain in there and learn how to finish games, but understands the concern over pitch counts. However, and here's where the Seaver/Nolan reference came in, he thought Cain has the build to be a 150 pitch pitcher, a pitcher like Seaver and Ryan. I think that generally people worry too much about pitch count too, but understand the concern over young pitcher's arms, but if you assume that nobody can handle it, then by default no one ever will. But that's probably the old fogey in me talking, I still remember when pitchers thought it was normal to have a complete game, not a rarity.

I still would prefer to have Cain over any of the other young pitchers that others I have seen trooling over. I guess that's the fan in me talking, as I haven't done any statistical comparison and wouldn't be able to compare each pitcher's repertoise, but from what I've read and seen how they perform, I would put the excitement level of when Cain pitches up there with any of the other pitchers. I think he'll be the first of any of those young pitchers to throw a no-hitter, which is not a stretch to say, look at all the 1 and 2 hitters he has thrown already and he's not even 22 yet. I'll say again what I've said before: barring injury, Cain will be the face of the Giants for the forseeable future, hopefully taking us to the final payment for the park in 2018, if not later.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bonds Hitting Strategy: Much Like Ted Williams

This is an answer I gave to Allfrank's question about Bonds but I realize maybe I should make it into its own post. Allfrank asked:
Have you ever thought about what Barry's strategy is at the plate? a) I am surpised at the number of 1st pitches he takes, often the most hittable pitch of the at bat, sometimes even a fat fastball; b) he seems to look for an inside pitch that has enough of the plate the he can hit into the water (understandable); c) on outside pitches, which he sees the most, seem to reveal less of a plan/pattern - a lot of them go deep to center, some go out, some get caught. I don't see any attempt to hit them out to left field. I guess what I am saying, I would think, since the pattern is to pitch him low and away, develop a strategy to take advantage of that pitch. Or does he think he will turn into a doubles hitter?

My Answer

I haven't seen Bonds hit on TV for a long time so I can't really comment on his strategy for hitting this season. However, I'm willing to proffer a guess, based on your observations and my past observations of his hitting, since I think that he hasn't changed much.

For a while now, he has been the closest we've seen in baseball of Ted Williams since Teddy-ball hit a homer and ran off the field into retirement. Even up to how the opposing defenses shifts their fielders to the right side, which was first done for Ted Williams (I think Lou Boudreau, player/manager of the Indians first did it, the Boudreau shift).

Ted Williams wrote about his theory of hitting in a book, The Science of Hitting (which I wholeheartedly endorse to anyone wanting to learn how to hit, if I were in charge of the Giants hitters, everyone would get a copy and points for applying Ted's techniques) and the basic ideas, from what I recall, would explain some of the actions that you describe Bonds doing.

I'm going to be jumping around but here goes... Williams always took pitches in his first AB. This in order to learn what pitches were working for the pitcher and the speed he's throwing them at plus to add to his pitch count. Ideally, the first few batters in the first inning do this so that the team can learn more about the pitchers repertoise. That could explain why he takes fat pitches, as Williams would rather study and understand the pitcher (knowledge of which he would pass to his teammates) in his first AB.

In addition, he zoned off the strike zone into premium hitting zones and poor hitting zones, that is, where you are most likely to get a hit. Up and in, if I remember right, he labeled in the high .300 range (with a small .400 zone or square in his diagram, he checkerboarded the strikezone, down and away I think in the low .200 range), so, in other words, not all strikes are the same. Hence why he takes some strikes and not others.

Because even if the first pitch is the most hittable pitch of the at bat, if it is in the low batting average zone, then you aren't going to have a high batting average when all is said and done. And even if it is fat, if you are trying to judge the pitcher's stuff that day in your first AB, that can be valuable in later ABs and for your fellow following batters. It is a team, afterall.

Ted also advocated hitting for homers. Thus you swing with an elevated swing so that the plane of your swing is maximized in the intersection with the plane of the pitch, and therefore maximized the odds of you hitting the ball squarely. And you pull the ball, because typically the foul line is the shortest path for the homer.

