Friday, March 20, 2009

Excessive Worry Over Our Offense Against Opposing Starting Pitchers

I have been seeing a spread of worry over the Giants apparent lack of ability to do anything against the other team's starting pitcher.  Recent games seemed to bring things to a boil, as the Giants were shut out by Ryan Dempster, Jeff Suppan, and then John Danks.

Giants Thoughts

Couple of quick thoughts:  small samples and good pitchers.  The former needs no further discussion.  The latter I covered a bit with this post on starting pitchers support.  The Giants, like any other club, struggles against the other team's best pitchers.  Suppan isn't as good as he once was, but he was pretty good not too long ago.  Both Dempster and Danks had a great 2008 season, and Dempster got one of the biggest contracts of the off-season from the Cubs. Dempster didn't get it by not being a good pitcher with expectations that this would continue.

Now, I don't like the Giants getting shut down as much as any other Giants fan, but you have to remember that spring training is a big mish-mash, a big boiling pot of players, some ready, some not, some pitching like this means something, some pitching to see if he can master a new pitch, some hitting to try a new technique, a new batting stance, a new mental set.  And some just weary of the long spring training, exaserbated by WBC making it longer, and is just going through the motions, knowing that he can man up once the REAL season begins.  

We don't always know which player is doing what.  Sure, the prospects with no set starting spot is probably giving their all, doing their best to impress the management enough to grant him a starting position, or even a spot on the major league roster.  

But with the vets, you don't know what's happening.  Ennui, rustiness, getting old, getting bad, trying out something new, maybe gearing up slower because of the long spring training, so that you peak once the season starts.  Any of those could be affecting the vet, and we have no idea what that is.   Hence my comment the other day about Giants teams that did well in spring but flopped in the regular season and that did poorly in spring but roared out of the gates once the umpire yelled "Play Ball" for real.

Basically, this offensive is what we had the last two months (really, since August 15th) of the 2008 season, minus Burriss/Vizquel and adding Renteria, and the 2B situation is about the same.   Burriss and Vizquel did well those last two months, so I will call Renteria a push there too, unless he suddenly delivers one of his best seasons offensively instead of an average one.  So about the same offensive, plus or minus.

From August 15th, the Giants scored an average of 4.36 runs per game.  Not great, but much better than the roughly 3.9 runs it was averaging up to then (leading to a roughly 4.0 runs scored average for the season).  That's a jump of approximately 10% in scoring, and with our good pitching, put us at roughly .500 for that time period (22-20 for those keeping score).   With the addition of Randy Johnson replacing our 5th starter, plus Affeldt and Howry so that the bullpen don't blow another 15-20 leads again, that should also boost us up.

True, Sandoval won't hit .345/.357/.490/.847 again.   He should be closer to his .315/.333/.449/.783 in September, than his overall numbers.  But neither should Rowand hit .239/.313/.347/.660.   He was clearly under-performing, no way he starts out with a .900 OPS, which was not a first for him in his career, then whimper out with that poor hitting without him battling some health issues.  He should be healthy this season.

Nor should Sanchez go 1-7 with a 7.47 ERA over his last 10 starts.   And The Big Unit should be worlds better than whoever was pitching 5th during that time (Correia, Hennessey, Misch, Palmer).   Lewis should be playing instead of sitting out his bunion (though I do worry that the bunion on his other foot might cause problems down the line, though hopefully his new Nike shoes will help with that).   And Sandoval should be showing more of the power he showed in the minors than he has in his short time in the majors.

So, overall, I don't see why the Giants can't reach .500 in 2008.  And 85 wins (which is what 22-20 works out to over a season) should not be a total reach either, given the additions they did over the off-season.  And 89 wins (which is what 23-19 works out to over a season) is not out of the realm, in terms of scenarios for the Giants if, say, Sandoval proves to be as good as his 2008 showed or Sanchez can do for a whole season what he did for half of 2008 or Ishikawa becomes the team's leading HR hitter.  

12 comments:

  1. And if a bull had teats, he'd be a cow. There is no way that the Giants get to 89 wins without an infusion of offensive talent and some better defense.

