Friday, January 05, 2007

Giants Run Element

I was reading this article on this blog, The Baseball Analysts, where they described an old technique of Bill James for determining the type of hitter you got and where you would want to put him in the lineup, based on his Run Element, which was a metric that Bill James created to determine this trait. Here is the quote from an old Bill James Baseball Abstract describing this metric:

Run element ratio divides the parts of secondary average into that which is valuable early in the inning, valuable for scoring runs (walks and stolen bases) and that which is valuable late in the inning, or valuable for driving in runs (power). The formula is (SB+BB)/(TB-H). If a player is over 1.00, then generally speaking you want him up early in the inning. If he is under 1.00, then he is more valuable later in the inning. Vince Coleman's career run element ratio is 4.4, meaning that he has little use except as a leadoff man; Don Mattingly's is .38, meaning that he is much more valuable later in the inning.
You can read the rest of the article to get the author's stats on the MLB and his discussion, but I'll just focus just on the Giants, old and new, who appeared on the lists.

  • Dave Roberts (2.00): He was 4th in the majors, making him one of the premier leadoff men in the majors.
  • Omar Vizquel (1.48): He was 15th in the majors, so he would make a good leadoff hitter as well, which I had noted before when constructing lineups - with his lack of power, it would have made more sense to bat him leadoff and have Randy Winn bat 2nd where his extra power could drive in Vizquel, instead of being wasted batting behind the pitcher and #8 spot.
  • Shea Hillenbrand (.239): He had the 6th worst run element in the majors in 2006. These are the odd-ball hitters, good enough to drive in runs but bad enough hitters that you don't want them batting 3/4/5. Which we Giants fans already knew about Shea.
  • Benjie Molina (.253): He had the 7th worst run element. So I guess he'll take Shea's spot. Luckily, whereas Shea would sometimes hit higher in the lineup, Bochy already has Molina and Feliz slotted for the bottom of the order, where these low run element types should hit. Unfortunately, we also have...
  • Pedro Feliz (.306): He had the 10th worst run element. As noted, Bochy is batting him at the bottom and traditionally managers would bat the catcher 8th, but Molina at least has a rep for driving in guys whereas they sort of fall into Feliz's lap, plus Molina is the better hitter, OPS-wise, so I am hoping Molina bats 7th and Feliz bats 8th.
  • Rich Aurilia (.385): He had the 19th worst run element. Epps! Thus far, talk has been about batting Aurilia 3rd.
Giants Run Element

I took all the players who will and might play for the Giants in 2007 and calculated their 2006 Run Element (for Klesko, I used his 2005 stats) and here is the table (I tried the HTML from Google Docs again and the spacing was even worse! So back to the lame table format):

Giants - Run Element
Roberts - 2.00
Vizquel - 1.48
Bonds - 1.17
Klesko - 1.04
Sweeney - .82
Winn - .75
Linden - .71
Ellison - .54
Durham - .48
Niekro - .39
Aurilia - .39
Feliz - .31
Frandsen - .30
Molina - .25
Alfonzo - .18

Giants Lineup Construction

Well, we all knew Bonds should be batting in the middle. Klesko is a bit of a no-brainer too, so hopefully he has returned to his old self, which is what Bochy is selling us, so hopefully he is right, as Klesko would strengthen our 1B (and additionally 3B because then Feliz will probably see less ABs if Klesko returns to his old self and pushes Aurilia to 3B). Looks like Winn is the most obvious choice for batting 3rd, still he is suppose to be able to run well, but, as I noted, Bochy has thus far suggested Aurilia.

[Side note/thought, but as the lineup spot calculation I had did before and other lineup analysis have shown, the #3 spot is not as important to the offense as the #1, #2, #4 or #5 spots. The article I linked above quoted Bill James's discussion and he basically came to the same conclusion using his analysis.]

Unfortunately, we don't really have any good candidates for hitting 5th and, relatedly, 6th. Based on the run element methodology, Durham is not a very good candidate for a #5 hitter because of his low 0.48 run element. Randy Winn would make a better candidate with his 0.75 and Linden would even be better with his 0.71.