So, any batter following this hitting philosophy would lay off strikes early in the count if they are in the poor hitting zones, plus if it was the first AB, and basically try to force the pitcher to throw you a pitch to your optimal hitting zone or you'll be happy to take a walk (which after all is almost the same as a single - this was not emphasized by Williams that I recall, I'm just repeating what we've learned about OBP and the value of walks, but maybe he did, just don't remember).

Obviously, if the pitcher is good, you won't always get such a good pitch, so once you get to 2 strikes, you will have to start fouling off pitches to protect the plate. But even the best pitchers eventually throw you balls so either you get a walk or you get a mistake fat pitch into your zone that you mash for a hit or a homer, and, in any case, you made the pitcher work hard during your AB, which tires him out for the next batters and ultimately for the game.

A couple of years ago, someone noted in an article that Bonds had an incredible batting average EVEN WHEN HE HAD 2 STRIKES ON HIM. When most people suck hitting with two strikes, Bonds still had a batting line that any hitter would love to have. This result, I believe, is the residue of this type of strategy, of getting pitchers to throw into your key hitting zones or you take balls or certain strikes. If you are only willing to swing for a hit when the pitch is in the zone to maximize your chances of hitting, then of course your batting line is good even with 2 strikes, because you are only swinging when your chances of getting a hit is maximized.

That's why he has refused to swing to take advantage of the shift and get an easy hit going the other way. He has a game plan and he sticks to it, like Ted Williams stuck to his game plan. And I have found that to be true in life as well, people do much better with a plan, the old "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail" saying.

Now, to emphasize this, I don't know that this is the strategy Bonds follows, but from my observations in prior years of how he hits and his batting strategy and how teams react to him, you could have taken his stats for a season, mixed it in with Williams' and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference, particularly if you take out his intentional walks, which really was the main skewing of Bonds' hitting stats relative to Williams' (though I'm sure a number of his were IBB except that it was not officially counted until either later in his career or afterward).

Why more hitters don't adhere to this strategy, I don't know. Greatest hitter in baseball until Bonds came along and he has a system to follow and yet there are no disciples, no one showing the light. I can attest to its efficacy, I was never the greatest of hitters growing up, but I applied those principles when I was on my one and only intramural softball team in college, and I was basically my team's Pete Rose (what can I say, I was a skinny geek so I couldn't get homers but I could hit them where they ain't :^) and we went 8-1 even though we were a bunch of strangers put together into a team.

Hope this helps and, more importantly, makes sense. :^) I've been meaning to re-read the book and verify all these thoughts but this is as best as I can remember it after 20 years.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Giants PQS Analysis: Expected ERA (qERA)

I am using the data from this previous post: Giants PQS: Updated to August 31st .


Baseball HQ recently published additional research on their PQS creation here. In it, they provide a table showing the ERA of pitchers who fall into that particular bucket, based on a matrix of a pitcher's DOM% and DIS%. Apparently, I have been missing out on a whole facet of PQS that I haven't written on, which is how important DIS% is.

Not that I take total blame on that, it is just that they themselves never wrote much on how important DIS% is, other than obviously the lower it is, the better it is. But it is clearly very important. For DIS% of 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%+, there is a gradual uptick in ERA as the pitcher's DIS% rises. However, if you can get your DIS% to be under 10%, your ERA drops exponentially, particularly when your DOM% is at least the 40% mark that I have been noting appears to be the minimum level you need to be to be a good pitcher.

Based on the tables presented in the link above and using the DOM%/DIS% from the link at top, then extrapolating based on the actual DOM%/DIS% versus the table, assuming linear change from one cell to the next, to calculate the expected ERA based on the DOM%/DIS% pairing, I compiled the following table:

Name - DOM% - DIS% - qERA - Actual ERA (starter)
Cain - 48% - 28% - 4.71 - 4.32
Lowry - 33% - 19% - 4.64 - 3.75
Morris - 52% - 15% - 4.26 - 4.57
Schmidt - 59% - 4% - 3.40 - 3.37
Wright - 29% - 19% - 4.71 - 5.22
Hennessey - 11% - 11% - 4.58 - 4.13

Based on this, one can say that Cain, Lowry, and Hennessey have been very lucky thus far not to have a much higher ERA, and Morris and Wright have been victims of some bad luck, with Schmidt being pretty much on target. But because Hennessey was able to avoid a lot of disaster starts, his qERA is not much worse than Cain's despite Cain having a clearly superior DOM%. Same for Wright, just that extra 9% less DIS% made a huge difference between him and Cain too.

