Thursday, September 24, 2009

2009 Organizational Standings

Baseball America recently posted the organizational standings for all team's farms systems, including short-season.

The Giants had the best farm system, with a collective 411-286 record and .590 winning percentage. They were 125 games above .500. Second was the Yankees, with a .552 winning percentage and 72 games above .500. So the Giants minor league system did extremely well in 2009, with almost double the number of games above .500 than the second place team.

Salem-Keizer and San Jose were the league champions and AZL Giants and Connecticut Defenders were runner-ups. With 4 of these, they were one ahead of the Yankees, who had two league champs and one runner-up. And only six other teams had two of them, no other had two champions.

Most teams had only 6 affiliates, but seven teams had 7 affiliates. The Giants only had 6. I assume there is no link, but most of the ones with 7 were in the bottom in winning percentage: Astros, Mets, Orioles, Cardinals, Royals were in the bottom 10; Rays were 17th but under .500; only the Mariners were over .500, and they were 10th.

Hopefully, this bodes well for the future for the Giants, but there is no causal link between success in the minors and subsequent success in the majors, that I'm aware of. Still, winning is good, it gives our young prospects experience with the playoffs and the pressures therein. Plus it would help build up their confidence plus you want them used to winning, not used to losing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Your 2009 Giants are not going to be losers: 81 wins

I did not post a series discussion due to a heavy work load, but it worked out well (well, not for Zito) with the Giants winning and reaching 81 wins and guaranteeing that they are not going to have a losing season. And with one more win, they would guarantee ending the season over .500 with a winning record.

If they split the rest of the 12 games, they end up 87-75. They would have to go 9-3 to win 90 games. That seems unlikely given that our starters have started to look ragged, even as the offense has perked up.

Game 2: Cain vs. Doug Davis

The Giants always seem to have problems with Davis, but not this season: they have won two of his three starts against us. As a lefty, the Giants will have to abandon the run producing lineup Bochy has been using against righthanders. Surprise: they are using Franchez's injury to give Frandsen an opportunity to do something. The lineup today is: Velez, Torres, Sandoval, Molina, Uribe, Garko, Rowand, Frandsen, Cain. That's probably our best lineup against LHP.

Cain has pitched OK there (3.88 ERA) but Davis amazingly has pitched well in AZ too, 3.61 ERA this season at home, 4.39 on the road. And 4.08 ERA for his career there, vs. 4.30 career ERA. But Davis has a 4.46 ERA against the Giants lifetime. Odds favor the Giants, but Davis is a good pitcher so you never know if he might have a good game against us, so pretty much a push.

Game 3: Sanchez vs. Kevin Mulvey

Sanchez has a 1.77 ERA in 4 starts this season against AZ. However, 6.05 ERA in Chase in 4 starts and 7 appearances for his career, plus he has come off two straight starts of bad results. Mulvey is a young prospect that they got from the Twins in a trade, nice strikeouts but too many walks and hits for a 9.00 ERA with the D-backs. Yet, he's an OK prospect, and his numbers aren't THAT bad, just his number of hits and homers. Even odds of winning or losing, though Mulvey being a RHP, maybe our lineup can blast him out early.

Giants Thoughts

The wild card looking pretty impossible to get: 4 games back, only 12 left to play; if they simply go 6-6, we have to go 10-2. The good news, if any, is that they play mostly above .500 teams after this series against the Padres: St. Louis, Milwaukee (at 74-76, could theoretically sweep the next three games and be over .500, so I'm counting them), and LAD. Against over .500 teams, they have gone 35-40.

We actually have a winning record against the better clubs, 38-37, they lead because they have dominated the losing clubs while we were merely good. Still, with tougher competition, they could go 5-7 or even 4-8, but even then the Giants would still have to go 8-4. I don't think the Giants has gone 8-4 in any 12 game stretch this season, they have just not been able to sustain any good long win streak.

With the playoffs so improbable, one would hope the Giants might play some of the young players more often. At least Frandsen gets to play 2B, making Renteria sit. And Garko is getting a rare start; he should have really been platooning with Ishikawa, in a rare Ishikawa plays at home and Garko on the road type of split.

That wouldn't have worked over a full season, but with so little of the season left, the Giants probably should have done that, particularly in light of how well Ishikawa hit at home the past week. Given how poorly Garko has hit for his, one has to wonder if that trade costed the Giants a chance at the wild card since Ishikawa at least was hitting very well at home even at the time of the trade, but Garko in 39 AB, 9 starts, 15 games in AT&T has hit .103/.186/.103/.289 there. That has to have costed the Giants in at least 5 of those games.

I wonder how far back we have to be for Posey to get a start? He has gotten three ABs so far and is 1 for 3 with a single and a strikeout. Hopefully they can just give him a lot of starts in the last week of the season. I would also like to see Bowker get a week's worth of starts the last week, and maybe Guzman too at 1B.

What about Runzler and Joaquin? They have done very well in short stints, much like Romo and Hinshaw last season, though both are walking too many so far. Our bullpen look to be even better in 2010, with Wilson, Affeldt, Romo, at least one of Runzler and Joaquin, Medders, Miller, and Valdez.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Your 2009 Giants are 79-67: Beat LA LA LA!!!

Disappointing.

Pretty much over, as I noted in my last post. Making up 3.5 games with 16 to go is not really a pretty proposition. So my post will be pretty succinct, at least for me:

Game 1: Sanchez vs. Vicente Padilla

Beat LA!

Game 2: Penny vs. Jon Garland

Beat LA!

Game 3: Lincecum vs. Randy Wolf

Beat LA!

Giants Thoughts

All I can say is I would not have played Renteria in that game, and had I played him, I would not have let him bat in that late inning after his performance in the game. Then again, had the hitters come through earlier when we got the first two batters on base, then that little rally would have won the game.

Bochy hasn't won any points with me since my rant on him after the fiasco series in Colorado. The lineup was working from the prior days, and you sit a guy who was a big part of the run explosion in Ishikawa while keeping a guy who wasn't in Schierholtz (and I like Nate, I wanted him to be the starting RF this season, but he's hitting .219/.286/.313/.598 in 32 AB this month).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why I Like Sabean (Again)

Someone on Andy Baggarly's blog, Extra Baggs, complained about Sabean's poor trade track record and in general dissed Sabean. Here is my response there:

Why are the Giants winning? Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Wilson, Romo, Valdez, heck, Affeldt, Miller, Medders, Johnson. In other words, the pitching staff.

Who put that together? Sabean.

What's the bottom line? Winning.

What has Giants been doing more than any of you expected? Winning.

GM's don't get accolades for being the most prudent with his budget. Nor do they get accolades for being efficient with his spending. And no GM is ever not going to make a lot of mistakes. Any GM not making mistakes, particularly big mistakes every once in a while, is too risk adverse to be in his position. Any decision maker has to accept that risk is there and to take it on as necessary and prudent, whether that is baseball or any other business.

We all know the free agent problems. But no one ever talks about the process involved nor the availability issue either. Sometimes you need a body and that's the best body available, whether free agent or trade market. Sometimes you just need to make a move to give a signal to the troups. Sometimes it is done for marketing to the fans. Sometimes the owner just wants that player. Decisions made there often result for reasons that demonstrates none of his knowledge or expertise, but rather is what is available on the market. Like having to buy a gold (or chose a color you wouldn't want) colored car because that's the only one left in the lot and you need one.

People also seem to have the misconception that a team can totally rebuild using the draft. That's a fallacy. Most teams do not do that, they take the random luck involved with the draft on what you get, then fill in with free agents and trades where you are lacking. Find me a team that rebuilt to win a championship using only the draft. I know you won't find one because I've looked at all the best teams and none of them did that.

It gets even worse when you are winning because then none of your draft picks are that likely to become a good player. Only the losing teams get the picks position where you have a very good chance of getting someone good from the draft.

In the last third of the first round, where the contenders are, the odds of finding a good player is like a crapshoot, around 10% chance of finding someone. That means on average, a team will find one good player in 10 years of drafting in the first round. Can't really build a team around that.

What I love about what Sabean did was that he focused his scarce resources - draft picks - on pitching, which is very versatile. If you end up drafting 3 great firstbasemen (like Texas did with Teixiera, Hofner, and A-Gon), you have to trade off two and hope you get someone good in return (they didn't). If you end up with 3 great starters, that's 3/5ths of your rotation.

Also important, when position players fail, they become bench players, hardly used much. When starting pitchers fail, you can still see if they can become good relievers, maybe set-up men. Or even closers.

Building upon pitching can create a great situation where the cream rises to the top, and the cup that can hold pitching is much larger than another other function on the team. You can't just move one of your immobile firstbasemen to 3B or LF (McCovey and Cepeda; McGwire and Nelson) and hope for that work in the long run. SS can move, but how often does that happen that you have two, you are lucky to have one. And OF rarely can move to the IF easily. But for each good pitcher you develop, you just kick the low man off the ladder and insert the better pitcher, until you have a stellar pitching staff.

This is what I've been saying for 6-7 years now and I am heartened to see it come to fruition and be so successful. We have a great pitching staff this season and it only looks to get better with Bumgarner, Runzler, Joaquin, among others, plus the guys drafted this year, Wheeler, the closer we picked 4th round.

Soon, we will have a cup running over with great pitching, and then the Giants can do a trade like the A's did with Haren, pick up a whole platoon of position prospects (maybe make it a three team deal to bring in more and better position prospects) to put on the finishing touches on the offense that should be led by Sandoval and Posey for the next 5 seasons at least.

