Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pitching On My Mind

I posted the following on McCovey Chronicles, thought it was worthy of repeating here, it was a response to a comment that the pitching staff is not fantastic, that it is overrated:

Cain actually just had two great games overall - he just suffered bad luck with the two homers in each game, which costed him. Otherwise, he pitched great, how often does he keep his walk total to 2 walks in 2 games? While striking out 12? Just some bad luck he's experiencing from the baseball gods.

Zito would have to regress a lot to post a 4.5 FIP: he's at 4.25 and he ends seasons with a great half regularly, which he's doing again. Fangraphs adjusted projections have him at 4.18 FIP at the end of the season. If he's his usual goodness in the second half, he should be able to get it down below 4.0 FIP.

Lincecum is Lincecum.

That gives us three great starters for the rest of the season; few teams can match that up top.

Sanchez has one so-so start and he's dumped to the wayside? He actually pitched a good game yesterday over what he could control: 5.0 IP, 5 hits, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts, 0 HR. That's a good start. Bad luck dictated that everything was bunched together and they scored 4 runs. Still, his ERA since his no-hitter is only 4.40, which many teams would love to have in the middle of their rotation; he's only our 4th starter.

Martinez et al at 5th starter is actually no worse than most other teams, including playoff contending teams. Having a semi-OK pitcher at 5th is actually hard to do for most teams. Most teams rotate somebody in that spot and hope for the best.

So no, the pitching staff is not overrated. It is fantastic. But sometimes the baseball gods giveth, sometimes they take away. They've been taking away lately, but they probably gave when we went 6-1 on that homestand. And there's still two more games.

And the way people say that we are wasting a special season: it's not wasted, it's been beautiful. Sure, the offense is lacking: the team is rebuilding. It's like complaining about the house when the builder hasn't put up the walls yet, or installed the plumbing. Of course the offense is lacking, the rebuilding isn't done yet.

Don't forget the defense has been pretty good too. How good? The Giants ERA is actually not that much better than the rest of the NL, it's been bunched up at the top. But when you examine all the teams' runs allowed averages, the Giants leap ahead of the competition. Our defense has been a huge part of the Giants leap to competitiveness and contention this season.

Why the woe over Cain not being a top 10 pitcher? He's pitching great. He's always been at the brink of being special like Lincecum. His problem has always been that he would just have those games where he is just bad, those disaster starts. Those starts is what costs pitcher's their nice shiny ERAs. If a pitcher can just avoid those meltdowns, they can have decent ERAs overall even if they are not extra dominating otherwise.

What Cain has done to leap up this season is avoid those disaster starts while also increasing the number of his dominating starts, which he has done by reducing his walks. Walks had always costed him before, but now he's eliminating that area of weakness in his game.

A good pitching staff is above average. A great one is up top the league in ERA. The Giants have been up top and has been great. It is not overrated, it is one of the best around.

And one of the best around helps the Giants stay competitive almost every game. It just does not help them win every game.

What people are missing is that pitchers are more consistently good than hitters are, game to game. They can keep their team close enough to win games. Even the best offenses go through dry spells, and even the best offenses cannot overcome when pitchers have a disaster start.

I've been trying to figure out the dichotomy of why people focus so much on offense but not as much on pitching. For example, hate to bring this up, but Giants fans almost always focus on Dusty taking the ball from Ortiz as where we lost the series. In my post-analysis, I think where we lost the series was games 2 and 3. In game 2, we came back from a 7 run deficit to take a 10-7 lead. We would have had a 2-0 lead in the series, winning that game. Instead, the bullpen gave up 4 more runs and we lost 11-10. In game 3, we lose 10-4, falling to 1-2 in the series. If either game were well-pitched, we would have won in 5 games.

Or think about the 60's Giants. We had one of the best offenses ever. In a decade dominated by pitching, so dominating that baseball made two rules to make up for that: lowering the mound and adding the DH in the AL. Did the Giants win many pennants then? Who did? The pitching-led Bums.

Good pitchers are regularly good, particularly the best pitchers, like Lincecum, and like how Cain has been this season. My studies of PQS shows how consistently good a great pitcher is, they have well-pitched games 70-80% of the time, the best up to 90% of their starts. Even the best hitters don't have much of any effect on any one game (and a series) most of the time. It really takes a team there but the starting pitcher is the lone gunman who can take over any game.

