Monday, December 11, 2006

Lineup Analysis for Current 2007 Giants

I thought it would be interesting to examine the potential run scored based on the current Giants roster, assuming Bonds and the Giants get over their last few hurdles for the contract. I used the Lineup Analysis program available at Baseball Musing to calculate the runs per game estimated for the set of players and their OBP and SLG. That program is based on the work of Cyril Morong and Ken Arneson, Morong in particular, who did a regression on runs vs. the OBP and SLG for each position in the lineup.

Lineup Analysis

For each player, I used a cut of their stats that I thought made sense for their situation:
  1. Roberts: used his road stats. That is below what he has done with his past three teams, but I think he will take a hit hitting in AT&T. (OBP .346, SLG .383)
  2. Vizquel: used his road stats too. He has a pattern that stretches back to 2000 - he hits poorly in odd years. His road stats for his career is approximately what he has done every other year on his down years, but with an uptick since perhaps he finally learned how to hit in AT&T in 2006. This is still slightly lower than his stats as a Giant. (OBP .341, SLG .362) As I stated previously when we acquired Vizquel, he has actually done better as a leadoff hitter plus has less power, so it would make sense to bat him leadoff and Roberts second, Bochy could be so bold.
  3. Winn: used his road stats. It is down very slightly from his career stats, could have just used that, but since I used road stats elsewhere, just kept it up. I think he's a better choice than Aurilia for batting third, he has a higher OBP, plus Aurilia has always had a run-producer mentality and I would like that in the #6 spot. (OBP .341, SLG .421)
  4. Bonds: used his 2nd half 2006 stats. I think that is closer to his abilities than any of his other numbers. (OBP .430, SLG .596)
  5. Durham: used his Giants stats. He has been up and down as a Giant and is due for a down year, but still, 2006 was either a breakout year or a peak year. The fairest thing I thought would be to use his numbers as a Giants hitter. (OBP .358, SLG .474)
  6. Aurilia: used his road stats. Hard to pick out exactly what his stats will be in 2007 with the Giants. Clearly his numbers the past two years have been boosted by playing in Cincinnati. Looking at his AT&T numbers, it is good overall and still not too bad looking at his two post peak years of 2002 and 2003, and close to his career road numbers, so that made his road numbers appear to be the best representation of his abilities for 2007 (OBP .322, SLG .433)
  7. Molina: I looked at both his road numbers and his last 4 years. I thought his 4 year numbers looked better as a representative stat because he has hit better in the past 4 seasons than in the 3 prior seasons, indicating some improvement in his hitting. And the main improvement is in SLG, which makes sense as his SLG went up once he turned 28, entering into his prime physical years. (OBP .318, SLG .442)
  8. Feliz: used his 3 years as a starter for the Giants. Hard to tell what is really his performance level. Obviously some might point to two consecutive years of low .700 OPS and say that is his true level, but he hit .274/.306/.486/.792 in the first half of the 2006 season, which is in line with his results in 2003 and 2004, so that lends credence to the theory some hold that Feliz just tired out and couldn't hit anymore during the second half. So I decided to just use his stats while essentially a starter for the Giants, which covers his past three seasons. (OBP .295, SLG .443)
  9. Linden/Sweeney: they are the main replacements for Roberts and Bonds when they are out of the lineup. For Linden I used his two year stats, since that's the most he has played and is his most recent: OBP .288, SLG .371. For Sweeney, I just used his stats as a Giant, which was greatly reduced in 2006 because of his inability to hit at home: home, .228/.282/.283/.565 vs. away, .281/.385/.509/.894. Most players hit better in AT&T with time, Durham, Grissom, and Alfonzo have noted the learning curve before, and Vizquel had a boost last season over 2005, but I wasn't sure how to model that. Since his SF numbers are approximately Linden, I just assumed that they are interchangeable offensively.

Runs Scored

For the lineup with Bonds and Roberts in there: 4.87 runs per game

For the lineup with Linden for Bonds in there: 4.34 runs per game

For the lineup with Sweeney for Bonds in there: 4.40 runs per game (see, pretty close)

For the lineup with Linden for Roberts in there: 4.76 runs per game

Calculated based on 125 games started by Bonds, with the various combos noted above, I get the Giants scoring 755 runs or 4.66 runs per game, which would have been good for 9th in 2006 - they were tied for 10th in 2006 with 746 runs.