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  2. That was the whole point of my scenario, that the only way the Giants reach 89 wins is if some players over perform what is expected of them, i.e. there is an "infusion of offensive talent and some better defense", or in other words some of our current hitters outperform what can be expected of them and better pitching.

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  3. I understand that, but my point was that this group does not have the defensive ability, so there's no fix to that unless you bring in different players. In all likelihood, they probably are capable of hitting better than last season, but it probably isn't going to be enough to move the needle very much, even if a couple of guys have much better years than expected. If they finish around .500, that would be about the ceiling.

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  4. I kindly disagree.

    Our OF defense is good, 1B should be good with Ishikawa, both Burriss and Frandsen should be average or better at 2B, Renteria, for all the bad comments about his defense, is only relative to what he was before, he's only minorly a defensive liability, so the only real question is on Sandoval at third, in terms of way below average defense. So I don't see where they don't have the defensive ability.

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  5. Ishikawa said yesterday he's not a homerun hitter. So can the nonsensical talk about him hitting 20-25 HR's end?

    The '09 Giants offense may be better or it may not. We have no way of knowing. That's the difference between the realists and the dreamers. Not only can no one predict future human performance, but you can't even rely on the so-called projections (which are nothing more than idle entertainment) because the sample sizes of the young players stats in the majors and/or ST are too small.

    Let's go to our latest projected savior, Ishikawa: Comes in hitting ~.273 and leaves the game hitting over .300. No wonder the poor guy is offering caveats.

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  6. Our outfield defense is good? Now I'm the one who kindly disagrees. Winn was very good in RF defensively, no argument there. In case you weren't watching last year, Lewis was a little better than average, despite repeated times of taking bad routes to balls. His speed allowed him to catch up to some of those balls. His throws, especially to cutoff men, were not the most accurate things you've ever seen. All in all, he was a little better than average, with the possibility of improving due to his speed and lack of experience at the ML level.

    Aaron Rowand (or Errant Throwin' as he became known) is another story altogether. CF is supposed to be manned, ideally, by your best defender. That certainly is not the case for the Giants. Last year, he displayed poor range, poor judgement (diving for balls that were not catchable), and his throwing was just on the bad side of horrible. Over throwing cutoff men, allowing extra bases to be taken, not getting to balls that he should get to.....it was not impressive.

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  7. Boof, that's why I said overall OF defense is good. Winn is among elite in majors, and Lewis is slightly above average, according to most stats I see on him. Rowand, yeah, leaves a lot to be desired, a lot, but overall I think we will be good overall in 2009, as he was hampered by injuries from what I've been reading regarding his defense, and even then, with Winn and Lewis, good overall. Plus, as Lewis showed, you can be pretty bad in some ways and still be good overall.

    DProfessor, Ishikawa only said that he's not a homerun hitter if you are expecting him to replace Bonds. I'm not expecting him to do that.

    There are plenty of hitters who hit a lot of homeruns and yet are not a homerun hitter.

    The point for me is that he can be a high double-digit homerun hitter, which, by the way, is better than what we have gotten at 1B for years now, plus play good defense there, and perhaps great eventually.

    I've never said Ishikawa is the savior. I don't think he's hitting 20-25 HR either (though he might if he got to play 162 games), because it seems clear to me that he won't get to start every game. But I think high teens is doable, though.

    I'm a realist and he has exhibited great power while in the minors, and while he was young. I don't power like that will just disappear once you reach the majors, I saw him blast one into the stratosphere in San Jose, so he's going to get more HR than what we've been getting at 1B, but I wouldn't expect him to hit them out at an extraordinary rate. Still high teens is more than enough to outdo what we got at 1B last season, and that's what a realist wants to see, incremental improvement towards the goal of improving the offense enough to support the pitching staff.

    Projections is not entertainment, it is based, for young prospects with no or little major league experience, on how they did in the minors, adjusted for the majors.

    Is it going to work for everyone? No, if it did, I wouldn't need to blog and BA and BP wouldn't exist either, it would be like that Dr. Seuss story where the baby, before being sent to Earth, is told what he or she will be when they grow up. The number crunching machines are going to accurately predict exactly what each player is going to do for you.

    Until that day, however, it works well enough that you can get an idea of what he might do in the majors. Foolproof? Hardly.