That's why I hope Sabean is extended for another two years.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Your 2009 Giants are 77-66: Sweeping D-Rox, Part Deux?

Just like last time, the Giants need another unbelievable three game sweep to bring themselves within spitting distance of the D-Rox in the wild card race. Unlike last time, they are now in a horrible streak of playing and even a sweep would only bring them within 1.5 games of the lead. The D-Rox showed great poise and stability in not collapsing after getting shown up by the Giants that way, just as the Giants showed great poise and stability in not collapsing after getting shown up by the D-Rox the week before in Colorado.

Now we got the rubber match with the D-Rox playing three in SF, and the Giants needing another miracle sweep. Aiding that possibility is the fact that the rotation gods have the Giants sending out the same three starters who spearheaded that sweep to face Colorado again. Can they do it again?

Game 1: Lincecum vs. Jason Hammel

Lincecum with rest facing one of the D-Rox's mid to back of the rotation guys. Hammel, however, has pitched well in the two games since facing the Giants. And he didn't really do that poorly against the Giants, with good relief, he would have won facing Matt Cain. 2.92 ERA on the road now, and he has pitched well in SF. It should be another close game with Lincecum squeeking by unless Tim is too amped up and starts throwing wild. However, those days of Lincecum should be behind us now and he should show us he's the gamer who shall lead us back to the Playoff Land once again.

I was impressed with Lincecum going public with his thoughts about the Giants position right now, and what they have to do to get back into the playoff chase. What was impressive was that he did that without pointing the finger at anyone other than the team itself. That is showing off more leadership than he had shown before, showing development and maturity. This season's bonus playoff chase is paying off with some of our young players learning things about themselves that will pay off in future playoff chases.

Game 2: Zito vs. Ubaldo Jimenez

Last time, Ubaldo lost to Lincecum in a duel of the two team's pitching titans, ace vs. ace. This time, while Zito has been pitching better, like an ace at times, Ubaldo should get the upper hand. He pitched as well as usual in the two starts since, and just has pitched well all season, 3.32 ERA overall, 3.42 ERA on the road, 2.60 ERA in the second half, 3.55 ERA in 4 starts in SF. Does not look good.

Looks even worse looking at Zito. While he has had a stellar second half, it looks like he left it all on the field with his great outing against Colorado, where he went 8.1 IP, 8 hits, 1 ER/R, 1 walk, and 7 strikeouts. In the two starts since, he didn't go past the 5th inning once, and had a 5.00 ERA. We need the Zito of that start and the 8 starts before that where he had a 1.92 ERA. Without that Zito, we can forget about winning this game.

The only silver lining is that in 10 career starts against Colorado, Zito has a 1.92 ERA. Talk about coincidences!!!

Game 3: Cain vs. Jorge de la Rosa

Jorge de la Rosa is another of the D-Rox's mid-to-back of rotation starters. However, just like with Hammel, don't let that fool you. Though he has a 4.37 ERA overall, he is much better with his splits: 3.84 ERA on the road, 3.21 ERA in the second half, 1.32 ERA in 2 starts and 3 appearances in SF. These all speak well of his chances.

However, Cain is no push over either. With a 2.61 ERA this season and improved DOM%, Cain has took a step up in his pitching performance this season. However, he has not been the same in his last 8 starts, 3.83 ERA, which is good but not as good as he was earlier in the season. And he has been steadily getting worse: in August, his ERA was 3.74, in September thus far, 4.15.

In fact, looking at his starts this season, his strikeout rate appears to have started its downslide around the time he went to the All-Star game, which is just after he had that ball hit him on his hand. Not that he hasn't pitched well, any pitcher would be glad to have his stats, but his K/9 has dipped severely - only 5.9 K/9 in his last 6 starts, though at least he has been able to reduce his walks too, keeping his K/BB ratio at a high 2.25, which is good for starter.

So this looks like it will be a battle to win the rubber match of the 3-game series and it can go either way, though I must note that de la Rosa is on an uptrend and Cain has been on a downtrend. It also don't look great that Cain had his two of his worse games in months, heck, even the season, against Colorado last time and LA in his last start, meaning Cain had a chance to step it up for the Giants twice already and didn't. Despite a 3.48 ERA for his career, he has a 4.13 ERA against the D-gers, though at least he has a 3.16 ERA against the D-Rox. However, in this season, Cain has a 3.60 ERA against the D-Rox and 15 walks vs. 23 strikeouts in 25 IP plus gave 5 HR.

Giants Thoughts

Same as last series, both the last series against Colorado and the last series we just played against LA, though now even more so: we need to sweep. Luckily, we did sweep them last time, but since then our Giants look like they left everything on the field in that series while the D-Rox went on to beat up on the teams they faced, the teams they were suppose to beat up on, going 9-1 on their homestand and 10-1 after getting swept by the Giants. If they didn't lose twice to the Padres over the weekend, and almost lost all three, the Giants were pretty much out of the race without much chance of recovering.

Even now, if the Giants were to somehow sweep them, we would still be 1.5 games behind them. The good news is if the Giants were to accomplish that, the D-Rox would be on a 5 game losing streak, played poorly in two straight series on the road against San Diego and San Francisco, and would be facing more road games (and tougher teams) headed into the few weeks of the season, while the Giants would face weaker teams and play more games at home.

However, the Giants look like they are more headed towards winning the series 2-1, which would leave us at 3.5 games behind them with only 16 games left to go and none against them. While I have seen (and read about) teams that blew a big lead like that with that many games left to play, the odds are not that great that the D-Rox will blow it like that. Particularly since they have played so well since Tracy took over, and since they have played even better when the games counted while the Giants have struggled to stay at .500.

The only two months where the Giants played above .500 - June and August - took the performances of players doing very well. In June, it was Sandoval breaking out and supported by hot hitting by Schierholtz, Rowand, and Ishikawa, among others. In August, it was the entire pitching staff carrying the team into the win column. As I noted in the last series, we need another group effort of hot play to carry us closer to the D-Rox and to push past them.

I wonder what Bochy is going to do this series. Ishikawa inexplicable has been hot at home this whole season, a point driven home by his 3 hits last night. Does he keep Travis in the lineup for Colorado? If he does, then where would Uribe play, as Sandoval would be at 3B and Sanchez is at 2B, which means then he supplants Renteria at SS, which would hurt Renteria's feeling (though he hasn't really hit for much of anything in September). Sanchez hasn't done that well either since his return, so perhaps he might sit for Uribe sometimes, but he had two hits himself last night. But you can't sit Uribe the way he is hitting right now either. Looks like Renteria sits again tonight and Ishikawa and Uribe starts.

And in the outfield, Schierholtz, Rowand, and Winn have not been hitting at all in September. Will we be seeing more of Velez, Torres, and Bowker in the games to come? Not today, outfield of Velez, Rowand, Winn. Winn has been getting on base lately, so Bochy is going with the hot hand. Lewis actually is 6 for 7 against Hammel but Bochy, like last time, is saving him in case we can pinch hit against Hammel in the game with runners on base. We'll see how that works, though I must note that between starting Velez and Lewis, I would have to go with Velez right now. And Rowand vs. Lewis, I would have to go with Rowand's defense, particularly in AT&T.

The big news is that Sandoval is finally batting 4th and Molina 5th. This is the first time all season that Molina has not batted 4th when he was in the lineup. It is a changing of the guard, a sign for next season when Sandoval will be the big RBI bat in the lineup and Molina most probably is gone. Finally, this should have been done probably at the start of August when Molina had been scuffling up to then (if I recall right, he started hitting again in August).

And when will we be seeing Buster Posey? We are basically nearing desperation point now. I don't see Bochy playing him against the D-Rox - you win with those who brung you to this point, so you have to go with Molina in the series - but will he see any starting action at all? One would hope so and the sooner the better.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Your 2009 Giants are 76-64: Beat LA! Beat LA! Beat LA!

Really, we basically need to sweep LA or at worse win the series. Then we need to sweep Colorado in order to get back into the wild card race, and if we did the job against LA, would be in the division title race again probably. Then we need to win the series again against LA, again a sweep would be nice if not mandatory.

Is a 9 game win streak possible? Not really since the best the Giants have been able to cobble together is a 5 game winning streak, early in the season. So 7-2 is probably what they can best hope for, 6-3 or 5-4 or 4-5 are the more likely outcomes playing at home for 6 then 3 in LA.

Thus, it's mano-a-mano time, boys and girls, time for our offense to man up or shut up. So far, unfortunately, they have shut up. They really should have won the series against SD, that was really shameful that they didn't, though the 'Dres do have A-Gon and he singlehanded took it to the Giants.

But that's water under the bridge now, the gaunlet continues and LA is up next in our gun-sights. Humm Baby, don't let your dauber down now! You gotta like these Kids!

Game 1: Cain vs. Kuroda

Kuroda has had a nice season, but horrible last start, his first after taking a ball off his head. Hopefully that will continue in this game. He has had an odd-ball season in that his road ERA (3.94) is way better than his home ERA (4.37). So which is real? With a 3.78 ERA on the road last season, 3.68 ERA at home, plus 4.14 ERA in second half vs. 3.43 ERA in first half, it could be either, and with a good K/BB ratio, it would seem that we should lean towards the better side.