Not too surprising, since the lineup is virtually the same as it was last season. Basically we traded out Alou/Finley, Niekro/Hillenbrand, and Matheny/Alfonzo for Roberts, Aurilia, and Molina/Alfonzo (which I did not account for so that would reduce runs scored even more). I think the combo of Alou/Finley did not do that well, despite Alou hitting so well, and the upgrade from Matheny to Molina will more than make up any difference between Alou/Finley and Roberts.

Upsides/Downsides

Possible upsides/downsides:

  1. Roberts: he has hit much better playing under Bochy than previously, that would boost his stats up 3-6%. That adds about 10 runs or 1 win. However, he has been accident prone so that could knock down the stats by giving Linden more ABs, assuming Linden does not improve. Obviously, if Linden has a breakout year, the offense stays about the same, maybe improve.
  2. Vizquel: Pretty much all the downside is covered except if he gets injured and Aurilia or Frandsen has to play SS. If he did learn how to hit in AT&T and/or break the up/down cycle for his OPS, there is a 7% upside or about 10 runs there.
  3. Winn: The downside is pretty much last season, so that would mean a lingering injury that lasts through the season or at least affected his hitting all season. Big upside if he could ever duplicate his 2005 season with us, but I wouldn't hold your breath. He's a pretty consistent hitter since becoming a starter, and, for Saber-heads, his BABIP last season was only .279, much lower than the mean of .300 that the theory said a hitter should regress to, and way below his .326 BABIP for his career.
  4. Bonds: multitude of downsides, but if he's healthy and in the lineup, who knows what he can do, he has amazed us Giants fans over and over again.
  5. Durham: obviously injury is his downside, but he is healthy, he is a good low to mid-800 OPS hitter normally, over the past 9 seasons, with a peak in two of the past three seasons. Should be right in that range again, even if injured.
  6. Aurilia: I think his downside is pretty much equal to his upside, he is going to be in the 700 OPS range, year in, year out, with the mean about .750.
  7. Molina: The downside is how quickly he adjusts to AT&T, some hitters take a couple of months, some take a year, some never adjusts. He is actually a good hitter, with a contact rate of about 90% (i.e. strikes out about 10% of the ABs), which is pretty good, though his low walks is also a sign that he is more a hitter capable of getting the bat on the ball, than a good hitter. But you can't scoff at a lifetime .275/.310/.407/.717 hitter at the catcher position.
  8. Feliz: Much more of an upside if Bochy can play him so that he gets rested enough to be optimum as a hitter. He's a .790 OPS hitter with enough rest but when he gets worn down, he's down in the low 700's. He is supposedly working out this off-season so that he could play a full season without tiring, but that's what he said last off-season. Plus he says that he is taking hitting lessons to improve his hitting, to which I have to say: what took so freaking long? My numbers are to the low end, so there is more upside than down, I think, but with him, who knows?
  9. Linden/Sweeney: Linden has been a better hitter in AAA than Feliz ever was and Feliz is about a 700 OPS hitter, so I think Linden with consistent ABs can do like Feliz and hit in the .700 OPS range, if not higher, because Linden knows how to take a walk and he hit for more power. My deepest wish is that he gets enough ABs to show his abilities and earn the starting job in 2008. He will be 27/28 that year, so he will be entering his peak physical years, and while he won't be any great hitter, I think he could be a wonderful complementary player for the price of under $1M. Sweeney has been a professional hitter in the best sense of the word, so I expect him to figure out AT&T soon, and have a good hitting season, both starting at 1B and PHing. Lots of upside, and basically should be no downside, he hasn't hit this poorly for a long time and he hit great outside of SF, he just sucked at home.

Thoughts on Lineup

Overall, I think I was pretty conservative with what to expect from the hitters and basically came up with a lineup a little better than last year's 10th place runs scored finish, perhaps a 9th place finish. That's actually OK to me because initial impressions I got from others is that the lineup is going to be much worse and because I feel that the pitching rotation had a lot of down performances that an up year in 2007 would mitigate and result in more wins in 2007 than 2006.

I have shown what I think the 2007 pitching rotation is capable of doing in other posts, and noted how I think the rotation could be a big improvement over last year's rotation, even with the lost of Schmidt, solely because of how poorly our pitchers #3 to #5 did. Improvements in those areas, particularly with Lowry and Morris would greatly improve our chances to win. Adding a reliable #4 starter (in 2007 performance, not history, seeing as how pitchers with history is getting $10-11M per season) by taking a risk on a down and out starter, like we did with Jamey Wright in 2006, would be a good thing to do, as we could allow him 2-3 months to wow the team, and if not, then bring up Lincecum or start Hennessey again. It is nice to have options.