That's why there is often an unexpected World Series hero, who have a great hitting series and thus win the MVP award. Gene Tenace, Bucky Dent, many others who hit so well that they get the MVP award, not the superstar hitter who got the fame and money. Bonds was considered a choker in playoff games until the 2002 playoffs because he hit so badly in all the other ones.

Pitchers can take over any game they start, but hitters, even when they get 3-4 hits in a game, achieves nothing if the rest of the lineup don't do anything. Pitching is the key, pitching is our strength, pitching is going to lead us to the promise land over the 2010-2012 time frame (health permitting) supported by the offense. In business strategy lingo, pitching and defense are the core competencies for a baseball team, offense is the hygiene.

Why Be Confused?

I don't see why people are confused: the Giants are 61-51, only one game back of the wild card lead. So they must be doing something really extremely right: pitching and defense. They keep it so that the Giants don't have many games where they are behind by 3 runs, apparently.

Or would you rather be a team that can come back from a big deficit but have a losing record? Washington has an offense that can come back from big deficits, 6th best offense in NL. Cleveland too, averages 5.2 runs scored per game. Toronto averages 4.9 runs scored per game. I don't think any of us would trade places with them, they have been selling off their better players this season for prospects.

This is only confusing because we, as fans, are conditioned to understand big bopper type of teams, not great pitching and defense type of teams. It is as I posited before the season, that you don't need much of an offense to win enough games to compete for the playoffs when you have one of the best pitching and defenses around. And we do.

What is confusing and disorienting to me is that so many fans have a good team in front of them and they don't realize it. The Giants have one of the top records in the NL. Don't you think other teams are frustrated with their pitching? Some of them would love to have a Cain who can subdue the opposition, and he's our second best pitcher. Or a bullpen so good. Or a 4th pitcher like Sanchez who is capable of throwing a no-hitter. Even Zito the pitcher (not Zito the contract) is someone other teams would love to have on their staff as their third starter.

Learn to appreciate what we got - great pitching and defense - and stop worrying so much about the offense, as it is what it is. Just hope that it is enough.

Go Giants! Beat LA! Beat LA!

2 comments:

  1. Good column, thank you.

    And, as I saw someone point out, pitching has one great advantage - a pitcher can give up zero runs, which guarantees that you aren't losing. Ten runs scored does not guarantee that you're winning. I always am terribly bothered that people don't acknowledge the boolean nature of game outcomes.

    And, I think it was Bill James who made the point that the pitcher is the only person on the field who has control over what will happen - everyone else reacts from there. That's a very much overlooked point.

    The other point is amusing - I think the general preseason expectation was, the team will be better, maybe a shot at the wild card but probably not, sure would be nice though if the Giants were in the race at some point though. And here we are, Sandoval has been a marvel, Zito is better, Cain is better, things are looking up for rotation spots 4 & 5, the team has too many outfield options - and there are those that are whining about this season.

    I think this season is an unqualified success as it is. Barring injury, the team is only going to get better.

    ReplyDelete
  2. ...and then the pitching staff stinks up the joint last night.
    The only reason we have too many outfield options is because we have a bunch of guys who are slightly above or below mediocre.
    Unless something changes drastically, the outfield should be Velez, Rowand, Shierholtz. Freddy should get some ABs in left(he seems to be htting better of late), Torres subs in CF(when he comes back) and Winn backs up all over(but mostly in RF). Maybe Bowker and a couple other guys get some OF time when they expand the rosters.