Even more unfortunately, our lineup have a lot of low run element hitters - Durham, Aurilia, Feliz, and Molina - but we only have one 8th spot. Durham is probably the best runner of the bunch (and probably the best hitter too), so he would probably be the best choice to hit 3rd if you believe in the run element philosophy.

Best Giants Lineup Using Run Element Method

This is the best Giants lineup that I could come up with, based on my reading of the article and following what Bill James advised:
  1. Roberts
  2. Vizquel
  3. Durham
  4. Bonds
  5. Winn
  6. Aurilia
  7. Molina
  8. Feliz

When Roberts is sitting against LHP, Linden plays RF and Winn plays CF:

  1. Vizquel
  2. Winn
  3. Durham
  4. Bonds
  5. Linden
  6. Aurilia
  7. Molina
  8. Feliz
Sure, this would be a risk with Linden #5, but we need to see what he can do, don't we? However, probably what will happen is that Winn and Vizquel will probably be flopped at the top, Durham will bat 5th, Molina 6th, Linden 7th, and Aurilia 3rd.

If Klesko is hitting like he had in the past, even his poor (for his career) 2005 season, this would be a pretty good lineup:
  1. Roberts
  2. Vizquel
  3. Durham
  4. Bonds
  5. Klesko
  6. Winn
  7. Aurilia
  8. Molina
That would give us 6 hitters with .350+ OBP at the top of our lineup, which is pretty good. In addition, if Klesko is hitting, then when Bonds sit, Bochy might be making the choice of who better to start, Feliz or Linden, because Klesko can play LF or 1B, Aurilia can play 1B or 3B. And if it were my choice, I would play Linden in LF, Klesko at 1B, and Aurilia at 3B. Though, of course, we will have to see how Klesko handles AT&T Mays Field, which has destroyed better left-handed hitters than he.

Thus far, he has been hurt but not especially so, by SF: in 45 games, 164 AB, only 3 HR, but .268/.342/.415/.757 is not that bad plus he was facing mainly the good Giants pitching staff of the first half of this decade, not the rotation/bullpen of the past couple of years, and most of his ABs where when AT&T Mays Field was a pitchers park, not the neutral park it has been the past few seasons (which I attribute partly to San Diego's even more pitching oriented PETCO Park, though that moderated in 2006 due to their changing the field's dimensions and partly to hitters finally figuring out the park, much like Giants hitters had to go through their learning curve at their new park in 2000 and Grissom, Durham, Alfonzo, and Pierzitski when they joined the team). He is only off his career OPS by about 100 points and .757 is good, though not great.

However, Mark Sweeney just couldn't figure out AT&T Mays Field last year. He had horrible splits between home and road: only .228/.282/.283/.565 at home (145 AB!) vs. his normal .281/.385/.509/.894 on the road. And I noted that Pierzitski was horrible his first month or so with the Giants, hitting very poorly. Tucker also hit poorly his first month, before turning on fire. So we will see if Klesko has a similar adjustment period or not.

But since his stats have not been that bad thus far in SF, hopefully any adjustment period is short. Grissom, while a righty, had been labeled a poor hitter while with LA, but his AT&T numbers were good (while his LA numbers were horrible; ya hear that Pierre? Juan has a career mark of .281/.333/.331/.664 in LA; enjoy that sucking noise you hear, LA!) and when he joined the Giants, he had no problems adjusting at all and hit his normal high .700 OPS he normally did, when not playing in LA. Hopefully Klesko can hit the ground running.