But that's basically the team in a nutshell: to do well in 2007, we need to catch some breaks with developing players and have a healthy team overall, meaning Roberts, Durham, and Bonds can stay healthy. That's not a recipe for success but at least there is hope with our starting rotation plus the sideshow that is Barry Bonds chase of Aaron's record.

Bonds Will Do It in 2007: Unless...

If I had to predict, I would think Bonds would pass Hank sometime in late August or early September. That is, if some crazed baseball fanatacist don't do something crazy to protect Aaron's and baseball's record. Unfortunately, we have the ugly examples of the stabbing of Monica Seles by a crazed Steffi Graf fan, to keep Graf at the top of the tennis world, the knee whacking of Nancy Kerrigan by her top opponent's boyfriend's friend while competing for figure ice skating gold, and John Lennon's assasination by a crazed "fan", as sad examples of man's cruelty to man, in regards to the entertainment industry. Just as Aaron had to endure death threats from racists on his journey to pass Ruth, I am sure there will be those baseball purists out there who will feel compelled to threaten Bonds. It is times like that, as Julian Lennon wrote, "salt water wells in my eyes".

5 comments:

  1. Well, that's just great. It's about what everyone was predicting...the Giants offense will be as pathetic as it was last year.

    You can try make statistics prove any point. In fact, someone a lot smarter than I once said, "there are 3 types of lies....lies, damned lies and statistics." The point is that you can crunch all the numbers you want, but there is no way in hell that the Giants pitching staff will be better in 2007 than it was in 2006. It is purely a fantasy on your part.

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  2. I, too, hope that Winn bats 3rd and Aurilia bats 6th. I'm very curious to see what Bochy comes up with.

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  3. Believe it or not, I'm open to changing my mind. However, it takes more than "you're wrong and I'm right" to do it. Give me some numbers. Give me some logic that makes sense.

    I'm just presenting statistics that lead me to a conclusion to which I hold to under someone convinces me otherwise. I have no vested interest in having "my" analysis be the right point, I have no ego in being "right", I only want to bring up what I find so that I can find the "truth" of the matter, or as close as we can get when we are fans and not on the inside. As I've written before, I want to know the Giants accurately, it has nothing to do with me being "right" or that my analysis is "right", it has to do with me knowing my team accurately, whether it came from me or someone else.

    If you think I'm presenting stats to "lie" about my team, then you don't get me: I root for the Giants, but follow them no matter what.

    I started following the Giants during their pennant year of 1971 then started the years of "wandering through the desert" as the Giants became a mediocre team, never good enough to win, never good enough to get a good draft pick. Here's the #1 draft picks from 72 to when we got Will Clark, to see why we were a sad sack team: Rob Dressler, Johnnie LeMater, Terry Lee, Ted Barnicle, Mark Kuecker, Craig Landis, Bob Cummings, Scott Garrelts, Jessie Reid, Mark Grant, Steve Stanicek, Alan Cockrell (should have picked McGwire instead, even I knew the day after!).

    I followed them through all those years and while I would have loved it if they were competitive, I knew they weren't good (for the most part) and told my fellow Giants fans (the few of us living on the East Bay) that they were crazy thinking the Giants were good and going to win it all. If you will, I follow (love?) them unconditionally.

    I've always loved numbers and dabbled with them when I was younger. When Bill James came out, I bought all his books and loved them. When I discovered the internet has all this data, I loved it.

    But you know what? I had questions. Questions just like any other fan. And nobody got off their ass and took the time to take a look at the data and see if they can come to some conclusion about things. So I decided to delve into the numbers myself, which wasn't that hard, since I love numbers, have always been a math geek ever since my teacher remarked how good I was in 3rd grade (Thanks Miss Cooper!).

    And I'm not tied up with what I thought was right or whatever. For example, for years I held the same opinion that most other Giants fans have held, that the Giants have been terrible drafters and ruined the farm system. I thought Sabean was screwing up the farm system. But I never had any data, so I kept that opinion, which was easy, look at their lousy drafts.

    Then Baseball Cube came into existence and provided draft data so I spent hours upon hours, copying the data into spreadsheet, hand counting each and every draft pick into my database, just to see how easy or hard it was to find good players with the draft.

    That's when I came to the conclusion that the Giants were no better or worse than any other team forced to draft in the later part of the first round. I always thought, just like every other fan, that a first round draft pick should be a good player. But you know what: they are for the most part aren't. Only the top 5 is a pretty sure bet, and even then it depends on the year, some are great years, others are barren. I found out how hard it is to find and draft good players with the draft unless you blow out the team and sink to the bottom, like the Braves did before they became so good, like the Tigers recently did before becoming good this season.