    ReplyDelete

Labels

1984 Draft (1) 2007 Draft (15) 2007 Giants (52) 2008 Draft (22) 2008 Giants (53) 2008 season (6) 2009 Draft (18) 2009 Giants (87) 2009 season (24) 2010 Decade (10) 2010 Draft (11) 2010 Giants (137) 2010 NL ROY award (1) 2010 season (19) 2010's (3) 2011 Draft (9) 2011 Giants (84) 2011 season (8) 2012 Draft (11) 2012 Giants (93) 2012 season (11) 2013 Draft (3) 2013 Giants (39) 2013 season (5) 2014 draft (5) 2014 Giants (45) 2014 season (13) 2015 season (1) 25 man roster (7) 3B (1) 40 Man Roster (4) 6-man rotation (1) 89 Quake (1) 89 World Series (1) A's (6) A-Ball (1) A-Gon (1) A-Rod (3) AA-Ball (1) Aaron Rowand (25) accomplishments (1) Adalberto Mejia (4) Adam Duvall (2) AFL (4) Alex Hinshaw (3) All-Star Game (1) almost perfect game (1) Amphetamine (2) analysis (5) Andre Torres (14) Andres Torres (2) Andrew Susac (5) Andy Baggerly (2) Andy Sisco (1) Angel Joseph (1) Angel Pagan (10) Angel Villalona (29) Anniversary (1) appendicitis (1) Aramis Garcia (1) Arbitration (12) Armando Benitez (5) Armando Gallaraga (1) art of failure (1) At the Rate They Are Going (1) ATT Park (1) Aubrey Huff (20) Award (4) BABIP (2) Barry Bonds (28) Barry Zito (77) Baseball America (2) Baseball Prospectus (2) Baseball Prospectus Bias Against Giants (3) baseball strategy (5) Baseball Study (13) baserunning (2) batting peripherals (1) batting stance analysis (1) batting title champion (1) Beat LA (6) bench players (1) Bengie Molina (14) Benjamin Snyder (1) Bert Blyleven (1) Beyond the Box Score (1) Bias Against Giants (1) Big 6 (7) Bill Hall (1) Bill James Handbook (2) Bill Neukom (21) Billy Beane (1) Blog Philosophy (2) Bob Howry (2) Bob Mariano (1) Bobby Evans (1) Brad Hennessey (5) Brad Penny (2) Brandon Bednar (1) Brandon Belt (38) Brandon Crawford (18) Brandon Hicks (1) Braves (5) breakout (1) Brett Bochy (2) Brett Pill (9) Brian Anderson (1) Brian Bocock (2) Brian Cooper (1) Brian Horwitz (3) Brian Ragira (2) Brian Sabean (40) Brian Wilson (14) Bridegrooms (2) Bruce Bochy (22) Bucky Showalter (1) bulllpen (1) Bullpen (21) Bumgarner (1) Business Plan (13) Buster Posey (91) Byung-Hyun Kim (1) Cained (4) call-ups (1) Cards (8) Career Prospects (3) Carl Hubbell (1) Carlos Beltran (4) Carlos Gomez (1) Carney Lansford (2) Carter Jurica (1) catcher injury (4) catching (1) CC Sabathia (1) censorship (2) CEO (2) Chad Gaudin (5) Charles Culberson (5) Charlie Culberson (3) Chase Johnson (2) Chillax (1) Chris Brown (1) Chris Gloor (1) Chris Heston (2) Chris Lincecum (1) Chris O'Leary (1) Chris Ray (4) Chris Stewart (4) Chris Stratton (8) Christian Arroyo (3) Christmas (1) Christopher Dominguez (3) Christy Mathewson (1) Chuckie Jones (2) Clay Hensley (3) Clayton Blackburn (5) Clayton Tanner (3) Closer (7) closer by committee (3) Coaches (3) Cody Hall (1) Cody Ross (8) Col (1) Comeback Award (1) Commissioner (1) competitiveness (1) Conor Gillaspie (22) contender (1) contract negotiations (1) contract signing (4) Cory Hart (1) Craig Whitaker (2) cuts (1) Cy Young Award (5) D-backs (14) D-gers (31) D-Rocks (3) D-Rox (16) Dallas McPherson (1) Dan Ortmeier (11) Dan Otero (2) Dan Runzler (6) Dan Uggla (1) Daniel Slania (2) Darren Ford (1) Dave Roberts (11) David Aardsma (1) David Huff (2) David Loewenstein (1) Decade of the Giants (10) decline (1) Defense (8) Deferred Money (1) deleted comment (1) Derek Law (4) Detroit Tigers (1) DFA (3) DH (2) Dick Tidrow (1) Dirty (1) DL (1) dodgers (5) Donald Snelten (1) Draft (3) Draft Analysis (8) Draft Bonus (7) draft list (1) draft signing (3) Draft Strategy (11) Draft Study (2) Draft Success (2) drafting (1) Dres (16) DRS (1) Edgar Renteria (13) Edwin