Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Ortiz Looks to Get Lincecumed Soon

I was going to write up the data I had compiled on PQS for April 2007 that I had covered last season, but I think the more relevant thing now is whether Lincecum will get called up soon and whom would he replace. Based on PQS, the only starter until tonight to have a Disaster game was Matt Morris. But Ortiz just had a monsterly bad game. Zito, even when he was being battered early, showed enough sabermetrically that they were not considered badly pitched games - sometimes bad luck results in a lot of earned runs. It happens.

However, Ortiz is the first to have a 0 PQS start, with less than 5 IP thrown. And he and Morris are the only starters to have a disaster start and the lowest average PQS of the group by far: Zito 3.0 PQS; Cain 3.6 PQS; Lowry 3.2 PQS; Morris 2.6 PQS; and Ortiz 2.0 PQS. Plus, his starts have gotten worse over time, with his second start looking like the aberration, not the norm.

Ortiz's Main Virtue - Less Hits - Is Not There

The frightening thing is that Ortiz main competitive advantage during his career was his ability to keep opposing teams from getting hits on balls in play. Unfortunately, his BABIP this season is .350 right now, though Fangraphs show his FIP as 3.78 probably based on that high rate. However, part of the reason why .300 BABIP is the mean that pitchers regress to is that pitchers who cannot get it down that low get replaced by better pitchers, generally.

So Who You Gonna Call? Tim Lincecum!

And right now, there is no better pitcher than Tim Lincecum cooling his heels in the minors. In his last start last Sunday, in 6 IP, 86 pitches, 3 hits, 0 walks, 0 runs/ER, 16 strikeouts. That's 76% of the batters he faced. Since the start of the season, 31 IP, 12 hits, 11 walks, 46 strikeouts (13.4 K/9), 1 ER for 0.29 ERA.

Over his short pro career: 62.2 IP in 13 games, 26 hits, 7 ER, 3 HR, 23 BB, 104 K's, 0.78 WHIP, 1.01 ERA. Per inning rates: 14.9 K/9; 3.30 BB/9; 4.52 K/BB; 0.43 HR/9; .240 BABIP. Scary good, eh?

Irresistible Force Against a Very Movable Object

While Ortiz was a feel good story for Spring Training and the early part of the season, unfortunately, he has not really shown much except for that second game. And it is not that he is really pitching that poorly, at least until today's game, it is just that he's not pitching that particularly well either. The odd thing is that the reason his ERA until today's game was decent was because he was keeping his walks down, his rate is still only 2.76 BB/9 after today's debacle, and his HR rate, which is now high. But everything else is not looking so good, he has a very low K/9, high HR/9 rate, though oddly his K/BB is good at 2.00, but even that cannot combat a low K/9 rate combined with a high BABIP.

If he does not start pitching much better over his next 2-3 starts, taking the season into mid-to-late May, he will find himself pushed aside for Lincecum, because there's no reason to keep Tim down there the way he is pitching, he is just embarrassing the other teams right now. I think if Ortiz can still pitch respectably, the Giants might be able to trade him to another team for a low level prospect, much like the trade of Michael Tucker for Kelvin Pichardo a couple of years ago. After all, there was still a market for Sidney Ponson, Jeff Weaver, and other pretty sad starting pitchers this past off-season, so Ortiz should be able to fetch a nice prospect from another team.

But he also might end up pushing someone out of the bullpen as he was a long time closer in our farm system before being brought up as a starter. Vinnie Chulk, unfortunately has not been doing as well as I (and the Giants) thought he might. He was the initial go-to guy for setup duties at the start of the season, though Bochy has purposefully kept most roles fluid until naming Hennessey the main setup guy either yesterday or today, in an article on the Giants website.

But, like Ortiz, he has had his good points and his bad points, his good games and his bad games, and if there were no alternatives, both would probably not be on the firing line. However, the dominos start with Lincecum and both Ortiz and Chulk could fall from him coming up. They are pitching for their major league roster spots right now. Russ, especially, must turn things around if he still wants to stay in the majors, whether here or somewhere else, as a starter or a reliever. At the rate he is going, he's not going to displace Chulk from the bullpen, but if he can at least pitch decently enough, he might be able to grab Chulk's spot.

