Monday, January 12, 2009

Graphical Player 2009: MINERS for Hitters

Graphical Player is an annual put out by John Burnson, who heads up Heater magazine; I've been buying GP regularly since it first came out. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in studying the statistics for players and Amazon sells it for about 30% off the cover price. The only minus is that he has been changing it slightly each year, so the continuity is not always there, but since I like seeing different ways of understanding how a player is doing grahpically, it's all good for me, but I know that some might prefer more continuity.

I will be taking stuff from this book and putting up posts on items relating to the Giants. Obviously, this is the first one.

MINERS for Hitters

This is a section of the book that covers MINERS for Hitters. MINER shows a projection of a player's "true talent," using monthly OPS for the full career of the hitters chosen from vets with eight or more seasons in the MLB (starts on page 5). The "true talent" line is not just a rolling average, they write, it incorporated OPS over the past three seasons, including minor league stats adjusted for MLE, and adds a component of regression to the MLB mean, where the size of regression is inversely related to the amount of playing time. They also note: "The lesson that you should draw from these graphs is to take the long view."

Devoted to Fantasy players, the book noted that Edgar Renteria is a buying opportunity for players who undershot their true talent. That applies, I presume, to real life as well. Below, I will discuss what the graph shows for a number of vet hitters plus include some info from their profile section (I'll cover the non-vet hitters in another post) and my thoughts.

Bengie Molina

The first Giant vet covered is Bengie Molina. I've seen a number of fans say over the years that he's hitting over his head, but according to the MINER system, he has basically been hitting what his talent for a number of years now, even back to when he was with the Angels. He's been very consistent in that way, based on his graph of actual OPS versus "true talent" OPS.

From text taken from the player profile portion of the book, the analyst does note that Molina's "advancing age should start to show" and that "his excellent defense and veteran presence must be some comfort to his young starters." However, his OPS projection shows a slight drop in 2009 before steady and steep declines. Based on this system, keeping him on beyond 2009 at the same salary appears to be a losing proposition, as they expect 2009 to be the best of the years to come. Of course, that's true for most projection systems that take age into account, as most players start their final decline once they reach Bengie's age range.

Some people think he should be traded now, but I think that unless we get two prospects close to the value of the draft picks we could get for him if he goes free agent, we should hold onto him until mid-season, at which point we should have a better idea how good Posey is and how close he is to reaching the majors. We should also get a better idea of how good a hitter Sandoval really is as well, because even if Posey isn't ready for 2010, if Sandoval does turn out to be a pretty good hitter - and the signs point to yes because of his ability to avoid strikeouts and get the bat on the ball - then he could keep the catching position steady until Posey is ready.

But if neither if ready, which is still a significant possibility, then we need Molina around as a backup plan for 2010 and trading him would make him very unlikely for us to sign him as a free agent after the 2009 season.

Edgar Renteria

According to MINER, Renteria's true OPS lies closer to 800 than it is to 700, another indication that his deal is a good one, as an 800 OPS at SS is much above average. And this 800 OPS level of "true talent" has been so since 2003 season. The analyst noted, "With his fine K%, we expect somewhat of a bounceback in terms of BA and OBP."

That is basically what I've been saying, that his K% in 2008 was very much like it was during his career, which is a good rate for hitters, a good sign he will continue to hit well in 2009, particularly after hitting .812 OPS after the All-Star break. And even if he hit .699 OPS like he did in 2008, that would still be a huge improvement over what we got in 2008 at SS. Still, given his batting peripherals, he looks like he should be able to reach his true talent OPS level in 2009, which would be another jump in level of improvement over what the SF shortstops did in 2008, as they really did very poorly, that was one of the biggest holes in the lineup.

According to my analysis of lineups, with Renteria, the lineup should be improved from the 4.0 runs per game averaged in 2008 to 4.1-4.2 runs per game with Renteria (and others), based on the most conservative projections for 2009. That should basically put us at .500 for 2009 given our pitching. CHONE projections, which were recently shown by The Book's website author to be the best of the projection systems for 2008, has the Giants at 4.19 RS, 4.05 RA (assuming 0.13 unearned runs average) or an 83-84 win season.

Aaron Rowand

According to MINER, Rowand's true OPS lies closer to 800 than his performance in 2008. Rowand has exhibited 800-ish talent since the start of the 2004 season. The analyst noted that "Rowand's intense style of play might have led to his weak finish in 2008. Of course, his apparent lack of comfort at home, and generally hitting in the #5 spot didn't help either." They forecast that he'll be closer to what he hit in 2008, and still rates him as 2 white gloves, where 3 white gloves is best and 3 black gloves are worst. (Molina has 3 white gloves, Renteria 2 black gloves, FYI).

Clearly, from his last three seasons stats, he hits best when he is patient and not striking out so much. It appears that Rowand will hit 6th or lower in 2009, as Lewis, Molina and Sandoval appear to be the guys slotted to hit in the middle, with Molina batting cleanup again, in 2009. Hopefully, now that he should be over his first season jitters, plus perhaps any lingering injury is healed properly, and the team not as dependent on his hitting, he can hit like he did early in 2008, around 900 OPS, for most of the season. The key is him avoiding the strikeout.

Randy Winn

Winn's talent has been steadily around 800 OPS since the 2002 season, and he has rarely been below his true talent level during his career; but we all know how steady a performer he has been. While a decline is forecasted for 2009, it is a very slight drop, and most probably related to his age. The analyst noted that "Winn continues to hit for average, play a brilliant right field," but warns that "it may be too much to expect for him to keep that up at his age - the forecast says the floor is about to drop," as beyond 2009, the forecast has him dropping greatly in OPS.

What I see is that his K% stayed consistently good all season long in 2008, and his H% was over .300 much of the season, in fact, peaking by season's end. Rated for three white gloves, he should still hit well enough in 2009, his last year on his current contract. The Giants should not entertain Winn's agent's offer to negotiate an extension.

With Schierholtz in the wings and all their talk about how he's ready, the Giants will probably give the starting outfield extra rest early in the 2009 season plus sit injured players when needed in order to give Schierholtz enough opportunities to show what he can do. While it made sense to sit down other prospects relatively quickly when they had slow/poor starts, I think they will give Schierholtz more rope because he's one of the few top prospects to spend a lot of time in AAA, giving the team more assurance that he's more of a real thing, or at least don't need more AAA seasoning.

Assuming Schierholtz does as well as I expect him to do - he appears to be duplicating his pattern during his rise up the system, hit .300 with no power initially to gain his bearings before hitting for power - Winn could then be dealt mid-season to open up RF for Schierholtz or, if not enought talent is not offered, the Giants could try to get the draft picks for him and give RF to Schierholtz in 2010.

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