Klesko Could Be Key to Good Giants Offense

While the acquisition of Bonds is clearly the best move for the offense, followed by Durham, the key tipping point acquisition for the offense, which turns it from average to good, might well be Klesko and whether he has recovered like Bochy (and the Giants) think he has. Bochy noted when Klesko was signed that Klesko looked like his old power-hitting self the final two weeks of the 2006 season for the Padres - he was finally healthy after having the AC joint on his left shoulder surgically repaired (this was from Chron). ESPN added further that Bochy liked how Klesko was hitting batting practice late in the season and quoted him "It looked like the Ryan Klesko I knew two or three years earlier." 2-3 years ago, Klesko was a mid-800 OPS hitter, which would be great for a 5th place hitter, plus more importantly, his OBP was in the high .300's back then.

Klesko also noted that he wouldn't have come back to play baseball, and would have retired, if he didn't feel good, as when he is healthy, he has power and can get on base. If he can do both, he would be a crucial addition because he is more a true #5 hitter than Durham is and would free Durham to bat 3rd plus more importantly, push Aurilia out of the #3 spot and down lower in the order. And Klesko hitting like the Klesko of old would give us a big RBI guy that we could use in the 5th spot.

Also, Klesko hitting like old would probably put the competition for playing time between Feliz and Aurilia, and Feliz will probably lose that competition and spend more time on the bench than he or his agent was planning. And when Bonds is sitting, the competition becomes Feliz vs. Linden and if Linden can hit like he did in 2006, he should get the starts. And if this plays out like I've just laid out, by mid-season, the Giants might be in the position to trade Feliz off to another team to drop his salary plus maybe pick up a decent prospect (we got a decent one for Tucker) if the other team desperately (we are talking about Feliz, after all) need a 3B after an injury to their starting 3B.

Let all Giants fans bow our heads down now and pray now for Klesko to return to his past form of .800 OPS hitting. For he is probably the key to the Giants having a good offense in 2007, as it looks pretty average otherwise, and if he can hit, he can play 1B and let Aurilia and Feliz battle it out for 3B. And don't get too hung up on Feliz's high salary, what's done is done and unfortunately, the Giants didn't have any better choices on the market other than Aurilia (but unfortunately they could not get a good 1B before they signed Feliz). Ideally and hopefully we can flip Feliz for a prospect by mid-season (when he should still be hitting: 2006 pre-ASG .274/.306/.486/.792; post-ASG .202/.248/.348/.596. That's a pattern for the past two seasons - 2005 pre .276/.315/.438/.753; post .217/.271/.402/.672 - when he has been a fulll-time player - and NOW he thinks he should get in shape, sheesh!)


  1. Hey, have you given much thought to the 40-man roster, and who is going to have to be dropped? Sabean (for the second year in a row over-protected from the rule 5 draft and the rroster is now over-full, and players will have to be weaned.

    Knoedler was dropped a few days ago, but Bonds hasn't been added yet - one more spot is needed. I wonder if they will talk to Matheny about his retirement, so that they can drop him from the roster, and free up a spot... Otherwise, Niekro and Ellison will have to pass waivers if they are not on the active roster at the beginning of the season.

  2. ... and thus would be good candidates to be dropped

    (somehow got left off the end of the last sentence...)

  3. Good question, haven't thought about it. Yes, Matheny could be one, but I don't know the arcane rules over a situation like him. He could just take one for the team and retire with a settlement (don't know how retirement affects contracts exactly, but if I were him I wouldn't give up any money, his condition is pretty scary, he could need every penny).

    Frankly, I would have no problem dropping Ellison. We have Ortmeier who I think is a better prospect: he's a better hitter than Ellison, probably not as good defensively, but can play some CF, and he has more power and, surprisingly, is probably a superior baserunner, not as fast, but he is a very smart base runner, has a great SB% success rate.

    I cannot imagine Barry Bonds working with Ortmeier in spring training unless he thought Ortmeier has a lot of potential, he doesn't seem like a guy who would waste his time on a guy he didn't respect. And prospect books I've seen list Ortmeier as a potential starting corner OF, if I remember right.

    Then there's Fred Lewis, who is like a better, younger, more powerful Ellison. And if Ellison were kept around, he's not on the 25 man roster, that's full now, and he would block someone in AAA, we have Ortmeier, Lewis, Schierholtz, and maybe EME there for 2007.



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