And that's assuming that there is spot to grab. Bochy has been openingly saying that Frandsen will be brought up soon (he's hitting over .400 after all) and that it might be accomplished by going with an 11 main pitching staff, instead of the current 12. The next couple of weeks will be critical for determining what happens next for these players.


  1. Forgot to note that, of course, small samples, so perhaps Ortiz is just suffering some bad luck, particularly last night, given his comments about having his best stuff so far this season (Molina noted the same too), and hearing Krukow saying that Ortiz showed good stuff but his other pitches aren't working and that's why he was hit on hard.

    However, I think that I'm still on target with mid to late May as a decision point. That's about when the Giants took Cain out for a start to work with him last season. But if Ortiz has his "stuff" working and it's still not working after two months to keep hits down, PLUS Lincecum is proving he belongs in the majors by continuing to pitch like he has, late May has been when the Giants advance prospects who are clearly ready to move up, like Nate Schierholtz in Hagerstown getting advanced to San Jose in, I think, 2004, and I think the Giants will be looking to move Lincecum up and will pick the worse pitcher on the staff to send down or out, and right now, to me, it is a competition between Ortiz and Chulk.

    And there is no way Lincecum should be relieving, he may have relieved in college, but he has been a starter, principally, in college and solely a starter in the minors, so he should be a starter when he is promoted to the majors.

    Now, I can go with him being a closer should some team offer something good for Benitez, as long as it is understood that it is temporary and he's in the starting rotation in 2008.

    However, I suspect that should he do that, it will be like Boston and Papelbon where the temptation is to close with him again, so I would, if I had my druthers, NOT use him as a closer because then that would take him away from being a starter. He can be a closer when his career is slowing down, like Eck did, but if he's pitching like this, our rotation will be a monster rotation with Cain and Lincecum at top, Zito and Lowry in the middle, and Morris as our back of the rotation guy when he probably could be a middle rotation guy for most teams, and #2 starter for a number of teams.

    The key to the Giants winning and going deep into the playoffs is a great rotation from top to bottom, no holes. A rotation with those 5 would be able to provide such a strong block, it would be "like wall", to steal from the Sharks.

  2. I am as excited about Timmy as the next guy and very excited to see how he does in the bigs. But I don't quite agree with your assessment of Ortiz. Here is what he has done this year:
    start W-L team IP ERs
    1 L Dodgers 5 3
    2 W Pitt 8.2 5
    3 W Az 7 2
    4 W Dodgers 5.1 3 (matching Penny)
    5 L Colo 3.1 8

    Take out last night and the ninth inning in Pitt and he has done very well, with an ERA of 3.6 - much better than any #5 starter I know - hell, better than many #1s.
    I agree Chulk has been a disappointment. I don't think Ortiz deserves a demotion to the pen.
    I think maximizing trade value and being fair to the player are important considerations. I do think Linececum has earned a shot, but I just don't see a good way of bringing him up right now. Yes, it is a cold, competitive business, but the potential move will impact lots of other players on the team as well. Of course, if you are right and he has 2 starts like last night over the next couple of weeks, the decision will be much easier.

  3. Thanks for your comments, allfrank, I know what a pain it is for you log on.

    As you know, I'm saber-oriented and PQS is a new way of determining a quality start using sabermetric principles. That is a method of trying to determine how good an outing it really was, as earned runs are often a random event result, sometimes you get lucky and the ball is caught, other times you are unlucky and the ball falls in (or out of the park). Same with wins and losses (though I still believe that some pitchers are able to pitch to the score, like Rueter or Big Daddy; I never had that impression of Ortiz).

    Ortiz, using the PQS methodology, really only had 1 good start, the one on April 13. The others were all borderline bad (rated a 2) except for his latest outing which was rated a 0. If he continues to have borderline bad outings for the rest of May, particularly if he cannot get his H/9 under 9.0, he wouldn't have contributed much to the team other than that one start. That would be about 1 start in about 10 games that he did well, which is pretty bad, even for a #5 starter.

