Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why I'm Not Worried About the D-gers: Reason #1

The D-gers have announced a couple of things the past couple of days that warms my Giants loving heart.

Lowe is the Opening Day Staring Pitcher

First, Grady Little has already announced - before one pitch has been thrown in a Spring Training game - that Derek Lowe is their starting pitcher. I wonder how their new $16M per season acquisition, Jason Schmidt, feels about that? Schmidt has had a 3.59 and much lower ERA in 4 of the past 5 seasons (he was dominating in 3 of those seasons), whereas Lowe had his first good season with the BoSox, then two horrible years, then two good, but still ERA higher than 3.60 ERAs (though it was only barely over, that surprised me, he's been pretty good for the D-gers).

As any Giants fans know, Schmidt's ego is a bit fragile sometimes so I wonder how he is taking that news without getting to show his stuff off in spring training. With his contract and superior stats, he must have been expecting to at least get a chance to win the opening day assignment. And while he missed a number of them with the Giants because he was on the DL to start the season, he normally would have been the opening day starter for the Giants. Maybe it's all good, now that he is with the team his family rooted for when he was growing up, but you got to think that it rankles him a bit that this has already been decided before he got to pitch one pitch in a spring training game for his new team.

Pierre is Batting 2nd

Now, today, Little has announced that Furcal will still lead-off, putting Juan Pierre in the 2 spot. That actually makes some sense because Pierre rarely strikes out, putting the ball into play a lot, even more so because he walks just about as infrequently. And Pierre can't feel too put out since Furcal is being paid more than he is per-season. But, I'm just giddy over knowing Pierre is in a prominent spot in their lineup, whether leading off (where his low OBP would kill their offense) or batting 2nd.

Some theorists on lineup construction says that the best batter should bat 2nd in the lineup, and while Furcal could make some claims on that, Pierre is not even close. He has no power and can't walk if his life depended on it (or close enough in baseball circles). The only good thing is that he does not strike out often, which means that he puts the ball into play more often than other batters.

But that works against Pierre because, while he may be fast, he is not fast enough to avoid the DP as often as Furcal. Furcal in his career, when there is a runner on 1B, has hit into double-plays 7% of his ABs where there is a runner on 1B. However, Pierre in his career, when there is a runner on 1B, has hit into a DP 10% of his ABs, or nearly 50% more often than Furcal.

Of course, the caveat there is that both were leadoff hitters for the vast majority of their careers, and thus they normally didn't have a speedy runner on base ahead of them, typically it would be the 7th or 8th hitter, often slow guys, or sometimes even the pitcher, who is not a good baserunner typically. But at 50% more DPs, whether it is because he hits into a lot of grounders or whatever, it should wipe out Furcal more often than if they had somebody who is good at getting on base batting 2nd and this increase in DPs would help stall their offense.

The other giddy thing about Pierre being in their lineup - and this is music to my ears - Pierre has not hit very well in LA. His career line is .281/.333/.331/.664 with 0 HR in 139 AB. Yes, even with the meager walks he garners, he could not even hit for enough power to have his SLG higher than his OBP. Part of that is that the D-gers have typically had good pitchers, particularly at home (Chan Ho Park and Kazuhisa Ishii in particular, but also others, LA is a true pitchers park), but mainly it is because Pierre has very little offensive value: no ability to take a walk, no ability to hit for power, even his base-stealing is not valuable, he is only successful 73% of the time, which is about the break-even point for when basestealing costs you more than it gains.

Plus, he has been in a two year slump now: his average OPS was .699 over those two years, whereas his career OPS is .728. Most of the prediction systems (as shown in Fangraphs) expect him to be under his career OPS - they range from .707 to .721 - while only one system predicts .733 (and that is the famous Marcel system, created by TangoTiger, which is a relatively simple prediction system, nothing fancy). Basically, the systems expect Pierre to be around where he was last season, when he had a .717 OPS for the Cubs.