That's because when pitchers have a disaster start, it really is a disaster. As can be seen in the above link, the ERA for disaster starts was 11.19! Whereas dominant starts was 2.39. Obviously, there is self-selection there, but still, clearly, when a pitcher has a disaster start, he really goes whole hog.

And clearly from the matrix, it shows that getting your DIS% under 20% is key (and exponentially so if you can get it under 10% when your DOM% is over 40%), as well as getting your DOM% over 40%. As the study noted, a DOM%/DIS% of 50%/20% on average had an ERA of 4.50, but that is basically the same ERA if your ratio is 30%/10% or even 0%/0%. The only way to get an ERA of under 4.00 is to have a DOM% of over 60% and DIS% under 20%, or have a DIS% under around 5% while still having a DOM% over 40% (actually a shade under but I don't feel like calculating it).

What does this all mean? It confirms some things and shows who's just having bad luck. Obviously, from above, Morris and Wright are having bad luck. Morris has been pitching better than fans think he has been, he has been pitching pretty well, in particular his 52% DOM%. And it confirms that Cain is close to being an elite pitcher, if only he can reduce his DIS%. A DOM% of 48% is pretty good, getting his DIS% to low levels would push his ERA under 4.00.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Kruk on Cain and Sanchez

This morning on his show on KNBR at 7:30AM, Kruk talked about Cain and Sanchez. Basically, he noted how incredible it was that both Cain and Sanchez were able to face major league hitters when they only their fast ball and didn't establish their breaking pitches and thus major league hitters were expecting fast ball and yet are unable to tee off of them.

What they did was "remarkable" and "special", Kruk noted. Cain was unable to get his curveball or changeup over the plate. Sanchez never established that he could get his breaking pitch over either in his start. The hitters all sat on their fastballs and yet were unable to hit either of them. And so both had no-hitters going into mid-game with nothing more than a fastball going for them. Lastly, with all the rest of the games all being important games, it shows what the Giants think of Sanchez that he has only one major league start and still they put him in there.

My Thoughts

The rotation is shaping out really well for 2007, as I've been noting: Morris, Lowry, Cain, Sanchez. But it is scary good with what Kruk is saying about Cain and Sanchez. One can just look at the stats and see that both are really good pitchers. But to be able to pitch a really good game, when they are more throwers and less pitchers and only have their fastball to go to, that really is remarkable.

Most pitchers need to be able to get their full complement of pitches over the plate to pitch a good game as a starter. That's why pitchers who only have their fastball to rely on or maybe just two pitches, end up being relievers, like Eric Gagne and Felix Rodriguez. And that's why most major league starters need to have 3-4 pitches that they can rely on for throwing strikes in order to stay an MLB starter. And yet Cain and Sanchez has enough "stuff", as pitchers always refer to it, to rely solely on their fastball in order to pitch a good game.

I still want to make our rotation scary good by getting another good pitcher, like re-signing Schmidt, but it sounds more and more like we have the makings of a great rotation in the coming years even without Schmidt. Over the weekend, Lincecum pitches in the first game of the playoffs for San Jose Giants, going 7 IP, giving up 5 hits, 1 ER, 1 BB, and getting 10 K's and earns himself the win. If he can move up to the majors in 2008, we could have a rotation of Lowry, Cain, Sanchez and Lincecum from 2008-2010, three full seasons, if I remember the length of Lowry's contract right. And we will have Cain, Sanchez, Lincecum - barring any injury or poor performance/regression - in our rotation from 2008-2011, four full seasons.