    So don't you dare call me a liar when you don't get off your ass and collect data and present your opinion and analysis. It's fine if you don't believe my data and conclusions, and please point out any inconsistencies in logic, but don't call me a liar.

    The team is what it is now. I feel that it is best you make your complaints when moves are made counter to what you think is best and move on. Sometimes when you think it is a colossal mistake (Vlad!) then you might hold a little anger that lasts longer (Vlad!).

    But baseball is baseball, there's not a better team game for an individual in my opinion, the most democratic game there is. So I will enjoy this season, as flawed as it may be starting out. You never know what will happen.

    For example, the Reds in 1990 won the World Series and when I looked at their team, just a bunch of guys who all had a career year at the same time, no real star except great performances from Jose Rijo and Randy Myers, but I would not consider either one a true star of the game, though both were very good. Certainly neither were or are Hall of Fame material. As the cliche goes, that's why they play the game.

    I guess I am also biased by my relationships with sports.

    I'm tall and lanky (or at least was, got a spare now) and was never much good at sports, though I loved playing. Football, I was either a rusher or blocker, only the best players got to handle the ball, so my only time of triumph was getting by the blocks and getting the QB. Basketball, my height never helped me, I was lousy inside, better with outside shots, so I was mainly a rebounder.

    Baseball, however, everyone, even lame-o's like me got my chance, got my opportunity for grabbing the ring. I can still remember hitting the ball over the LF head when they played in on me and I hit a double to drive in what became the winning run. I can still remember my Willie Mays moment, playing on the street with my friends, racing back on a fly ball and catching it without looking back. I remember blocking the plate and keeping the runner from scoring, while catching the ball and tagging him out. These are memories that live with me today, as if they happened yesterday, even though I was maybe a 5th, 6th, 7th grader back then, 30 years ago.

    So as Costello once said, "I love baseball," and damn if a mediocre team is going to take away my enjoyment of the game.

    But I think there is hope for this team, unlike the 70's team. Yes, it would take some good luck to happen. It wasn't the slam dunk that I thought the 2003 season was. But there is plenty of hope on this team, you just need to be patient enough to see if it unfolds or not, particularly in our young pitching staff.

    Go Giants!

    Now, about the batting order, unfortunately, I heard Bochy say on the radio that he's thinking of batting Aurilia 3rd, with Winn, Molina, and Feliz batting in the bottom of the order. Hopefully he will change his tune once the season starts.

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  4. Regarding the Giants pitching, you just can't point to statistics and logic and say "they should be better" based on regression analysis or whatever mumbo-jumbo you want to use.

    The thing about analyzing baseball talent and projecting what type of results youmight get is that you actually have to see the player in real situations and use judgement to determine theor potential. This is where I disagree with your conclusions based solely on numbers. For example, you attributed Matt Morris' bad season to bad luck and injuries and that he is likely to improve substantially in 2007. However, all you would have to do was watch him pitch the last year and a half and see that it is readily obvious that he is no longer a fraction of the pitcher that he once was. He is quickly turning into Steve Trachsel, not John Smoltz. No amount of numbers or logic can quantify that, but I know from watching batters teeing off on him consistently over the last year and a half that he is no longer a viable winning starting pitcher. He is, at best, an innings eater who might give you a good start every now and then, but is more likely a sub .500 pitcher at this point in his career.

    Cain is a phenomenal talent that has tremendous upside, however, he is not a #1 rotation pitcher yet at this point in his career. In fact, it would be charitable to call him a pitcher right now. What he is right now is really a thrower with electric stuff. He really does not have the experience and know how to be a pitcher yet. Some day he will be a #1 pitcher, but it's not going to be 2007.

    I think we've seen the best that Lowry has to offer and he will not be any better next year or 5 years from now than is he is right now. Projecting great improvement form him is also optimistic at best.

    I won't even go into the deficiencies in the bullpen because I think we all see the problems that are resident there. They are virtually the same ones as last year.

    The only way the Giants pitching staff is better in 2007 than it was in 2006 is if they go out and sign Zito, and even then, it's a close call.

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  5. I don't know if you've noticed but I'm all about stats. If you don't believe them, then give me logical reasons why you don't believe them, not that they are "mumbo-jumbo". The scouting stuff is a start but I need more.

    In addition, I've never talked about regression in reference to pitchers. I never once referred to pitchers and regression, and the regression involved with calculating what the lineup might perform has nothing to do with proving one thing or another thing right: all I did was present what the function calculates and present it. I have no idea how that regression stuff works either regarding lineups, I got a C- in that class and I was lucky I got that. So I don't see your point, I wasn't trying to prove anything, I was trying to show what one method shows runs scoring might be for the current roster. That's one clue, I'll be looking at other clues later - that's the most you can ask out of me, it's not like I'm being paid or anything to do this, I do this out of love of baseball and the Giants.