But his K/9 has been much under the 6.0 that most good pitchers need to do in order to be regularly effective in keeping his ERA low. When it is below that, random defensive fluctuations just seem to do in the pitcher regularly. And with Manny in LF, Blake at 3B, Hudson at 2B, Loney at 1B, Ethier in CF, and Kemp in RF - all either slightly below or above average on defense - that probably happens to their pitchers more often than to the Giants (LA allows 0.30 unearned runs per game, Giants 0.22).

Still, 0.93 ERA in AT&T Park in 3 starts suggest that the Giants will have their hands full against him. Doesn't look good for the Giants, but Cain can deal too, 3.23 ERA at home lifetime, 2.53 ERA this season, 3.97 ERA against the D-gers for his career.

Game 2: Sanchez vs. Vincente Padilla

Amazing how Padilla recovered from his horrible stats in the AL and playing in Arlington, a severe hitters park, when he joined the D-gers, who has as extreme a pitchers park. Didn't take much to see that would happen, given that his ERA on the road was about one run better than at home in Arlington. And he has pitched well, though lucky (only 11 strikeouts in 29.1 IP with 8 walks), with a 3.38 ERA.

Jonathan Sanchez, however, has been just about as good since his no-hitter, so this should be another tough game, another one too close to tell who is better.

Game 3: Penny vs. Chad Billingsley

Billingsley is as good on the road as at home, which is pretty good overall (high 3's). He's been even better in SF, 2.67 ERA. But Penny has been pretty good in his return too. Another toss-up, though I hope Penny brings things up a notch and shut them down.

Giants Thoughts

The Giants need to at least win the series, ideally sweep, as I noted above. Neither seem likely as a possibility right now. It's do or die time now, we need someone to step up, whether it be via homeruns or advancing runners when the time is right and getting the timely hits. Then the Giants will have to do it again against the D-Rox, then the D-gers again.

This is a rough stretch and should determine whether we are out of it or back in the thick of things. None of the hitters are particularly hot and the pitchers have been vulnerable this month after being almost untouchable in August. If the offense had been doing at least as well as it was in previous months, they would still be in the thick of things, but the offense started sputtering once Garko was placed in the lineup regularly, as he was cold with us plus he took the relatively hot Ishikawa out of the lineup. Franchez being out of the lineup didn't help either.

Unfortunately, their inability to put away the 'Dres is what is costing them big this season. They are 6-9 against the woeful 'Dres. If they were instead 9-6, the way they should be, they would be only 1 game behind Colorado and 3.5 games behind LA. Otherwise, they have done well against everyone else, except for the D-gers, but at 5-7, that is nothing to be ashamed up, change one loss and they are 6-6.

The good news is that they have 6 more games against Arizona, against whom they are 8-4 this season. They are the one team that the Giants have been able to beat up on this season. And they were 2-7 over their last stretch, though admittedly they did that against LA and Colorado. However, they beat out 2 of 3 in their last series here a month ago.

The Cubs are improved this month, 6-3, but that was against the Mets, Pirates, and Astros, and they were lucky to do that too, as they did not score a lot of runs, so they could have been 5-4 just as easily. By the time we meet them, they should be getting ready for the off-season mentally, so we should have a pretty good shot at winning the 4-game series, but by then we could be out of it too.

Which just circles back and shows how critical these 9 games against LA, CO, LA is for our very slim playoff hopes now. The good news is that Tulowitski should miss their series this weekend, helping us maybe catch up a game this weekend if we can win against LA. Unfortunately, he should be back by the time they face us, and in any case, they are playing the 'Dres, so it could be that the D-Rox could sweep the 'Dres, even in SD and without Tulo, and put us back too far to come back, as there is virtually no chance of us sweeping the D-gers.

Beat LA! Beat LA! Beat LA!

Go Giants!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

From the Mouths of Mediots, Case Number 680

Just earlier today, like a moth to a flame, I turn to listen to sports talk on the radio. Literally the first thing I heard is this:


"It's not Larry [Baer]'s fault the Giants don't have a thirdbaseman or a firstbaseman who can hit 40 HR."

Teams without a thirdbaseman or a firstbaseman who can hit 40 HR:

  • Atlanta Braves
  • Baltimore Orioles
  • Boston Red Sox
  • Chicago Cubs
  • Cleveland Indians
  • Colorado Rockies
  • Detroit Tigers
  • Florida Marlins
  • Houston Astros
  • Kansas City Royals
  • Los Angeles Angels
  • Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Minnesota Twins
  • New York Mets
  • Oakland Athletics
  • Pittsburgh Pirates
  • San Francisco Giants
  • Seattle Mariners
  • Texas Rangers
  • Toronto Blue Jays
  • Washington Nationals

So that means that 23 out the 30 teams in the majors are falling down on the job in putting together their offense because they don't have a thirdbaseman or a firstbaseman who can hit 40 HR. At least according to this radio show host.

May Have to Eat His Words Soon

The funny thing is that since Pablo Sandoval started figuring out how to hit homers in the majors in June, he has hit 18 HR in 360 AB and 84 games. That is a 35 HR pace. Pretty close to the ideal noted on the airwaves.

However, he hasn't hit any in 30 AB this month as he has battled leg problems, and his batting line shows that at .233/.361/.333/.694 (WOW, he has 6 walks and only 4 strikeouts!). Assuming he can be healthy over a full year and play at the pace he was at in June, July, and August, then over a 162 game season, Kung Fu Panda would hit 40 or 41 HR in a season.

So the Giants may already have a 40 HR 1B/3B in Pablo Sandoval and therefore, based on what this host said, Sabean has done his job there.

Sigh... why do I keep on turning the radio there? Well, besides the fact that it's always on KNBR during the baseball season and I have to cycle through there to change from FM1 to FM2 on my presets on my car.

Why does the evening host have to cater to the angry Giants fan crowd? Despite all the anger over the past few seasons, the Giants have been rebuilding very nicely. So wouldn't that mean that they were wrong to be so angry? That they were being impatient with the rebuild (and rebuilds normally take many years to pull off correctly and some teams are stuck in rebuild purgatory for decades) and was missing the changing of the guard?

I mean, given this vitriol aimed at Sabean, had the Braves fans been just as angry and actually had Bobby Cox fired as GM, he would never have had the chance to build the 17 year dynasty he had there, because the team was so lousy during the six years he was their GM. They were even worse than the Giants, much worse, Tampa Bay Devil Rays bad.

And no GM is perfect. They make a lot of mistakes along the way, some of them big (don't you think Billy Beane wishes he got more for Tim Hudson? Or how about Andre Ethier?). You have to take a look at the big picture and see where the team is headed.

And the big picture is that the Giants are headed for a nice run in the next few years. Obviously, our pitching should be great again. Particularly if we can sign Penny to a one year deal and pick up another good end-game reliever like Affeldt. Though Waldis Joaquin and Dan Runzler might fill that need.

Ande the offense should be improved as well. Sandoval should be a full-fledged star by next season, as I noted above, he should be hitting somewhere between 30-40 HR if he can continue the pace he was going at after he figured out how to hit major league pitching for homers and when he was healthy. I think Buster Posey should be either up at the start or my mid-season, and should be figuring out things by the end of the season. That's two offensive cogs right there.

Rowand, for all the complaints about him and for all the ups and downs of his hitting, he is still hitting better than the average CF. And Nate Schierholtz has shown enough in his time in the minors and in brief stretches in the majors that I think he'll be able to duplicate what Randy Winn was giving us: average offense with superlative defense in RF. You don't need every hitter to be great, you need complementary bats like Winn when he was going good, Rowand, and Schierholtz, as I believe he should be as good as Winn eventually.

Freddy Sanchez should be a big improvement over what we got from 2B this season: our 2B collectively hit .241/.292/.350/.641 this season. His career numbers are .299/.335/.419/.754, and he was good enough to win the batting title one season and has hit around .300 every season except for one while playing regularly.

Renteria has hit well enough since he said he was feeling better - .264/.331/.397/.728 with 3 HR in 121 AB - that I think that he will be fine next season assuming that he is healthy for a full season. Still, as badly as he has done, his .255/.313/.335/.648 is still a huge improvement over the .228/.295/.281/.576 we got last season.

I also think that Ishikawa and Garko can be a nice platoon tandem at 1B in 2010, once Garko gets used to the NL. Both hit pretty well against their opposite throwing pitchers, and Ishikawa's great defense will be out there most of the time since there are more RHP.

That leaves LF as the main area of question. We could go out and sign a high-priced free agent like Jason Bay, or some lower cost options like Rocco Baldelli, Rick Ankiel, or Xavier Nady. I think they will sign a free agent like Ankiel, as Bay would be expensive and longer-term, and we need to keep budget space open so that we can sign Lincecum and Cain to long-term extensions. That would leave Bowker to battle Schierholtz for RF, with the loser being the 4th OF. And the Giants will probably trade Lewis away.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Hey Neukom! My Giants Business Plan: TOC

To make access to my business plan series of posts easier to access, I'm creating this post with links to all the other posts:
  1. Mission Statement, Executive Summary, and Strategy Outline
  2. Great Team Defense
  3. Great Defense Up the Middle
  4. Great Starting Rotation
  5. At Least 2 Aces, If Not More
  6. Good Bullpen
  7. Great Closer
  8. High K/9 Pitching Staff
  9. Good Enough Offense
  10. Good Enough Offense Example
  11. Team Built With Speed
  12. Draft Philosophy and Strategy
  13. The Phoenix Strategy of Rebuilding (tm)
Part of the impetus for this is that I realized that anybody coming in new to my blog won't know about this business plan or to search for it. It is critical to understanding my commentary on this blog to know what my vision for a great baseball team is.