That's why I've been saying that the restructuring of the Giants does not necessarily mean that we will have to accept a losing team in the re-building process. With pitchers like that and a sad-sack division as the NL West, we could be in contention for the division title all those years just based on our rotation alone. And with cheap but excellent pitching like that, we could afford to buy the best position players around to build our lineup. And as I've been noting in previous posts, the Giants have already begun rebuilding the past two seasons, it is just that some fans have not noticed it with all their vitriol for Sabean and/or Felipe. Go Giants!!!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I Feel Fine: Jonathan Sanchez Great First Start

What a great first start. No-hitter through 4 innings, and ends up pitching 5.2 innings, 93 pitches, 60 for strikes, gave up only 3 hits and 2 walks and struck out 7 batters. That's a PQS of 4, a dominating start from our newest addition to the rotation and his first victory in the majors as a starter for the Giants. Already 2-0 as a reliever, so now 3-0, he could end up with a similar record as Lowry did in his first extended run in the majors (6-0) if the Giants continue to give him starts.

And look at him, he LOOKS like an ace in the making. The talk has been about how poised he is and how calm, cool, and collected he is no matter what the situation he is pitching in.

Wow, I'm liking the rotation for 2007 more and more. Sanchez looks like he'll be ready to join the rotation next season, making it Morris, Lowry, Cain, and Sanchez for now. If Sabean is able to re-sign Schmidt (or somehow sign Zito, the only other ace-type pitcher free agent this off-season), we should have a really awewome rotation in 2007. Then add Lincecum into the mix late 2007 season or in 2008, and the Giants could trade Schmidt off for prospects to stock the farm system with more hitters.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Hopes and Fears: My Thoughts On the Giants Playoff Chances and Retaining Bonds

{I wrote a lot of this text as a comment on McCovey Chronicles and thought I would post it here as well. One was about the Giants chances for the playoffs, the other was on Kuip's comments on KNBR this morning.}

My hope and expectations are these: if we are to go to in the playoffs, we will go there on the backs of our starting rotation, but if we are to advance, our offense will have finally jell together and start playing to their potential.

I think people are over-worrying about the situation, filling it with all the years of angst over the lack of championships for the SF Giants. Yes, they don't have a championship caliber team. Then again, you don't have to be one to win it all. All you really need is great pitching and enough offense as the competition is not that great.

The Giants cannot be judged from the full context of their seasonal record as to how they will perform in the playoffs. The conditions that will exist during the playoffs will be very different from the regular season.

For one, there were many games in which Barry missed games during the season: no great source of this info, so for games where Barry got 0-1 PA using ESPN's game log, the Giant were 14-23 in those games, while they were 55-46, .545 winning percentage with Bonds getting 2 PA or more. That's an 88-74 winning percentage season right there, just from having Bonds starting. How much you want to bet he's starting every game of the playoffs, should we make it there?

For another, Alou was out much of the season. When Bonds in lineup, we scored 4.7 runs per game, when Alou 4.5 runs per game, 4.6 runs per game when both in lineup. When both are out of the lineup, the Giants were 6-10, 4.1 runs per game. Take that out of the Giants record and they are almost in first place tie with Dodgers and leading the wild card race.

I agree it is a coin toss that Alou is in the playoffs or not but what if he is? The Giants are that much better when both are in the lineup. And that was mainly when Bonds was not hitting much, he has been locked in for a while now.

Plus Alou has finally brushed off the rust that sitting out May and June (basically) led to in his batting stroke. June OPS .619, July OPS .750, August OPS .818, September (only 4 games) OPS 1.333, but that matches the 1.000+ OPS he had at the start of the season before being injured. His stroke has returned too.

For another, we won't have Wright/Hennessey dragging down the rotation during the playoffs and the other starters are pitching pretty well right now, which if it can continue into the playoffs, will give us an advantage. Cain is locked in. Schmidt has had a bad period now but hopefully will return to his earlier dominance by season's end. Morris has been pitching well for a while now. Lowry had his great August but reverting back to his poor stats starting in September, so we'll see how he goes. But overal, three pitchers doing well out of four isn't too bad to ask for going into the playoffs.

I don't expect to win it all if we make it in, but if Bonds and Alou are in the lineup and the starting pitching is going well, I don't see why the Giants can't make a good showing in the playoffs and have as good a chance as any other team, every team has their problems that could explode in their face, same as the Giants. And you never know, once you get into the playoffs, what might happen.

Kuip's Comments On KNBR

Goofus beat me to the punch and posted Kuip's comments on a Diary on McCovey Chronicles. I commented on it with the below text:

I agree that his stance matches many here. There's no way Bonds will get even a kick of the tire from any other team, both Sosa and Palmiero probably would have played this year if anyone had offered and they are the type of players who get such offers (see Frank Thomas). So as noted above, the Giants would be only bidding against themselves.