Escobar (5) Ehire Adrianza (14) Eli Whiteside (4) Elimination game (1) EME (2) Emmanuel Burriss (18) epic season (6) Eric Byrnes (1) Eric Surkamp (6) Eugenio Velez (12) extension (6) fanfest (1) Fielding (4) Fielding Stats (4) finger injury (1) first post-season press conference (2) Francisco Peguero (4) Fred Lewis (3) Freddie Lewis (17) Freddie Sanchez (4) Freddy Sanchez (7) Free Agency (3) Free agent possibilities (17) Free agent signing (4) Free agent signings (21) gamer-tude (1) Gary Brown (22) Geno Espinelli (1) George Kontos (3) Ghosts of Giants Drafts (1) Giants blogs (2) Giants Chat (3) Giants Draft (7) Giants Drafts (2) Giants Farm System (29) Giants Franchise record (2) Giants Future (62) Giants GM (4) Giants Greats (2) Giants hitting manual (1) Giants No-Hitter (4) Giants Offense (21) Giants Offseason (21) Giants Strategy (34) GiDar (1) Gino Espinelli (1) glossary (1) good will (1) Graphical Player (1) Gregor Blanco (12) Gregor Moscoso (1) Guillermo Moscoso (2) Guillermo Mota (2) Gustavo Cabrera (3) Hall of Fame (7) Hall of Shame (3) Hank Aaron (5) Happy Holidays (2) Hate mail (1) heart-warming (1) Heath Hembree (8) Hector Correa (1) Hector Sanchez (9) Henry Sosa (8) HGH (1) high expectations (1) high school focus in draft (1) Hitting (15) Hitting Coach (1) hitting mechanics (3) hitting pitchers (2) hitting streak (1) Hitting; (1) Home Run Career Record (7) Home Run Hitting Contest (1) Hunter Pence (19) Hunter Strickland (1) Idea (4) improvement (1) Indictment (1) injury (2) instant replay (2) instructor (1) Interesting Question (1) International Free Agent Pursuits (3) International Signings (5) interview (3) Investment (1) Ivan Ochoa (2) Jack Taschner (4) Jackson Williams (2) Jacob Dunnington (1) Jacob McCasland (1) Jake Dunning (1) Jake Peavy (1) Japanese Starters (1) Jarrett Parker (5) Jason Heyward (1) Jason Stoffel (1) Javier Lopez (5) JC Gutierrez (2) Jeff Kent (1) Jeff Suppan (1) Jeremy Affeldt (10) Jeremy Shelley (1) Jerome Williams (1) Jesse English (2) Jesse Foppert (1) Jesus Guzman (4) Joaquin Arias (9) Joe Panik (10) Joe Torre (1) Joey Martinez (2) Johan Santana (1) John Bowker (22) Johneshwy Fargas (2) Johnny Bench (1) Johnny Monell (1) Johnny Rucker (1) Jonah Arenado (1) Jonathan Mayo (1) Jonathan Sanchez (48) Jose Canseco (1) Jose Casilla (1) Jose Guillen (3) Jose Mijares (3) Jose Uribe (2) Josh Osich (3) JT Snow (1) Juan Perez (4) Juan Uribe (9) Juggling Monkey (1) Just Say No (1) Kendry Flores (1) Keury Mella (1) Kevin Correia (2) Kevin Frandsen (22) Kevin Pucetas (10) Kung Fu Panda (30) Kyle Crick (10) Larry Baer (2) Larry Ellison (1) Lead-off (2) left-handed (1) Lew Wolff (1) LHP (1) Lineup (17) lineup construction (1) Lineup position (1) Long-Term Contract (21) long-term planning (3) luck (1) Luis Angel Mateo (2) Mac Williamson (5) Madison Bumgarner (121) Mailbox (1) Malcolm Gladwell (1) management change (3) management issues (5) managerial value (2) Manny (1) Marc Kroon (2) Marco Scutaro (11) Mark DeRosa (8) Martin Agosta (6) Marvin Miller (1) Masahiro Tanaka (1) Mason McVay (1) Matsuzaka (1) Matt Cain (122) Matt Downs (2) Matt Graham (1) Matt Holliday (1) Matt Morris (2) Mechanics (4) Media (15) Media Bias (17) Media Trade Idea (3) Medical (1) Mediocy (10) Mediots (4) Melk-Gone (1) Melky Cabrera (14) mental (1) Merkin Valdez (8) Message in a Bottle (1) Michael Main (1) Michael Trout (1) Miguel Cabrera (2) Miguel Tejada (5) Mike Fontenot (3) Mike Ivie (1) Mike Kickham (8) Mike Matheny (1) Mike Morse (6) milestone (1) minor league contract (1) minors (10) mismanagement (1) mistakes (2) MLB (2) MLB stupidity (2) MLB Success (6) MLB Trade Rumors (1) MLBAM (1) MLBTR (1) MLE (1) Mock Draft analysis (4) MVP (1) Natanael Javier (1) Nate Schierholtz (45) Nathanael Javier (1) Naysayers (1) Negotiations (1) Nick Noonan (26) Nick Pereira (1) Nick Vander Tuig (2) NL Champions (2) NL West (21) NL West Division Title (15) NL West Future (1) NLCS (15) NLCS MVP (1) NLDS (7) Noah Lowry (14) non-roster invitees (1) non-tenders (1) NPB (1) Oakland A's (4) OBP (1) oddities (1) Offense (3) offensive era (1) Omar Vizquel (3) one-run games (1) Opening Day (4) opening day pitcher (1) opening day roster (3) Optimism (1) Osiris Matos (2) Outfield (1) Ownership (7) Pablo Sandoval (87) Panda (6) Pandoval (1) passing (1) Pat Burrell (15) Pat Misch (5) Payroll (8) Pedro Feliz (12) PEDS (10) Perfect Game (2) perjury trial (1) Personal Reminiscence (2) Pessimism (1) Pete Rose (3) Peter Magowan (2) Phillies (7) Phoenix Theory of Rebuilding (1) Pitch Count (3) pitch value (1) Pitching (14) Pitching Rotation (54) pitching staff (1) plate discipline (1) Play Ball (1) player budget (2) player development (2) playoff (2) playoff hopes (24) playoff roster (1) playoff rotation (3) Playoff Success (18) Playoffs (26) postmortem (1) PQS (65) press conference (1) pressure (2) priorities (1) Projected Record (4) projection (2) promotion (1) prospect (2) prospect analysis (1) Prospect of Note (3) prospect study (1) Prospects (42) questions (1) Rafael Rodriquez (8) Rajai Davis (2) Ralph Barbieri (1) Ramon Ramirez (3) Randy Johnson (9) Randy Messenger (2) Randy Winn (14) Rangers (5) Ranking (4) raspberry (1) Ray Durham (5) re-sign (2) Rebuilding (4) Rebuilding Myths series (1) rebuttal (1) Reds (5) Relocation Concession (2) Research (2) resource scarcity (1) Retired (3) Retirement (1) return (1) RHP (1) Rich Aurilia (7) Rick Peterson (1) Rickie Weeks (1) Ricky Oropesa (3) right-handed (1) risk mitigation (2) risk profile (1) Rod Beck (1) Roger Kieschnick (13) Roger Metzger (1) Ron Shandler (2) Rookie of the Year (1) Roster (4) ROY (2) Rule 5 Draft Pick (3) rumors (9) runs support (1) Russ Ortiz (11) Ryan Garko (2) Ryan Klesko (4) Ryan Rohlinger (2) Ryan Theriot (3) Ryan Vogelsong (65) Ryder Jones (2) Sabean Naysayers (4) Sabermetric Thoughts (5) sabermetrics (3) Salary speculation (3) SALLY (1) San Jose Giants (1) San Jose Relocation (3) Sandy Rosario (1) Santiago Casilla (8) Scott McClain (2) Scott Shuman (1) Scouting (1) Sergio Romo (13) SF Giants (2) Shilo McCall (1) Shooter (1) shutouts (1) Signature Song (1) signing (12) Silly-Ball (3) South Atlantic League (1) South Bay Rights (1) Spring Training (15) standings (1) starting lineup (14) starting pitching (48) statistics (2) STATS (1) Steroids (5) Steve Edlefsen (4) Steve Johnson (3) Steve Okert (1) Sue Burns (1) sunk costs (1) superstition (1) Team Speed (1) Team Support (1) The Giants Way (1) The Hey Series (15) Thomas Joseph (3) Thomas Neal (9) Tigers (4) Tim Alderson (17) Tim Hudson (17) Tim Lincecum (158) Todd Linden (3) Todd Wellemeyer (6) Tommy Joseph (3) top prospect list (4) Trade (9) Trade Analysis (15) Trade Idea (7) Trade PTBNL (2) Trade Rumors (28) trading (1) training staff (2) Training Tool (1) Travis Blackley (1) Travis Ishikawa (40) turning point (1) Ty Blach (2) Tyler Beede (2) Tyler Horan (1) Tyler Rogers (1) Tyler Walker (2) umpire mistake (3) Umpires (3) USA Today (1) Voros McCracken (1) Waldis Joaquin (5) walks (1) WAR (1) Warrior Spirit (1) Wendell Fairley (10) What-If Scenario (3) wild card (1) wild card race (1) Will Clark (1) Willie Mac Award (1) Willie Mays (1) Winter League (1) World Series (18) World Series Champions (10) WS Ring Bling (1) Yusmeiro Petit (19) Zack Wheeler (9)