Another impetus is that there are commenters who come on here acting like they know how to run a baseball team, particularly with their comments about Sabean, but really, it is all hot air unless you have a plan and a vision for how a team should be built. And the plan and visions should be more than just "get the best lineup and pitching staff in the majors" because that is not realistic, even the Yankees haven't been able to buy the best lineup and pitching staff in the majors (though they are coming close to it).

This will be a living document, as I will probably post again to this series when the muse (and insight) hits me, though I probably won't be modifying the existing posts, I will probably just post an update in real time but change the link to the updated post.

Bumgarner Being Bad: So Bad That He's Good

Given the sad state of the series with SD, I thought I would write on Madison Bumgarner. What a great start! Too bad the bullpen could not hold the lead for him, that would have been a great story, top prospect comes up, replaces Lincecum and the Giants don't skip a step.

Still, he had a nice line, not sure why they took him out but it appeared to be pitch count because he was taken out in the middle of an inning with 76 pitches thrown (48 for strikes): 5.1 IP, 5 hits, 2 ER/R, 1 BB, 4 K, 2 HR. One less HR or 2 more outs, and he would have had a nice DOM start to start out his career. And the HR were aberations because he didn't give up that many in the minors.

Worrisome K-rate

Now, one of the worries of this season is that his K/9 went down greatly in AA - 5.8 K/9 - when he was much higher previously. There was also a noticeable drop in velocity, as he was easily in the mid-90's last season and early this season but in the last month or two, it was more in the high 80's. Could it be arm problems? Something else physical? Or is it just a dead arm?

Nothing to Worry

Baseball America's John Manuel wrote about Bumgarner at their website. First he covered how good Bumgarner has been as a pro:


...Bumgarner has been the best pitcher in the minor leagues the last two seasons—and it’s really not close. The lefthander is 27-5, 1.65 over 273 innings in 2008-2009, with 107 innings coming this year at Double-A Connecticut. Bumgarner has a sterling 256-to-55 strikeout-to-walk ratio overall and gave up just nine home runs in the minors, though he allowed a pair in his debut last night.

He also quoted one scout extensively, and I highlighted a lot of good information:

One scout, who also saw Bumgarner as an amateur at South Caldwell High in Hudson, N.C., said Bumgarner didn’t quite have the arm and hand speed now that he saw back in 2007, when the Giants took the lefthander the 10th overall selection. He also didn’t think the decrease in velocity was anything to worry about, not yet anyway.

"He threw a lot of 87s and 88s when I saw him and touched some 90s, but he still really pitched off the fastball," the scout said. "It was almost more encouraging to see him pitch that well using pitchability rather than just getting by on pure, raw stuff.

"I wouldn’t say he’s got a dead arm period, but I think it’s just the natural period that all young pitchers go through in their first or second year, when they lose a little arm speed (and) have to pitch through some fatigue."

This scout attributed Bumgarner’s success to his ability to create difficult angles for the hitter, command the fastball and maintain the pitch’s excellent late life. He said he’d still grade out Bumgarner’s fastball as above-average, even with velocity that was just average.

"He uses the fastball so well, and he’s got some deception," the scout said. "He throws a little across his body but not terribly, and he’s got that life and command. The thing is, so many young pitchers get exposed at upper levels because they don’t know how to pitch off the fastball. And when hitters don’t chase their secondary stuff when it’s out of the zone, they often don’t know how to pitch off the fastball. Or you’ll see that their fastball is really true and doesn’t have good enough life, or they don’t command it.

"He does those things already. He knows how to pitch off the fastball. We’ve seen him pitch at 93-94 miles per hour when he’s at his best, and I’ve seen him have a plus breaking ball when he stays on top of it, though it was inconsistent when he was an amateur. I didn’t see a great breaking ball when I saw him this year. But he still pitched very well because of the quality of that fastball, and I think we’ll see that electricity come back."

However, Manuel ends on a down note:

Bumgarner may turn out to be a major test of just how successful a starting pitcher can be working off one plus pitch, provided that pitch is the fastball. He’ll have to maintain the premium life and command the pitch exhibits while getting back to his old velocity to be a front-line starter. No matter how he develops, he’s unlikely to match the dominant numbers he posted as a minor leaguer.
Giants Thoughts

A good start shadowed by lowered velocity that tempers expectations. I think the Giants did the right thing to bring him up. We had to see how he would do with his lower velocity, in order to gauge what we got should his arm not return. Had the Giants not been in contention, I think he could have been brought up already, though not necessarily to start the whole month, because at some point you have to wonder why his arm is like this.

Given the stunning speed with which he was brought up, I think the Giants already had this in mind. They were probably prepared to bring him up should we fall out of contention, so when Lincecum had this little emergency, they were able to turn it around on a dime. However, they could not publicly acknowledge that possibility previously because then it would put doubt in the minds of the major league players that we might not stay in contention, as if management were not confident in our team.

I'm not worried about his health as it sounds like his arm is not in pain, and thus his arm should recover as it appears to be just how a young body reacts to the stress of his first two professional seasons. But you never really know until his arm recovers and we see him in spring training. So he probably would have gotten 1 or 2 starts before being sat down, just to see how he would do against major league hitters with his lesser velocity, should this be a permanent condition.

The scout provided a lot of great information and perspective. He noted how young pitchers naturally hit a spot in their first or second year where they lose arm speed. Even better, he would still grade Bumgarner's fastball as above-average, even with just average velocity. That's because he has a fastball that got life and his command is so good. (FYI: a fastball that has "life" - which is also called "stuff" - has movement to it as it comes in to the hitter, making it that much harder for the hitter to hit it.)

More importantly, despite his youth, he knows how to pitch off the fastball, which most pitchers don't learn until much later (or never learn). What we saw in this game is how he is when he is not at his best, when his velocity is down significantly. What is missing is a consistently good breaking ball (or two) that would give him the whole package.

The more I think about, the more I'm sure that Bumgarner will end up in AAA for 2010 and will probably stay there until he is able to consistently throw a breaking pitch well. He would be as good as Lincecum (or better) if he is able to do that. In addition, we don't really need him in the rotation for 2010. If Penny is willing to come back for a one year contract, I think that would be a great alternative. Even a two year contract is fine, as he could then be traded (or Sanchez) to get another hitter (or even Cain, as our contract with him ends in 2011, though I expect the Giants to sign him to an extension within the next year).

That would give us more years of Bumgarner after our control of Lincecum currrently ends, which is 2013 at the moment. Hopefully we can sign Lincecum into his free agent years, and right now, I think both sides will want that, but if for whatever reason we can't, then at least we try to develop Bumgarner so that he can reach his top potential, given his poise, expertise, and lively fastball.

Looking over Manuel's comments again, it isn't as negative as I originally read it as. Of course he's unlikely to match the dominant numbers he posted as a minor leaguer. Even Lincecum has not matched the dominant numbers he posted as a minor leaguer, and Lincecum has been heads and shoulders beyond what one could have expected. And of course he needs his old velocity to be a front-line starter. What's good is that we know that he's probably still good even if his velocity doesn't return.

Final note: to clear a spot for Bumgarner, the Giants DFAed Osiris Matos. RHP Matos, 25, has been very good all through the minors but has disappointed in the majors. He was considered future closer material by some analysts, so this was very surprising to me, though I wondered if his poorer results this year would put him on the edge.

Is Bocock that valuable that another team would pick him up? I'm sure some team is going to pick up Matos. I can only end by noting that the Giants must see a serious flaw in him that would prevent him from succeeding in the majors, else, I don't see why they released him over Bocock. Very perplexing, for even if Waldis Joaquin has risen above Matos on the organization's depth chart, a closer-like reliever is still valuable.

The long and winding road....
Let it be...

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Mad about Madison Bumgarner

It was announced today that Madison Bumgarner is getting called up, according to Henry Schulman's blog, The Splash. I've checked other usual sources and seen no other mention of this move (not that I don't believe it but rather no other bits of information to provide).

It has been announced that Lincecum has some sort of back injury that flared up and thus Bumgarner will be starting today. I also searched Twitter and someone speculated that this move was made because Affledt is hurting and Hinshaw ineffective, leaving only Runzler as the only LHP available. Bumgarner would add another lefty arm once Lincecum is OK. According to Schulman, Bochy did not indicate any long-term problem with Lincecum and noted that Lincecum would be better in a couple of days.

The question, again, is who gets pushed off the island (40-man roster) this time? I would have to go with my first choice last time, Brian Bocock. Anyone else would be someone who has or had some promise or prior performance, while Bocock hasn't hit anywhere he has played yet.

Giants Thoughts

Some people are upset and some are confused. I don't see what the problem is.

One, Bumgarner gets experience up in the majors. People discount this but Earl Weaver thought it was important enough that he brought starters up slowly, letting him relieve first then eventually start, as he acclimates to major league life. And the additional time on his service clock won't affect his arbitration status at all, as it is so little (same with Posey). I think this will be good for his development plus he might pick up some tips that he can work on over the off-season and prepare for the 2010 season. Who knows, this could also give the team a look at Bumgarner and see whether he can possibly be a starter for us to start next season.

Two, so what if Sabean "changed his mind". Life changes, circumstances changes. If the rumors are true that either Affeldt or Lincecum is hurting, then I can see bringing up Bumgarner to fill out their role. As much as Sabean likes to have vets, when there are no better alternatives, he at least goes with top young prospects instead of trading for one or bringing in an available vet.