So the key thing - and Kuiper mentioned it - is how Bonds feel about the whole thing. Will he be too insulted by too low a contract? I don't think he would stand for being dissed but I think the team will be fair with him as well, given that the odds of him reaching Aaron has grown exponentially the past week or so. The main questions are will Bonds pull an Aurilia and have an inflated sense of what he should be paid and how desperate is Bonds to reach Aaron? Given his ego, I have no sense for what HE thinks is fair vs. what WE think is fair. And I think he wants Aaron, as much as he has pooh-poohed it previously in respect to Aaron.

I think a base in the $5-7M range is fair plus incentives to reach certain games played, the range GiantJim had sounds about right {I'm sure I wrote about this in a previous post here}. If there is a way to pay him extra for reaching Aaron, I think it will be put in, but I don't think an incentive like that can be put into the contract. A contract like that should be attractive enough so that he don't feel dissed but I'll bet he thinks he should be getting $20M again and it will be his will to reach Aaron that will eventually get him to sign. And as someone mentioned above, I think he would like to reach 3,000 as well, only the greats reach that, so the team will be in the catbird seat, to use an old baseball term.

While I appreciate Felipe for not making a bigger deal about his contract status, he is forced into such a situation: if he opens his mouth, he would distract the team from their main goal, which, as always, is to win the World Series. And if they are distracted and don't do well, they won't make the playoffs, let alone win it all and he definitely won't get a new contract either. So that's why I think he made his "mistake" about how few games he had left, to let it out that he's aware, but to not take too much focus away from the players.

Personally, I think Felipe will be back whether or not Bonds is back. He was a perfect manager to handle the transition from experience to youth, given his experience handling ballplayers from his days as minor league manager.

And speaking about post-Felipe, given Ron Wotus' position as bench coach - a position I would have expected Luis Pujols to get with Felipe as manager - I think Giants management is grooming him for the manager's position and how better than to sit around an old pro like Felipe and absorb his knowledge as the bench coach. I expect him to get the reins of the team when Felipe is done, which will probably when he thinks that the team, while competitive, is not likely to go all the way, which it will probably look like once Bonds leaves or finally have a truly bad season.

Besides which, Bonds' negotiation will probably drag on for a while, the Giants cannot do likewise with Felipe, either they re-hire him pretty immediately or go on a manager hunt, they cannot wait to see if Bonds sign AND THEN sign Felipe, that would look totally whack.

Moises has the same problem, he can't make too big a fuss because he needs to concentrate on hitting great again (which he appears to have finally done after two months of a spring training redux) in order to get a good contract next season (if he gets one, he's no spring chicken either). The Frank Thomas deal will probably be in his future.

The senior consultant role that was mentioned for Felipe by Kuiper was mentioned as early as when Felipe signed with the Giants. Given his experience in prospecting and his stature in the Dominican Republic, I expect him to be actively recruiting prospects in the Carribean once he hangs up his managerial post. He will become the face of the Giants in the Carribean and lend his respectability to the organization after the black eye they got with that other guy, I think it was in the 90's. He was accused of abusing some of the younger players under his charge, gave the Giants a huge shiner, I believe.

This and That: Winn and Cain

Interesting Giants notes yesterday. {Sorry, I thought I had posted this August 30th and forgot to...}

Winn's Knee "Issues"

Winn apparently has had "issues" with his right knee since May, since fouling a ball off it, according to Alou and the trainer Conte, but Winn basically denied that there was any lingering problems or problems currently with his knee. Could be that the Giants want to give an excuse for Winn's poor performance this year. And his stats sort of support it and sort of don't. He had a good April, then an OK May (just not enough hits), but a great June, which appears to refute that the knee was a problem, but since then he has been pretty horrible so one could make the case that perhaps he aggravated it in late May, early June, and hasn't been the same since, posting a low .600 OPS since the end of June.