    Still, my experience with the data is that generally it does work. And with multiple players being analyzed, while some will do worse, some will do better, and result in the same overall performance as predicted, roughly. So maybe Ishikawa isn't that good, but then Sandoval is better. Or Schierholtz. Or Sanchez. Etc.

    The offense, in any case, looks better. We had horrible offensive contributions from SS, 1B, and 3B. Renteria has done better than that his whole career, and even if he suffered a drop from last season, he would still be way better than last season. 3B was pretty bad too, and Sandoval won't have to do much to be an improvement over Castillo. 1B wasn't that great either, so Ishikawa has a very low hurdle to cross there as well, plus his defense should be worlds above what we got last season, so he doesn't even have to hit for much to be an improvement overall.

    Projections help you get a better idea of what's happening in the future. If you don't like or trust projections, then you are reading the wrong blog, I can tell you right now that I will be relying and using projections in all that I write, in order to get a realistic view of what we can expect from the Giants in 2009.

    The realist sees that these are all possible. He or she also sees that there can be failures too. That's where having players like Aurilia and Uribe on the team helps, if the young guys fail, they will be there to produce like they have during their major league career, for the most part.

    And the realist also sees that having a prospect like Schierholtz sitting on the bench, ready to start if a starting OF gets injured for an extended period, helps the Giants meet projections.

    And having Burriss and Frandsen doing well and battling for 2B, that increases the odds that we are going to get good production from 2B, which we did not get in 2008.

    So there are a lot of reasons why the Giants should meet the overall projections. Even if one particular position fails to produce, we have a lot of backup players who should be capable of stepping in and helping to keep overall production at an even keel.

    The only area where we will be short is starting pitching. We have a great rotation, but if any falter or get injured, we could be in trouble, with only Misch, Martinez, and Pucetas as our main backups. Fortunately, our rotation is so good overall that even if that happened, we should still be better than we were last season, where both Sanchez and the #5 starter weren't that good overall.

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  8. Care to comment on today's roster moves?

    Frandsen? Optioned to AAA. He's in his age 27 season and can't beat out Manny Burriss. Not a great sign.

    I borrowed this from a pal and scratched my head trying to figure out how I feel about it.

    Giants 2008 lineup- 29th in runs scored, 30th in OPS - 2009 lineup

    Lewis - Lewis
    Durham - Renteria
    Winn - Winn
    Molina - Molina
    Sandoval/Castillo - Sandoval/Uribe
    Rowand - Rowand
    Aurilia/Bowker - Aurilia/Ishikawa
    Burriss/Bowker/Vizquel - Burriss

    PH/PR Roberts - Velez.

    I'd be curious as to your thoughts on, spot-by-spot, who we would project to improve, who would be projected to stay level or show their age and whether the differential between the former and the latter favors SFG winning more games.

    Was going to put this under the Villalona post but didn't see the point. Frankly, I couldn't care less where he's projected this spring. I care a lot more about how he looks once we've gotten to this fall.

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  9. I have a new post up about the moves.

    Frandsen did the best he could, but Manny was just hot, what can I say? But yeah, looks like he missed his opportunity last season. But life is funny sometimes, you never know.

    For instance, Manny hasn't really played much above A-ball, maybe teams start figuring him out and he can't adjust. Injury isn't uncommon among 2B. Lots of things: look at Frandsen, healthy like an ox then WHAM, there goes his Achilles, just like that. Not that I'm wishing it on Manny, just that you never know.

    The 2009 lineup is not that. It will be something like this:

    Winn
    Renteria
    Lewis
    Molina
    Sandoval
    Rowand
    Ishikawa
    Burriss

    This should be an improvement, a big improvement. Don't have the numbers, but look at how badly Giants SS, 3B, and 1B hit in 2008. REnteria, Sandoval, and Ishikawa should safely beat each one. Rowand has the potential to do better, people forget how hot he was early in the season, clearly injury hurt him later in the season.

    Plus, it won't take much more offense anyway, with Johnson added and Sanchez expected to do much better than last season, plus Howry and Affeldt helping stop some of the blown leads.