People have been upset over Posey not being used, because they want his bat in the lineup, but Molina and Whiteside have been effective in their roles, so I understand why the Giants might choose to stay the course and not play Posey up to now. That could change given how poorly Molina has been hitting lately.

For Bumgarner, this is a different situation. We need a starter today and can use a reliever later. Martinez is not yet available to start, leaving us with no viable replacement starter. There are no effective alternatives to Bumgarner. Sometimes you just have to put the young guy in and see what happens.

However, that is not the same with Posey. As much as people denigrate Whiteside's offense, the team's ERA with him catching is 0.5 runs below Molina, and 0.69 runs below the runs allowed when Molina starts. Obviously, small samples involved, but if Whiteside just matched Molina ERA and RA for the enough games to match Molina, he would still be 14 earned runs ahead, and 19 runs allowed ahead, of Molina.

That is roughly 1.5 and 2 wins difference due to his handling of the pitchers, assuming the lower ERA was due to his defense and pitching handling and assuming he just does as well as Molina to compile enough games to match him. With 27 starts, there should be a good mix of starters with him, so this should not be because of a lot of starts with, say, Lincecum or Cain, which would skew the results. Obviously, Sanchez's no-hitter helps, but not by a lot, reduced by 0.1 to 0.15 runs, it would still be about 1 win and 1.5 win difference. And, again, this is assuming he just matches Molina in another 80 game started; if he does better, he adds to that total. I think it can be argued that Whiteside's defense makes up for his lack of offense relative to Posey or Molina.

Three, clearly the Giants are trying their hardest to get into the playoffs. They made two trades that were fraught with risk (and hasn't paid off yet, though that might change now that Sanchez is back), brought up Posey and Runzler, and now Bumgarner. Such moves energizes the team as well as the fanbase, as the team makes a push to reach the playoffs. They are trying to maximize their chances of reaching the off-season.

Personally, I'm glad both are up, but while I would put them in to see how they handle things, I understand if the Giants are focused on trying to get into the playoffs. I think they have been pretty consistent with how they have presented both call ups. Both were necessitated by injury or ineffectiveness on the major league roster. In Posey's case, he was only really needed if Molina went down for a long while, which didn't happen, plus now that he's here, they can substitute more freely. In Bumgarner's case, he is needed now, so he will get used now, whether as starter or reliever.

The focus is on maximizing the chances of the Giants to be competitive for the rest of the season. They might improve their chances of winning more and getting in by playing Posey, but they also increases the chances of losing more and getting left behind by playing Posey, because there are two adequate alternatives available. They don't really have any other choices with Bumgarner, and thus will have to use him, there is no other starter we could put in. That is not ideal, but life is usually not ideal, circumstances changes. Just deal with it.

About this game, it means Bumgarner vs. Correia, which I would have to say is a push. He will probably fool the 'Dres but he could also do poorly. We should still have a good chance for tomorrow's game, so winning the series is still a strong possibility, but the sweep not so much. Fortunately, bringing up Bumgarner now is ideal because we are facing the 'Dres, who are not that good a team, and not against the D-Rox, which is Lincecum's next start.

The wild card now is where Lincecum will pitch next. They could push him to pitch against LA this weekend on Friday but the problem with that is that this would push Penny out of the D-ger's series. Still, that would be Penny, Zito, Lincecum against Colorado instead of Lincecum, Zito, Cain. And against the D-gers after that, it would be Cain, Sanchez, Penny instead of Sanchez, Penny, Lincecum.

They could also just skip Lincecum's start to give him more rest before his start against Colorado which is his next scheduled start. That would give him rest against a team (SD) that we should be able to play well against, whether with Lincecum or not, and more importantly rest him up for his important start against Colorado.

This also benefits the rest of the season, and for the season overall. He had a dead arm spell (relatively) for a while, physically, as his K/9 was much lower than usual until his last game, where they gave him an extra day of rest. This rest will be good for preserving him long-term. And it would keep Penny on track for two starts against the D-gers. Interesting times indeed.

Go Giants! Go Bumgarner!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Your 2009 Giants are 75-62: Paddling the Padres (updated)

As disappointing as it was to come that close to sweeping the Brewers, still, it was a good trip, we came out even 3-3. And, really, we could have lost either of the other two games if not for circumstances, so winning 2 of 3 was all we really could hope for.


And now we are home and hopefully can make back some of those games we are now behind the D-Rox by winning more there than they can before we meet them again next week. We will probably have to do it against the 'Dres because we face the D-gers this weekend, who will be tough to beat and even tougher to sweep, though with their rotation problems, who know, maybe we can put one to them this weekend.


Unfortunately, Yahoo, like many brainiac tech firms, "new and improved" their team webpage and took away the matchups from that page, which is what led me to my error with the second game of Milwaukee. (Do they have any fanatic baseball fan's input into that page? Obviously not). So I'll cover just the first game here.


Then the odd thing is that they present the matchups on the boxscore webpage, so then I'll cover the rest of the matchups afterward. Just from the top looking down, the 'Dres are playing tougher as the spoilers now. They are 9-3 in their last 12. While part of that was sweeping the hapless Nats, they also won series from better teams, Atlanta, Florida, and the D-gers. So they will be tough to play against and beat up on. A sweep is not really in the cards, they are not faltering down the end, they are playing great spoilers.


Game 1: Brad Penny vs. Clayton Richards


Penny did well against the Giants when pitching in SF, but admittedly some of that was against poorer lineups. Still, he did great his last start, so I expect another DOM start from him (see PQS). Richard is not that bad a pitcher, about a middle of rotation guy already and he's only 25, soon to be 26. He has pitched well in SD but not so well on the road, 5.06 ERA with both ChiSox and 'Dres (they got him in the mid-season trade for Peavy). He could be good in the future but right now Penny should be able to beat him, plus the Giants just hit better at home than on the road.

ADDENDUM BELOW: UPDATED FOR MATCHUPS

Game 2: Tim Lincecum vs. Kevin Correia

I liked Correia when he was with the Giants. If he didn't get injured with an oblique injury, he might have pitched the way I think he could and be a nice tradeable chip. He's doing OK with the 'Dres now, 4.25 ERA, but that's a function of his homepark (3.68 ERA at home, 5.14 ERA on road). Still, that's not too bad for a back of a rotation pitcher, plus he's has thrown 163.2 IP, on track for about 190 IP. He could get a nice 2-3 year contract for $12-20M if he free agents with stats like that and consistent starting and eatting of innings. However, he's never pitched well in SF, didn't pitch well against us his one start against us this season, and he's facing Lincecum, who came off a very nice start in his last start.

On the other hand, he's put together a nice streak over his past 8 starts: 3 DOM starts, 1 DIS start. And 2 DOM starts out of his last 3 road starts, one in Milwaukee and one in Cincinati. And he was just a strikeout away from a third DOM start. So that is one factor that might favor him starting.

Still, the Giants hit well at home, he's never pitched well in SF nor in his one start against us in SF, and, again, Lincecum is the opposing starter, speaks well for the Giants. We should be winning this one, and with the Giants leading 9-2 in the bottom of the 8th, should win this series.
Game 3: Barry Zito vs. Wade LeBlanc

Nothing much good to say about LPH LeBlanc in his MLB play so far, he has been pretty bad. For Zito, he has been pretty good for the most part, and even when he wasn't on, which he wasn't in his last game, he still kept the lid on scoring, which is all you can ask for, and gave up only those 2 very early runs for his 4 IP. Plus the Giants have played well against LHP, 21-15 (with today's win). Looks like the Giants should win.

'Dres Series

Despite all the positiveness for the Giants in each game (including winning the first game), the probability is still that the Giants only win 2 of 3 in this series, though the possibility for a sweep is strong against the 'Dres despite their nice winning streak, because of the lack of quality in their starters relative to our starters in the remaining two games. With the season's end coming up fast, time is running out, they need to man up again and sweep the 'Dres in their season of woe, take advantage of their woe while the getting is good, unlike the other teams, LA, Florida, Atlanta, who are playing for the playoffs.

Because the D-Rox are playing the D-backs, are playing hot, and got two games on us already and we can't fall further back than that before we meet them next week. Two is as far back as we can get, because then if we win the series next week 2-1, then we are only one game back, with our weak part of the Giants remaining schedule coming up and the D-Rox hard part of their remaining schedule coming up. As I noted previously, that would bode well for us winning a spot in the playoffs.

Because we face the D-gers, who have been the team to beat in the NL West this season, and despite their problems and playing on the road, they will still be tough to win a series against at home this weekend. So we need to do the job against the 'Dres beforehand by sweeping them. Plus, the D-gers have fallen to only 3.5 games ahead of the D-Rox, and if they don't do well against us this coming weekend, the Giants could put them into a three way race for the NL West title, along with the D-Rox. After leading by so much and for so long this season, plus troubles in their pitching rotation, they have to be looking over their backs now, and thus some might start choking.

Still, good position to be in. We are at home where we have the best home record and won most series played here. We face a team in transition, another rebuilding team that just traded away their Lincecum and thus searching for a new rotation leader and a few years behind us in re-building. We can't worry about what the D-Rox do, we can only control what we do each game, and thus we need to basically win every game, the heat is on, as the old song goes. Hopefully the Giants are up to the task: they have been all season, for the most part, though.

