Tuesday, February 27, 2007

LinceComing Down the Fast Lane

I was surfing, as I am wont to do, and ran across a very interesting article examing Daisuke Matsuzaka's mechanics on The Hardball Times. There were videos there clicking off frame by frame his pitching motion and I was struck by how similar Dice-K's pitching motion was to Lincecum's. So I e-mailed the author, Carlos Gomez, to, ahem, suggest perhaps he should take a similar look at Lincecum in an article.

Carlos, a very nice, down to earth guy, replied back to me and pointed me to a post he did at Baseball Think Factory where he evaluated the 2006 Draft, and here is his comments on Tim Lincecum:


#10 - San Francisco Giants - P Tim Lincecum

Really goes after it. Check out how his front leg, just before landing, seems to step over an imaginary object and then land? This helps the hips turn faster. He couples it with a late hand break and a very quick arm. At 10, he’s a steal. THIS is how you use your body to throw. Straight over the top release point in which he is forced to yank his head out of the way. Might scare some, doesn’t scare me.....certainly not when you’re this efficient with your body.

This is my #1 pick, hands down.

Grade: A+

The bolded italics are mine. "This is my #1 pick, hands down." Wow, one of the best evaluations I have read about Lincecum.

Anyway, he noted that he had to laugh because the next two pitchers he was planning on writing about were Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. He will do a Matt Cain article for The Hardball Times and then a Tim Lincecum article for Baseball Think Factory (he writes there for a blog, Bullpen Mechanics). I will be sure to link to those two articles when they come out (probably within a week), but you all can check there if you can't wait.

Give Sabean More Time

Not to beat the drum too hard, but to all the Sabean haters out there: Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, the future of the Giants. There have been a number of articles recently in the newspapers talking about how Sabean's contract is up this season and how Magowan noted that everyone is accountable, implying that Sabean's job could be in trouble with another bad season. Most of the articles were negatively oriented towards Sabean, from what I gathered from the articles. I think that it would be premature to let him go without allowing him to see this transition through, he should get at least 2 more years and perhaps 3-4.

I would say that he has been successful thus far with his mini-rebuilding, staying relatively competitive while remaking the entire pitching staff. Some scoffers note that he was forced to do that, use younger players, because of injuries and lack of performance, but the main point to me is that when he needed to reach into the minors, those pitchers were there. Now he needs a few years to see how his postion players work out, because building from within takes time, normally.

Rebuilding takes time, especially if you want to it successfully. If you look at Detroit (2001-2005), Atlanta (1985-1990), Twins (1993-2000), even the A's (1993-1998), these teams who are considered successful today took about 5-8 years of re-building and dealing with crappy teams - with some particularly bad teams along the way, Detroit 2002-3, Atlanta 1988-1990, Twins 1993, 1995, 1997-2000, A's 1993 and 1997 - before becoming successful again. I think the Giants should be competitive this year and, if they are, Sabean would have duplicated his 1997 successful rebuilding that followed one really bad year and two bad years.

The amazing thing is that Sabean has done most of it without getting the advantages of the above teams. Most of them greatly benefited from woeful records that earned them a Top 5 pick multiple times, which is as close to a sure thing as there is in baseball for prospects - Sabean had a 10th pick last season and will have a 10th pick this season, else he has had to deal with picks in the 20-something range for every year except for his first, when he made the mistake of picking Jason Grilli #4 in 1997 (missing out on Vernon Wells #5, but it's not all roses there, only 5 of the Top 10 that year turned out to be very good, and one shouldn't count since JD Drew didn't sign with the Phillies, and perhaps another, as Jon Garland never did much for his drafting team, the Cubs, plus Cuddyer would be considered not that good until last season, almost 10 years after he was picked). Even then, in 2005 and 2006, the Giants were only 5-6 games away from the .500 mark and contention in the West, and thus it should not take much to switch the fortunes of the past two years around and I think the Giants can do that this season.

Here are various early 1st round picks by the above teams during their re-building periods:
  • Tigers: Justin Verlander, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller
  • Braves: Chipper Jones, Steve Avery, Kent Mercker
  • Twins: Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer, Mark Redman, Todd Walker
  • A's: Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, Eric Chavez, Ariel Prieto, Ben Grieve
Atlanta benefited from being able to sign international players like Andruw Jones, while the Giants in the late 90's or so had that unfortunate problem with their director being involved in some sordid scandal which I assumed critically injured most of their efforts in the Carribean, or seemingly so, until the Villalona signing, which they did with their new director. Not that they didn't have any signings in that region, but certainly no big money prospect like Villalona, as there was no money for that for most of those years.

A First Round Draft Pick Is Not The Same For a Winning Team

Speaking of Villalona, on the BTF comments after a separate article that was on the signing of Villalona, someone noted that this was odd for someone (Sabean) who essentially traded away a first round draft pick to sign Michael Tucker. Again, people seem to think a first round draft pick is the same as any other first round draft pick. As I have researched and wrote on, this is wildly untrue.

That might have been closer to being true when there were only 16 teams in the majors, but with nearly double the teams today, it is clearly not. As I had showed previously, there is a chasm in the likelihood of finding a good player between the first 10 picks versus the last 10 picks of the first round. When you are a winning team, particularly a division winner, or as they used to advertise Sabean, only had 5-10 days (now much more I assume) where his team was eliminated from playoff contention, you are going to draft in the 21-30 range, and mainly in the 26-30 range for the top teams, and the odds are bad there, about 9% chance of drafting a good player.

I will take another stab at presenting this data in a way that's understandable to the masses, but I feel like Don Quixote sometimes regarding this data. Of course, it didn't help that one of the well-known baseball gathering holes took my report and shreded it without 1) inviting me over to explain my research or my work, or 2) even presenting anything that directly refute my findings. They just mainly posted snarky comments and basked in the glow of their amassed intelligence.

I think someone pointed out the Baseball Prospectus study, at some point, but BP also missed the point too, which is that while there might be a high average player value for those picks, when the odds are greatly against finding a good player (as I noted above, roughly 11 to 1 against you or 9% odds of drafting a good player in the late 1st round), it will not cost you much in expected value to pass on a late first round draft pick once, twice, maybe even three times, which I think is the point where it starts to hurt you.

This risk of missing out on the next hot young prospect is pretty low when picking from that range, in general, about 1 in 11 as I noted. And if, as I had read somewhere, the Giants reportedly felt that the depth of prospective draftees was not that deep that season, it would make it all the more sense to pass on the pick and sign a major leaguer for the same price. It is not like each year has the same depth of talent, so maybe, in their opinion, that was a low tide year, not worth getting.

1 comment:

  1. I gather Lincecum pitched in intrasquad today. One inning, one strikeout, no hits. The downside, of course, is that he was pitching against rookies. Can't wait for the first spring training game when he's up against the vets.

    ReplyDelete

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