    And given how well Lincecum is doing in AAA, you have to think that he's capable of more than 1 good start every 10 games.

    If Ortiz was doing well, then, yeah, I can see the fairness factor. Unfortunately, he hasn't been doing well, he has been doing OK, so-so, not so good (as my sister like to say).

    Now, as much as it may hurt a player to lose their position on the team, the fact is that if you are not doing your job, then you are always at risk of losing your job, they should always be aware of that. And your job security is always relative to what's available to replace you, whether on your team or via a trade.

    Right now, that bad start and bad inning at Colorado might be isolated incidences but still overall his ERA is 6.44 and he has given up 42 hits in only 29.1 IP. Opposing teams are hitting .344/.400/.508/.908 against him. Right-handed hitters are hitting .324/.356/.485/.841 against him. Under no circumstances are these ever good, though it could be unlucky.

    I agree that right now Lincecum is not coming up. Players have a blazing one month of great results then cool off, and other players have a horrible month then settle down. MLB teams seem to give their vets about 2 months max to figure things out before they start to replace him - young players often get shorter leashes. So Ortiz will probably get May to figure things out unless he repeats this last lousy start over and over again.

    My main point is that he hasn't really pitched all that particularly well thus far, from a sabermetric viewpoint or from a traditional baseball viewpoint.
    And if he doesn't get his act together within the next 2-4 weeks, Lincecum will be coming up to take his place.

    According to reports, his stuff is excellent, so it could just be bad luck in terms of hits falling in right now, as his BB/9 is very low and thus very good, but his K/9 is very substandard, although high enough for a good 2.0 K/BB ratio. I'm just saying that if things don't get better in the next few weeks, he's going to get replaced by Lincecum.

  4. Hello Martin. Hard to argue with your logic. Especially when you consider that Ortiz' WHIP is 1.75. Ortiz has always given up a fair number of hits. But his walk rate is pretty low. I thought Colo was just hot last night. Holliday picked one off the plate on one of his hits to RF. The pitch that Halliday hit out was definitely a poor pitch. I guess Sunday will tell us a lot.
    BTW, the Giants are scoring just about 5 runs a game over the last 3 weeks

  5. Yes, Sunday will tell us more about whether Colorado was just lucky/hot or if Ortiz is just bad. Luckily, no one in the division is running away with things, so we can afford to let him continue to figure things out.

    Wow, really, 5 runs per game will win us a lot of games this year. Let's see if they can keep this up.

  6. Let's not forget that Ortiz was, by all accounts, outstanding in Spring Training. I don't have the stats but even the pitchers competing against him for the #5 spot said his performance gave him a lock on the 5-spot. That counter-balances the luke-warm performance in April, no?

  7. Yes, he was outstanding in spring training. Unfortunately, there has been many players who were outstanding in spring training and never have it translate into the regular season.

    I would not say that it counter-balances but it is at least food for thought. But the results in the season are the results that counts most.

    Hence why I noted that he probably gets another 2-4 weeks to gets things going, or as you astutely noted, back to spring training goodness, or then it would be 2 months worth of suckiness vs. an outstanding spring training and Lincecum pitching well.

    The other side of the coin, which I had noted but didn't expound on, is that Lincecum has to keep his streak going during the same time in May. He should not be able to keep on shutting down teams so easily (can he?!?!?), but what if he suddenly started getting hit around? My scenario is that if Ortiz continues to do poorly and Lincecum continues to do extraordinarily well, then Lincecum is coming up. But if Tim for some reason is suddenly not doing well, then Ortiz might have bought some time if he can at least get his performances to be average.

    But thus far, he is on a down spiral, and so the next few starts will be critical for him, he has to stem the drop, he has to start showing that what he had in spring training is here and he is able to perform well.

  8. So, what is neuritis? I still think Russ can/will be more effective than Morris or Lowry. If Timmy does well, though, it would be pointless to send him down.

  9. Lincecum is going to be a monster. Think Verlander.

    The only reason to keep him in Fresno is to keep the (money) clock from starting.



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