Go Giants!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Your 2009 Giants are 73-61: Brewers Brewing

(Note: this has been edited; turns out Gallardo pitching 2nd game instead, so I've changed the pitcher comparisons)

Disappointing Phillies series, but that is the way it goes sometimes when you are playing against pitchers as good as Hamels, Happ, and Martinez. Even when you got Sanchez, Penny, and Lincecum going for you. You tip your cap to them and be glad you got a win out of it, and move on. They are the defending World Series champions, afterall, and have one of the best offenses around.

Brewers

Zito vs. Suppan: Perfect storm here. Zito is going strong, Suppan not, in fact he's horrible at home this season, 6.28 ERA. And has a 5.86 ERA against the Giants during his career. Dark cloud, however, is that Zito has not pitched well here at all in his career, with an ERA over 8. But that was the old Zito, this is the current one. I think the Giants should get this.

Cain vs. Yovoni Gallardo: Gallardo is one of the best pitchers in the league, just like Cain. The scary thing is that he is even better at home. However, his second half stats are much worse than his first half. Still, it's all relative, his second half ERA is only 4.28, and his home ERA is 3.28, while his overall ERA is 3.58. Plus, he has pitched well at home against the Giants.

Cain has been bad in Miller Park before, but he's an improved Cain this season. Still, I don't see how the Giants can come up on top of this one, though Gallardo only lasted 5.0 IP his last two outings, so things might pick up for us if we can get into their bullpen. Not that Cain is not that good, more that he'll be battling someone who is his equal for the most part, and he has home advantage.

Sanchez vs. Braden Looper: Looper has not been good either home or on the road, about 5 ERA either way. He also hasn't pitched well against the Giants during his career, 565 ERA. Sanchez has been horrible at Miller but he's an improved Sanchez this half of the season. The Giants should be the favorites in this matchup.

So it looks like the Giants should win 2 of 3 this series [addendum: I say this with knowledge we already got one from them in Game 1], keeping up with the Rockies for the most part. A sweep is possible, but not too likely unless the bats wake up against Gallardo, which is not very likely. Maybe somebody will inspire the team.

Addendum: Remember, the main goal is to keep close to the D-Rox, so whatever they do this weekend, we need to match or equal that. But that's hard when they are playing the D-backs, though the D-backs have been a little tougher lately, going 6-4 over their last 10 games.

Go Giants!

Giant's Great Rotation: What I've Been Saying

I wrote most of this on ELM (I'm a tweaker), but thought I should post it here too, as I discuss my theories about how the Giants having a great rotation, top to bottom, is an advantage:

You can bet that the Phillies are starting to sweat now and hope the Rockies win the wild card, because the Giants could be facing the Phillies (though the Cards have charged past them and currently would be the team playing the wild card team) at some point in the playoffs. They have beaten them 4 out of 5 games and now has Lincecum on the mound today.

I would think any team we face would have to sweat now. Even if they avoid Lincecum, they get to face Cain, or they can miss Zito, but they get to face Sanchez. The hope for other teams would have been that Penny would be the Bad Penny from Boston, instead of the Bad-Ass Penny from LA/Florida, but it looks like the Giants got the latter. Now even if you avoid Cain, you could end up facing Penny, Lincecum, Zito or Sanchez, Penny, Linecum.

Any way you slice it, you get to face 3 tough pitchers when you face the Giants in September 2009. You might tough out the first game, but to face such good pitching, day after day, has to be hard on their confidence as hitters. Even the best hitters has their fears, that is why some come up with Lincecum flu whenever he pitches against them. They have their insecurities too.

So this series is a strong message to the rest of the NL, the rest of the majors. The Phillies are one of the top offensive teams in the majors, and particularly in their bandbox ballpark, and boast great hitters in Rollins, Victorino, Howard, and especially Utley, plus Werth and Ibanez has been great too. 1 run in 18 innings. And while they have a pretty safe lead, teams have lost 7 game leads before in September, so you don't want to be throwing away games yet, you are still playing hard. 1 run in 18 innings and now they get to face a well rested Lincecum, who pitches better with more rest. And they did this facing the Giants #4 and #5 pitchers. And no one is blinking an eye that they did that, these pitchers are capable of such good outings. 1 run in 18 innings. Other teams can't look at that without shaking their heads and being glad that they don't have any more games with the Giants because those facing them has to feel it.

Not that other teams will lie down and roll over for the Giants, but there is no gimmes in any series for the rest of the season against the Giants. You missed Lincecum, whew!, but now you face Zito, Cain, Sanchez, or Cain, Sanchez, Penny. You get a Cy Young candidate and a guy who threw a no-hitter, either way. If you miss Cain, you get Sanchez, Penny, Lincecum or Penny, Lincecum, Zito. You get last year's Cy Young winner and contender for this season, plus a rejuventated Penny.

Or you could face Lincecum, Zito, Cain. It was not that long ago that such a series would not be considered that bad. Zito was the gimme and Cain always seemed to give up just enough runs to lose, so it's OK to face Lincecum since you got the other two. Now, Zito is the one to be feared right now, Cain has raised things a notch this season, and you still have to face Lincecum.

And that's what the Rockies face in our last series with them. We will probably be one or two games behind them at that point, needing to sweep them again to catch up. And we'll have the pitching to do that again.

And the Dodgers get to face Cain, Sanchez, Penny in our first series, then Sanchez, Penny, Lincecum in our second series. Penny is going to want blood there. And it would not surprise me if Sanchez pitches a complete game in one of those starts (his only other one is his no-hitter, I believe).

The Brewers are sinking fast and get to face Zito, Cain, Sanchez. And later Chicago gets to see Penny, Lincecum, Zito, and Cain, missing Mr. No-hitter.

Advantage of the Great Rotation

This, is what I've been saying for years now about where the Giants are headed. Building a rotation full of good to great pitchers, having teams bow down to us like the animals do in the jungle when the army ants come through. When you have great pitching like that, it won't take much offense to win with that. Adding a good pitcher, as Penny appears to be now, gives us a glipse of future, of what it'll be like when Bumgarner then (hopefully) Wheeler join the rotation.

And once you get into the playoffs, that will give you the advantage once again: like the lineup where there are no easy outs, this is a pitcher rotation where there are no easy game. Each game will be a grind, a test of their hitter's mental strength, and each game is wildly different, from Lincecum's fastball and changeup, to Zito's soft stuff and nasty curveball, to Cain's fastball, to Sanchez's quirky lefty fastball, to now Penny's heat, sinkers, and stuff.

Great hitters, when they can concentrate, can hit great, but by late season, it is getting harder and harder to keep that concentration going. To keep it up for a 5 or 7 game series chould wear out most hitters except for the best. We got that rotation to do it now.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Is Kung Fu Panda's high BABIP Sustainable? Part II

Someone on the other site questioned my premise that I then posted at my blog here, so I responded thusly:

Not as preposterous as trying to compare the BABIP for unique hitters with other unique hitters. Just because Vlad and Franchez couldn't hit with that high a BABIP doesn't mean that Sandoval can't. Each hitter's BABIP is unique unto themselves, they are all individuals.

If you are going to go the route of comparing players to determine whether a BABIP is sustainable, it would be better to find players who hit as well in the minors in terms of striking out as they did in the majors, and at a superior level, at least in their first year or so in the majors. I wouldn't know how to find these similar players easily, so that would not be an avenue of examination.

How did Other High BABIP Players' Careers Evolve?

Another way would be to see how comparable players did for their careers. Just because they don't or didn't hit for as high a BABIP as Sandoval, perhaps their career progression could be instructive regarding how their careers evolved. Of course, again, we don't know how to find players where they started off high then fell, so the assumption here is if Sandoval turned out to be a good hitter for his career, how did other good players perform in their later years.

Vlad had a .313 BABIP in his first half season, then a .331 BABIP in his first full season, which is .325 over the two seasons. His career BABIP right now is .319. So he has pretty much sustained it during his career, with it declining now as he has reached his 30's. For his 20's, after the initial two above seasons, it was .321. So while it was down in his 30's, it was not drastically down, at .316 BABIP.

Freddy Sanchez is different in that he didn't make the majors full time until much later in age. In his first full season plus partial of the previous season, his BABIP was .334. It is .323 for his career. He has sustained it thus far, minus a little.

Some have called him Fat Ichiro. Ichiro is different because he started his career in the majors very late because he was in Japan for his early years. His first season he had a .369 BABIP and it is .357 for his career. It was only .349 for all his 20's so he actually raised things a notch in his 30's, where his BABIP is now .362. He has basically sustained his BABIP for his career, like the others, but down about 1 percentage points (10 for BA).

I thought I would check some other good hitters of similar shape. Tony Gwynn in his first full season had a .351 BABIP, which appears to have led the league. That would suggest that Sandoval cannot sustain a .350 BABIP. Then again, Ichiro not only has sustained that, but raised things a notch in his 30's. Gwynn is a little different because he had two half seasons before becoming a full-time starter. I would also note that his career BABIP is .341, so he pretty much did sustain roughly .350 BABIP during his career, and in his 20's, after that great first season, it was .343 BABIP, which means it went down slightly in his 30's as well.

Thinking of a similar shaped player, Kirby Puckett came to mind. His first full for the most part) season he had a .337 BABIP. He had a .342 BABIP for his career, and a .351 BABIP for the rest of his 20's. He not only sustained it, but raised it a notch in his 20's.