And whatever the problem is, it has caused him to go from getting more walks than strikeouts, as he did in April, May, June, to horrible walk totals for July, August. Plus no HR from June 27 to August 8th and only 2 total since June 27th. If there were really issues, the Giants should have just DLed him and played Finley in his place, get him all healed, particularly after that putrid July, perhaps he could be on fire right now instead of struggling.

Cain's Innings Too Much?

The writer also noted a worry about Cain's innings. He noted that Cain is at 150 IP and approaching his "high from last year, when he threw 192." My math shows that he is 42 IP from his high of last year. There are 30 games left. With a 5 man rotation, that's 6 starts left. He has averaged 6 IP per start this season. So that means he is on pace for 36 IP for those 6 games and 186 IP for the year. What's the worry? That Cain might match his career high?

This reminds me of a debate I was in on McCovey Chronicles last week. The guy cried about how delicate any young pitcher's arm is thus we should not put so much stress on Lincecum's arm by putting him in the majors next season and only add about 20 IP per season to stretch his arm out; he's convinced that's what harmed Mark Prior's arm. So I outlined there how Lincecum is already at 162 IP combined college and pros, plus the games he could expect to throw for the rest of the San Jose Giants schedule, he'll be at around 170-180 IP for this season. So he's already ready to throw in the majors, most starting pitchers throw no more than 180-200 IP, particularly if you are the #4 or #5 starter on the staff. So how would Lincecum's arm be harmed by being in the majors, he has already thrown that many innings this season.

That is, unless the guy is now claiming that the Giants are irreparably harming Lincecum's arm by not shutting him down after a few starts. But that was not his starting point of his argument, he was just reacting to a comment about how another fan wanted to allow Lincecum in the major league rotation next season if he was ready. This guy was clearing reaching up you know where (where the sun don't shine for those who don't get it) for his arguments as he made either a clearly false statement or a stupid statement. Either way, doesn't make him look all that good (which is too bad for him because he's trying to make himself out as some sort of expert for hire).

Furthermore, if he believes so strongly about damaging young pitcher's arms, where was he the past three seasons while Cain went from 19.1 IP plus whatever he did in high school at age 17, jumped to 74.0 IP in 2003 when he was 18, jumped to 158.2 IP in 2004 when he was 19, and then jumped to 192.0 IP in 2005 when he was 20. Based on that 20 IP per year rule, Cain's not due to throw nearly 200 IP until he is 23-24 years old, based on the IP he did at age 18.

And even if this is some new learning on his part, even I knew immediately that Cain would be considered abused by his rule, he never mentioned Cain at all in his arguments. Following his assertions to their logical conclusion, Cain is headed to a Mark Prior-like existence in the near future. Maybe, maybe not, Cain did have that thing he was shut down for in his first full season as a pro, but he has been injury free since then, with nary a hint that he is injury-prone, unlike, say, Francisco Liriano, who had multiple injuries shutting him down before the Giants traded him to Minnesota.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Giants PQS: Updated to August 31st

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the 2006 season as of games played to August 31st, as defined in Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster annual book.

Giants Starters' PQS for 2006 Season (as of August 31st, 2006)

Matt Cain - (25 starts: 48% DOM, 28% DIS ): 3, 4, 1, 4, 5, 0, 1, 3, 3, 3, 0, 4, 5, 0, 5, 0, 4, 4, 3, 5, 5, 0, 3, 5, 5
Brad Hennessey - (9 starts: 11% DOM, 11% DIS): 3, 2, 3, 1, 2, 4, 3, 2, 2
Noah Lowry - (21 starts: 33% DOM, 19% DIS): 3, 1, 3, 2, 5, 2, 3, 0, 2, 4, 3, 2, 0, 5, 4, 1, 4, 4, 3, 4, 3
Matt Morris - (27 starts: 52% DOM, 15% DIS): 3, 4, 3, 1, 4, 1, 2, 3, 2, 5, 4, 5, 4, 3, 5, 5, 2, 5, 3, 0, 3, 5, 1, 4, 4, 4, 4
Jason Schmidt - (27 starts: 59% DOM, 4% DIS): 3, 5, 4, 3, 5, 5, 4, 3, 4, 5, 4, 5, 4, 3, 4, 5, 3, 3, 3, 4, 5, 5, 2, 5, 3, 2, 0
Jamey Wright - (21 starts: 29% DOM, 19% DIS): 3, 4, 3, 2, 1, 3, 4, 5, 4, 0, 3, 0, 3, 3, 2, 2, 4, 4, 1, 2, 2

Giants overall - 43% DOM, 17% DIS out of 130 games started

NOTE: I think technically, under the system, Lowry's first start and Morris' start where he promptly got ejected, should count against their totals, but I think under the extenuating circumstances, they should not, basically because this system tries to ferret out how the good performances by a starter and none of those games were zeros because of a poor performance. Lowry got injured early in the game; and Morris got ejected early in the game.