Part of that was his drop in OBP. He has a career OBP of .350, but slumped to an an average of .328 for the past two seasons. All the prediction systems expect better from him, more in line with his career figure - they range from .335 to .346 and average about .341 - but when 3 of the past 5 seasons (and his last two) his OBP was .332 or lower plus he's going to a pitcher's park of a home, versus a known hitters park like Wrigley that he hit in 2006, plus he could only manage a .332 OBP when playing for the Rockies in 2002, when the field was a true hitter's paradise, and lastly, he's going to the NL West, where the SD park is a severe pitchers park, Colorado he couldn't hit well there before the humidor toned things down, and SF, while not a severe pitcher's park anymore, still slightly favors pitching, you have to think that his OBP will be closer to .328 than to .341.

But any way you cut it, he weakens the #2 spot for the D-gers. Last season, they ranked in the middle, 9th with a .755 OPS and was tied for 4th with a .353 OBP. Whether you take his .728 career OPS or .717 OPS from 2006 (both good for 13th in 2006) or his average for the past two seasons of .699 (good for last, 16th of 16 in 2006), that is a comedown for the D-gers offense in 2007 vs. 2006 in a key batting position in terms of OPS. It is about as bad looking at OBP, which is more important for a #2 hitter: .341 would rank the D-gers 8th in 2006 (down from 4th) and his .330 in 2006 would rank them 13th in 2006.

Luis Gonzalez Batting 5th

The whip cream on this sundae is that their other big name acquisition, Luis Gonzalez, is taking up a spot in the OF, leaving their two stud OF prospects, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, to battle for RF, plus there's still Jason Repko and there's Delwyn Young in the wings. Plus Marlon Anderson is around and wanting some playing time in he OF as well. Luis is going from a park where he had a lifetime .904 OPS to park where he had a lifetime .770 OPS. And he had already fallen to a .819 OPS at home in 2006, so he could be staring at .700 OPS in LA for 2007.

Even if he is able to maintain the .772 OPS he had on the road in 2006, that would rank him 11th in 2006 as the #5 hitter, whereas last season the D-gers ranked 1st (I assume that was JD Drew - thanks for screwing the D-gers!). So they are going from a situation where they were the leader to one where they are closer to 15th place (.752) than they are to 9th place (.792). He and Pierre are key changes that will cost their offense.

Add to that the fact that Kent is now 39 and off an injury plagued seasons (only 115 games) and Garciappara only played 122 games in 2006 and that was still 60 more games than he played in 2005 and 41 more games than he played in 2004, and add in Wilson Betemit, an unproven entity starting at 3B in 2007 (he only had a .743 OPS for LA, Feliz territory for a 3B), there should be all sorts of good (for us) stuff happening to their offense in 2007.

4 comments:

  1. "But that works against Pierre because, while he may be fast, he is not fast enough to avoid the DP as often as Furcal. Furcal in his career, when there is a runner on 1B, has hit into double-plays 7% of his ABs where there is a runner on 1B. However, Pierre in his career, when there is a runner on 1B, has hit into a DP 10% of his ABs, or nearly 50% more often than Furcal.
    "

    The offset to this is how many times did Furcal strike out or fail to move the runner up with a runner at first. COuld be a case of the statistic not telling the entire story.

    Nevertheless, I agree that the Pierre signing was awful. I thank God that Coletti saved Sabean from making this mistake also.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good point, Boof. But I think the more important points are the low OBP and OPS, for both Pierre and Gonzalez, relative to what they got in 2006. I was just throwing the DP effect out there because I thought of checking it, but I guess I didn't think through enough.

    Yes, I give thanks that Colletti signed Pierre and not us. We'll never know, but we don't know how serious Sabean was about trying to sign Pierre. I recall reading about how the Giants basically matched or beat the final contracts that Matthews (another good miss), Carlos Lee (I think another good miss), and Alfonso Soriano got, but I don't recall the same for Pierre. Did I forget or do others remember the same?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Why do you spell Dodgers with a - for the "o?"

    ReplyDelete
  4. Because I'm a goof-ball? :^)

    Just an affectation. I noticed that a lot of people called the Diamondbacks "D-backs" so I started calling the other teams with a d:

    D-gers
    'Dres
    DeRockies or D'Rockies

    Luckily I don't have reason to write about DeRockies much so I don't use that one much, if at all.

    But I'm not doing these all the time, just when I feel like it (which, though, is most times).

    ReplyDelete

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