So, generally, for these good hitters, their BABIP was roughly about what it was their first season, season and a half, with a slight decline of 5 to 10 points when viewed by career. They were all roughly about the same level whether in their 20's or in their 30's or their first season, season and a half, meaning that these hitters were able to be pretty consistent with their BABIPs across their career, with a decline in their 30's but nothing drastic.

Sidenote: OPS Comparision

I thought it would be interesting to see their OPS.

OPS first full season:

Sandoval: .939 today
VladimirG: .960
Franchez: .851
Ichiro: .838
T.Gwynn: .853
Kirby P.: .715

A thing I should note regarding this is that all of the above players started out AFTER Sandoval. Sandoval had his first full season at age 22. Vlad at 23. Franchez at 27 (not quite full but I'll use this). Ichiro at 27. Tony Gwynn at 24. Kirby Puckett at age 24. That would suggest that Sandoval could have some additional development as he reaches 23, 23, 27.

He's already changing within this season, he didn't walk that much his first two month, much like his two months last season, but in June to August, he boosted his walk rate about double was it was the first two months. He had 8 walks in 180 PA in the first two months, then he had 28 in 324 PA in the next three months. 4.4% vs 8.6%. Without IBB, 2.8% vs. 6.6%.

How Do Other Not As Good Players Careers Evolve?

I was curious how other more journeymen players might fare in examining their career BABIP.

Marquis Grissom had a .302 BABIP his first full season plus his half season before and a .295 BABIP for his career. .302 BABIP in his 20's after that, he had his first full season at age 24. Similar results as for the stars, BABIP does not vary that greatly between his initial success and his later career numbers.

Michael Tucker had a .321 BABIP for his first full season plus his half season before and a .304 BABIP for his career. .302 BABIP in his 20's after that, he had his first full season at age 26. Again, similar, but a bigger drop than others.

Jose Cruz Jr. had a weird start to his career. Three partial but significant seasons to start his career at age 23, before his first full season at age 26. Ironically, his BABIP was much higher in those seasons than in his first full one: .295 vs. .258. .289 in his 20's after first full season. .282 for his career.

Luis Gonzalez had his first pretty full season at age 23, 137 games, BABIP of .295 vs. career .291 BABIP. .288 BABIP for his 20's after his first full season.

I thought Nomar might be a good one to check, as his career started out great but fizzled out due to injuries in his 30's. .315 BABIP in his first full season at 23 with .875 OPS. .324 BABIP in his 20's after that. .290 BABIP in his 30's, .311 for his career. Looks like the injuries that affected him starting at age 30 caught up with him, along with his age.

That got me thinking of Nick Johnson, another injury prone player, and the odd thing with him is that his BABIP actually rose during his career. .291 in his first "full" season (he's never had a lot of full seasons because of his injuries, except 2005 and 2006, and now maybe this season). .312 BABIP in his 20's, then .346 this season, his 30 YO season. His BABIP in his two full seasons was .324. Probably not a good example because his injury marred seasons were more subject to small sample fluctuations that a full season normalizes. What a waste, he could have been some player without all those injuries, it appears.

Then I thought, maybe a player who did not have a long career but long enough, like Marvin Benard. .290 BABIP in his first full season at age 26. His career ended basically at 31, though he got scattered ABs after that. His career BABIP is .310, so again, about the same as his BABIP for his first season.

No Evidence that Pablo Cannot Sustain his BABIP

All in all, I am still unconvinced that Panda's rate of BABIP is unsustainable. Just because it is higher than other players who are similar hitters does not mean that he is resigned to falling down to their levels because each player is different. There have been players who were able to sustain a .350 BABIP, though they were the best of the best, and it remains to be seen whether Pablo is in their league.

Looking at a variety of different hitters, while BABIP does vary greatly from year to year, a hitter's BABIP is generally around what it was in his first full season, season and a half, for his 20's and for his 30's with a drop in his later years. Of course, this is not random, so perhaps I'm just missing something. Still, that is a pretty good mix of players, and most of the them are around what they did in their early years.

Still, that does not mean Pablo will necessarily continue his high BABIP. Just that I couldn't find evidence. Perhaps someone with better means than manual examination can find a way to examine this.

Is Kung Fu Panda's high BABIP Sustainable?

I posted most of this in response to a question on whether Pablo Sandoval's high BABIP is sustainable or not, and thought I should add it here:

Generally, no, such a BABIP is not sustainable, particularly since he is prone to swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, sometimes way out of the strike zone. It would not surprise me if he's one of those hitters who one day will swing at one of the four wide ones in an IBB and get a hit off it.

But Kung Fu Panda is like a bumblebee. He's big and round and yet he is very athletic, has been described as that for a while now. I was totally amazed by two exceptional slides that he made late last season to score a run, in both cases, he was very close to being tagged out but he slid perfectly to avoid the tag, as if he was a ballet dancer. Once I could call a fluke but twice within a week, I couldn't dismiss. He swings at almost everything under the sun, but he's able to get the good part of the bat on the ball most of the time and get hits, almost ridiculously so, as he does not strike out at a very high rate, he has been able to keep his contact rate at 85% or higher at every level in the minors and been able to continue doing that in the majors.

That to me is the key stat that suggests that perhaps his BABIP is sustainable at a high rate. It is not like he is being cheated on his ABs, he has hit very well for the past two seasons and have not struck out very often. Only the better hitters can keep his contact rate above 85% by not striking out that often.

Of course, it would be better if he took more walks. The best hitters can get as many walks as strikeouts. Obviously, that is easier when you don't strike out that often. That is one negative. But he has improved on that greatly in the past few months. From June to August, he had 28 walks and 45 strikeouts, for a ratio of 0.6, which is much better, and getting closer to the 1.0 the best hitters achieve.

His career BABIP is probably pretty close to what he is capable of. I'm using baseball-reference.com's numbers because they provide splits, and his career BABIP is .351 and 2009's is .349, for perspective. His monthly BABIP has bounced around, and when he is on, it's in the .400's but when he cold, he's in the low .300's. That averages out to .350 roughly (more like .360). His median is .355. If you took his high and low and averaged, then next and averaged, each would roughly be around .350, there is no skewing of the data at all towards high or low, thus far.

Of course, small sample sizing, so this is mostly tea leave reading. But that's all you can really do with a major leaguer so early in his career. The positives are his great contact rate all through the minors and majors, his high resultant BABIP through his career, his good to great monthly performances, his worst months as a major leaguer were last Sept when he hit .315/.333/.499/.783 and this April, .307/.350/.440/.790. The only month he has hit under .300 is July, when he hit .298/.327/.529/.856 with 5 HR in 104 AB.

As noted, his one big negative is his lack of walks, but he has gotten in the last 3 months 13, 5, and 10 walks, which is very good for him, showing that he does take to instruction.

That's another thing I've been impressed with, his willingness to work to get better, for if we assume that the BABIP is not sustainable, then at least he is willing to work to get better and maybe learn to make it sustainable. His willingness to not swing as often has been paying off the last three months, and it is not all due to IBB, he had 7 out of 28, reducing his rate to roughly 7 per month, still good, particularly compared to how he was before, a Bengie Molina-like hitter. In addition, once the Giants said he's our 3B at the end of the 2008 season, he worked all off-season, taking hundreds of grounders at 3B from coaches and continued that into spring training. He works hard, he cares about being better, being good.

I'll end by noting that a number of veteran hitters, such as Carney Lansford, has said that the hitter Kung Fu Panda looks most like is Vladimir Guerrero, for the way they are bad ball hitters. And nothing against Vlad, since I don't know how eager he was to learn, but Sandoval looks poised to become one of the greats of the game because he has a good base for where he is right now, but he's willing to do grunt work like taking grounders every day, ride the exercise bike for half an hour after every game because the coaches told him he needs to keep in better shape, and taking more pitches when his natural inclination is to swing the bat. That is what separates those who are good enough for the majors and those who become the greats, the desire to better yourself, do menial work that many players would at least lock horns with their coaches over doing them, particularly if they are hitting like he is hitting. Best of all, he has a cheery attitude, even when he got hit in the mouth with a grounder, and his braces embedded into his lips, he was upbeat.

Of course, there will be those who say that I'm being a homer, but I think I'm pretty good at separating the fanboy from the inner realist. I think the reasoning above is sound for why Sandoval can do it where others would falter. I think I've covered the angles.

In addition, I think I know more about this particular player and situation because I read up on a lot of Giants news and get to know the players more. Like that he grew up in a middle class environment, which is very different from a lot of Latin American players, and his mother wanted him to go to school and get a degree, but instead he wanted to play baseball, but has been treating it like it was a college degree that he is working towards, willing to learn and absorb what the coaches has to offer. I think this adds to the evaluation of this particular situation, and I'm not saying he will, but I think that there are a lot of excellent signs, but quantitative and qualitative, that suggests that Sandoval can continue to do what he has done so far.

I'm really excited about him, haven't been this excited over a hitter since Will Clark and Matt Williams made the Giants.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Buster Posey: Come on Up!

This was originally a post about someone's positive observations on Posey (see below) but with the news about Buster Posey being called up, I had to write on this first. As announced on The Splash by Henry Schulman and Andy Baggarly on his blog, Buster Posey was called up today. Also, BTW, Dan Runzler, another AFL assigned prospect for the Giants, was called up too, to provide lefty support (probably because Hinshaw did so poorly).