Latest Comments

The Giants starters overall have been pitching very well in their games. A DOM near or above the 40% mark is indicative of good pitching; above 50% is great and above 70% is elite. A low DIS is also indicative of good pitching. So, generally, the Giants pitching has been doing OK this season and has been bordering on good overall. The rotation has stayed in the 40% range with their generally good pitching, especially Lowry and Cain, where pitchers are considered to be among the better starters:
  1. Schmidt has been very dominating for the first half of the season but he slipped a big notch in August, not only did he earned less DOM starts, but he had his first DIS start. Worse, he has been on a decline the past three games and generally since his second start of August when he got his first 2 of the season. This is good and bad. Bad, obviously, because we need him to be pitching well if we hope to get into the playoffs and if we hope to advance in the playoffs. Good as this could get teams to think twice before offering Schmidt elite money (greater than $15M per season) and we might be able to get him back at a lower salary per season. I would still rather he pitch great, if I had my druthers.
  2. After Morris regressed in his three games since the All-Star break, he has been pretty dominating, with 5 DOM starts and 1 DIS start out of 6, making me a bit clairvoyant in my last update (or just plain lucky - I'm leaning towards the latter). Unfortunately, the results have not been there, he has been giving up a lot more runs than could be expected, given his DOM starts. Hopefully he can continue to pitch well in September and the results will even out, meaning he should win a bunch of games to make up for the lack of wins in August despite his good PQS pitching.
  3. Lowry had a typical August for him: dominating! But the offense was not able to pick it up for him and he only won 2 games when he should have won 4, easily, all 5 if the offense was mildly good that game. Unfortunately, he regressed in his first start of September and had a horrible start. The Giants should just give him a special calendar where every month of the baseball season is August.
  4. Matt Cain turned it on in August as well, with 4 DOM starts in 6 and all the DOM starts were 5's. In 37.1 IP in August, 32 hits, 15 walks, 47 strikeouts, 2 HR, 2.65 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, .234 BAA. An added plus is that he didn't turn into a pumpkin in September, having another DOM start today against the Cubs.
  5. Wright and Hennessey split the 5th spot in August, with Hennessey getting most of the starts. Neither did well enough, in my opinion, to warrant keeping either in the rotation. Sanchez should be put in the rotation when the 5th spot comes up, with Hennessey coming in should Sanchez have a short outing.

The rotation is shaping out OK. Schmidt has finally started to falter but Cain, Morris, and Lowry has picked up the slack. As noted, neither Wright nor Hennessey did particularly bad or good. Hopefully Schmidt can right himself after about a month's worth of bad starts as Lowry seems to be out of his zone again. I think Cain's youth is paying off right now as he is probably stronger than the older players, particularly those who used to use amphetamines to stay strong in the last two months of the season. Morris has been pitching well, but, for example, the bullpen turned a great looking start into a horrible looking one, or the other team would bunch their hits into one big inning. Hopefully Sanchez can come in and inject some energy into the rotation and the team and get us on another good win streak, but thus far the Giants have not strangely silent on when he will start, saying only that he would be in the bullpen over the weekend. However, it would be odd for them to pointedly move him back to the minors to give him starts and then not start him in September. Expect it to happen, it will.

What will happen? Who knows, the way the offense has been going. I'm hoping Winn will finally get hot and ignite the offense from the top of the order, that's been the two cyclinders that have been missing all season long, making our 8 cyclinder potentially high performance offense limp along thus far. I still think they can get into the playoffs but it is going to be nip and tuck, it is no sure thing, either way.

Methodology Explanation

Please look at my link to the side for my explanation of Baseball Forecaster's methodology.


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