    I think Molina will show age, but by then, the young guys will show enough to move him back to 6th where he belongs, I think eventually it'll be like this:

    Winn
    Renteria
    Lewis
    Sandoval
    Rowand
    Molina
    Ishikawa
    Burriss

    And maybe Molina flipflop with Ishikawa.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Actually, I think I had the personnel (including potential platooning for Ishikawa) pretty much right, I really don't care about the 1-8 order. Granted there may be some shuffling, Winn may try and lead off for a while, count me as a skeptic that that's going to last.

    And Frandsen getting the job through injury isn't a very inspiring thought, you're right. I like the guy, but Frandsen is who he is. I don't see him being an Uggla. I'm satisfied they gave the job to someone with potential upside and I would be saying that even if Burriss had a lousy spring. Burriss needs ABs pure and simple. Frandsen does not to prove to me what sort of player he is (or isn't).

    Does the spring that Rowand & Renteria had give you any pause?

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  11. Sorry, John, yes, you had the personnel right, but since you called it a "lineup", I felt the need to point out the difference.

    Winn has been a leadoff hitter for much of his career until the Giants and even with the Giants, on and off. The average leadoff hitter in NL hit .274/.342/.425/.766 in 2008 and Winn hit .306/.363/.426/.789 in 2008, so I think he'll be fine there. Plus, he greatly improved his SB success rate, he was 25 of 27 when before he would be, like, 15 of 27 before.

    But, if Burriss turns out to be a good enough hitter, which he's shown the potential to do, then I can see the situation where he gets moved to leadoff, with Winn shuffled down below, depending on how other hitters are doing.

    I don't see why people have a problem with Frandsen. He has hit at every level - and well - with a hardball can-do attitude. Burriss has struggled coming up and hasn't really and has not put up a good season even in A-ball, yet. He was good that one month late last season until he injured himself. So there are huge question marks regarding whether he can ever hit in the majors.

    However, one very good thing about him is that he does not strike out very much, whether in minors or majors, plus is OK at taking a walk, so that leads me to think that he can eventually figure out how to hit up here and be like a Juan Pierre type of hitter, high BA, but low OBP, low SLG.

    If he can do what Lansford is trying to get him to do, and hit for more power, then that would boost his value up a lot. But his best so far is .321/.374/.381/.755 in half a season of A-ball in Augusta.

    Frandsen, as noted, has hit all the way up, career .327/.391/.458/.849 hitter in minors, career mark in AAA of .328/.361/.474/.834 (see the consistency) in 454 AB and showed flashes of that late in 2007 when he hit .346/.407/.529/.936 once he started starting regularly, in 33 games, 104 AB, starting August 12th and who can't use a 2B who can hit over .800 OPS?

    In addition, he is Burriss's equal in terms of avoiding strikeouts and while not quite as good career-wise as Burriss in gaining walks, he improved greatly once the Giants pointed that out to him.

    And unlike Burriss, Frandsen has shown the ability to hit around 10 HR in a season (6HR in 454 AB in AAA, roughly 9 HR in a 650 AB season), Burriss would be challenging Duane Kuiper every season.

    Where Burriss shines is in his speed and ability to steal bases and, which probably sealed the deal for the Giants, play great defense at 2B.

    It's win-win to me, I want to see one or the other starting and showing what they can do.

    I would have preferred Frandsen because Burriss would still be valuable playing adequate defense at SS with his skill set right now, he wouldn't need to develop much more to do that, but to play 2B, he needs to develop, he needs to do better than he has shown overall.

    Any time the vets do poorly in spring training, it always give me some pause. But both of them were striking out at a good enough rate that their poor batting average should be a sign of bad luck hitting. For example, if Rowand had a .300 BABIP instead of a .200 this spring, he would be hitting .283/.333/.466/.799, roughly.

    Renteria would not benefit to that extent, but he only struck out around 17% for a 83% contact rate, which is OK, so his BA should rise, particularly since his career BABIP is .320, which pushes his spring stats to .265, not great, but not bad either. And if he had hit a HR like he usually does, it would be .277.

    So I'm not as sure about him as I am about Rowand, but I don't think big alarms should be going off on Renteria either, just something to watch for early on.

    ReplyDelete

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