    What I did do was I used the lineup function put up at a well respected baseball website, so if you have a problem with the methodology I suggest you go to Baseball Musing and complain there, because you will get a better answer there.

    If you don't believe that numbers tell the whole story and that you need to see the players, you should have wrote that: I believe that too. But I don't have scouting skills nor the time to develop it so all that is available to me is numbers. So I use that.

    Also you are mis-reading what I wrote, I was not saying the pitchers would all do great, I first noted what I thought they would do, then I listed their upside and downsides.

    I don't know how Morris will turn out, or any of the pitchers. But I feel that I can make good guesses at where they might turn out. You say look at Morris for the last year and a half: why limit to that? Did you see a change from the first half of 2005 to the second half of 2005? If so, then how did you see all that, are you a Giants fan in St. Louis? And if so, then how did you see him in 2006? If you have actually seen him both in 2005 and 2006, all both seasons, then I won't doubt you, but if you gave a blanket statement covering two years based on a handful of games, then that's ridiculous, perhaps you saw him during his worse games. If I were to judge Joe Montana based on the one game I saw, he was a lame-ass loser, I saw the only game he lost in a 15-1 season and he lost to the lowly Steelers, he just couldn't generate any offense.

    What I saw was a pitcher pressing early on to justify his contract. Once he calmed down, he pitched well into mid-July, then started faltering again, then was injured. All I'm saying is the potential is there to be much better, but all I'm asking for is a small gain from 4.9 to 4.7 ERA to match what Lowry did in 2006, and I don't see how that is not possible. I didn't, as you say, say that "he is likely to improve substantially in 2007," I only said that there is strong possibility of improvement but mainly we just need him to do what he did in 2006, only slightly better, to match the 2006 rotation.

    Cain, I agree that he's not an "ace" yet, but that doesn't mean that he cannot perform like an ace, and I think he can. From the skipped start, his ERA was in the low 3's and he got better as the season progressed, not worse. So, heck yeah, he can certainly match Schmidt's mid-3 ERA of 2006, I didn't expect him to do another low 3 ERA performance (though that would be nice :^)

    "Charitable to call him a pitcher right now"? If someone is putting up a low 3 ERA, I don't see how you can't call him a pitcher. Lots of pitchers have stuff and a fast ball plus secondary pitches like curveball and they have never had the success that Cain is. A thrower has no idea what he is doing - Threets is a thrower - and thus cannot control what is happening at the plate. Koufax was a thrower when he first started too and then finally learned to control it. I think it's insulting to Cain's abilities to call him a thrower. He may not be a pitcher, as you term it, but to call him a thrower seems to be going to far in the other direction. At minimum, you need to acknowledge how dominate he was after he straightened himself out and just because he is young and a thrower does not mean that he cannot repeat that performance again.

    Lowry, I can understand your reticience for him. If you had read my post, you would have noticed that I had my greatest reservations on how he would do, I added the word "hopefully" there. For you to sweep away his injury and just say "I think we've seen the best that Lowry has to offer" provides no useful advice there. Why do you feel that? What logical reasons are there? At least I try to provide some explanation for my feelings, not all my stuff is stats. I explained about his injury and how well he had pitched previous to the injury as reasons for hope that he might return to his past form, plus his youth as well. Just projecting nothing better from him does nothing to advance the thought on how he might turn out.

    The bullpen does have deficiencies but I don't think I've addressed that yet, other than to say that I think the team can be competitive. Brian Wilson is doing very well in Puerto Rico and as much as Armando has been maligned, he still had an OK mid-3 ERA, not what we are paying him for, but not that bad either. Sadler did very well in 2006 and could come up and pitch well. Apparently Sabean is not done looking for bullpen help either, so we might still find some help somewhere.

    The main point I tackled is whether the pitching rotation is going to be better in 2007 than in 2006 even with the lost of Schmidt and I think that it can match what was done last year based on what I've outlined in my post and comments.

    Of course, matching last year's abomination is no great deal either, I've been remiss in noting, so you do got me there, I suppose, if that is what you are looking for.

    But don't chide me for using statistics to try to illuminate how well a pitcher has pitched and then dismiss Lowry's potential for a return to his past excellence by saying "I think we've seen the best". At least I tried to work out the logic of the situation combined with statistics to make my scenarios make sense to me. It is more than you have tried thus far.

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