I was wondering if this was a possibility with Molina injured and out so long, but all the signs pointed to No so I never noted it. Posey will probably not be starting today in Penny's first start, according to Schulman's blog, but one would think that he will be starting some games along the way, more if he starts hitting right off. Or, at worse, push Molina to start when he says he can, which he said is Thursday's game, or risk starting the Posey era now.

The big question for me is who did the Giants remove from the roster in order to put Posey and Runzler on the 40 man roster. There are no more players to put on the 60-day DL, so the Giants will have to start to waive players.

I would think that Bocock is one and Jesse English is the another, because almost everyone else is either on the MLB roster or on the 60 day DL. The only other 40 man roster players are Osiris Matos, Joe Martinez, Ryan Sadowski, Matt Downs, and Conor Gillaspie. Baggarly also mentioned that Sadowski was on a travel list, and while being called up is one possibility, being waived could be another. I would be OK with losing either, but both have regressed this season, so I don't expect any team to pick them up, though someone might take a flier on English.

Observations and Opinions on Buster Posey

Adam Foster of Prospect Project published his observations of Buster Posey the other day, and it was generally positive.


  • I've had a chance to see Buster Posey play in Triple-A, High-A and Minor League Spring Training this year. I hadn't really seen him have a bad at-bat before last week.
  • As expected, Posey wasn't controlling Triple-A at-bats nearly as well as he was able to in High-A.
  • The key at-bat that I saw last week was when Posey faced Henry Alberto Rodriguez. Rodriguez was powering his fastball in the high-90s (96-99). Posey quickly adjusted to the flamethrower by shortening his leg kick. Posey ended up popping up, but he wasn't overmatched by one of the livest arms in the world. That's a pretty good sign.
  • Posey also looks decent on defense. ... he hasn't made many defensive mistakes when I've seen him this year. He looks comfortable behind the plate. His arm is solid. And he moves fairly well.
  • I don't expect Posey to be an above-average defender, but he should be average. Combine that defensive value with a bat that should be well-above-average for a catcher and you have a very elite prospect.

That is a pretty good review of where he thinks Posey is right now. Sounds like he could be ready for the majors by next season, with the key question being, to start the season starting in the MLB or wait until mid-season? I don't think that question is answered here, but nothing here says that it won't happen either.

Defensive Difference

The only thing I would note is that most evaluations of Posey have said that he is expected to be an above-average defender:

  • In Minor League Baseball Analyst, Deric McKamey noted that Posey's defensive skills are graded as above average and his catcher pop time is above average at 1.85 seconds (1.95 is MLB average). He commented, "Above average defender with arm strength, receiving skills, and a quick release (1.85)."
  • In Baseball Prospectus they commented, "Posey is interesting in that it's hard to see superstar in his tool set, but it's also nearly impossible not to see him becoming an above-average catcher both offensively and defensively in short order."
  • Baseball Prospectus' prospect guru, Kevin Goldstein, wrote in his 2009 Top 100 list that "... Posey projects as an athletic .300-hitting catcher with average power and outstanding defense."
  • Baseball America noted, "He profiles as a catcher in the mold of Joe Mauer. ... Arm strength isn't a problem ... He's agile and has soft hands, and he even runs well. ... Posey is still relatively new to catching and will need time to develop behind the plate, especially his game-calling skills."
  • MiLB's Jonathan Mayo wrote in his 2009 Top 50 Prospect ranking, "Upside potential: Top all-around catcher who reaches the Majors quickly and stays for a long time."
  • Baseball Intellect's Alex Eisenberg, in his examination of the Giants top 15 prospects for 2009, rated Posey using the scouting scale of 20-80 as 55 Now, 60 in the future, which is above average. After the draft, he noted, "Posey is more athletic than most catchers, possesses good footwork around the plate and projects to be an at least average defensive catcher with the potential to become plus. His arm is said to be about above average."
Just add his comments to the mix of other comments about Posey, as a note of caution regarding Posey's defensive potential.

When Can He Start?

In a pre-season article on Posey, Brian Harper, the Giants' roving catching instructor noted that most proficient catchers need to play at least 200 to 300 games in the minors to get them ready for the majors.

It looks like he's going to be short. He has played in 125 games in the minors thus far and should get into at least 6 more games or so, with Fresno having 7 games left in the season, for a total of 131. He played in 19 games in the Hawaiian Winter League last season. That puts him at 150. In the AFL, he could be getting into at least 20 games as a catcher (Frandsen got into 32 in 2008 and Schierholtz got into 23 in 2007; but the top catcher for the Giants team in 2007 got into only 15 games, in 2008 just 18 games, for their team, though Matt Weiters, an equivalent prospect to Posey, got into 20 games). That puts him at 170, which is short on the rule of thumb. FYI, had he signed early, he would have reached 200 already, as he probably would have put in enough time to reach 200 games.

That suggests that the Giants might follow Matt Weiters path, where he stayed in the minors and the team signed a free agent catcher (Greg Zaun should be free again for that duty; so is Jose Molina) who understood that he started initially but would be the backup once the star prospect catcher is ready to come up to the majors. At roughly 30 games, that would put him around the mid-May to early June timeframe to come up, which is about when Weiters joined the Orioles.

Go with Posey in 2010

Personally, as much as I like Molina, I would rather the Giants just start Posey in 2010 and sign an experienced backup just in case. He would stay up for good, but basically learn on the job as well as he can. He would also learn from the experienced backup, I would make them roommates on the road. The vet would start more often if Posey struggles, but my expectation is that struggles will be minimal in terms of being so bad that he needs to be sent back down. While I would not think he will hit the ground running, I think his season will be like Sandoval's this season in that he would struggle initially but then the light will go on and he'll start hitting and fielding well.

I don't expect that to happen because the Giants, based on past behavior, tend to not want to risk starting a young player when they are contenders, and after this season, they should expect to be contenders next season. And they will already be dealing with two young starting OF, most probably Schierholtz in RF (but maybe Bowker too) and Velez/Lewis/Bowker in LF, plus Garko at 1B (and perhaps Ishikawa too).

Still, the team has won even though Molina has not hit that well (low 700 OPS) in a key position in the lineup (clean up), so if they bat Sandoval clean up and put Posey down lower in the lineup, say 7th, that could work just as well as this season has, if not better. It could be Velez/Lewis leadoff, Franchez, Schierholtz/Bowker, Sandoval, Garko/Ishikawa, Rowand, Posey, Renteria, pitcher.

Posey should handle batting 7th fine at the start of his first MLB season. The average 7th place hitter hit .254/.318/.402/.720 and hit around 15 HR in a season. Posey should be able to match that if not beat it easily if he's as good as advertised. And his MLE for his play in Fresno works out to .274/.331/.415/.746 and roughly 15+ HR in a season.

And if he starts hitting like he projects, he could move up to batting 3rd or 5th for us, since he would be hitting almost as well as Sandoval, only better OBP and lesser SLG. If it's Bochy, then he's probably hitting 3rd, like Sandoval did this season (another pain point for me, if he trusts Sandoval enough to bat 3rd, why didn't he just bat him 5th, where his hitting would generate more runs than batting 3rd? Aggravated me.). But the 3rd hitter gets more situations where there are 2 outs and/or less runners on base, and you want your better hitter to bat in better circumstances, like 4th or 5th. If Posey hits as advertised, then it is probably better to bat Posey 4th and Sandoval 5th.

Whole New Ballgame

However, with this call up, it's a whole new ballgame. Given this message from the Giants to Molina with this move, I have to think that the Giants must be seriously thinking about starting Posey in 2010. Plus, we will get a sense for how strongly the Giants feel about Posey's offensive abilities by how they use him if/when they start him this month. And, we will get to see how he hits in pressure situations.

This is great. I wanted this to happen but thought that was out the door based on all the news about Posey possibly being on Team USA and other news. I think it is time to kick the tires on Posey and see how good he is. Hopefully he will be able to make some starts this month, seems to be a waste to bring him up if he does not get any starts, but you never know. At minimum, I wanted him here to soak in the playoff atmosphere and get used to such an environment, and just get used to being in the majors, period.

Any production we get out of him would be a bonus. Of course, I'm hoping to get a bonus. :^) The bigger, the better. And I think that if they put him to start in any games, he would produce, though perhaps not initially, but eventually with more ABs. I think this will be a good thing for the Giants, if only for the excitement it will bring to the team and the fans.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

2009 Giants: August PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of August 2009, PQS as defined in Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster annual book and they published the details here. I wrote on this first in 2006 and have compiled their stats on a regular basis, so I'm continuing it this season for continuity and historical comparison (there is the "PQS" label that you can click to see the old posts on this). Regular readers can skip to the next section.

This is the Quality Start with a sabermetric DIPS twist, and it gets really easy to calculate once you get used to it. I don't think it's the end all or be all, but then nothing really is that. It is, as I like to say, another piece of the puzzle. A dominating start is scored a 4 or 5 and a disaster start is scored a 0 or 1. DOM% is the percentage of starts that are dominating, DIS% is the percentage of starts that are disasters (any start under 5.0 IP is automatically a 0, or disaster).

Basically, you want to see a pitcher's DOM% to be over 40% and ideally over 50%, and you want their DIS to be under 20% and ideally under 10%. For example, Johan Santana has a 76% DOM and 3% DIS in 2006 (2.77 ERA), whereas Orlando Hernandez had a 52% DOM and 28% DIS (4.66 ERA), and Adam Eaton had a 31% DOM and 31% DIS (5.12 ERA). See my explanation down below on methodology plus read the link, there's a nice chart there showing the combination of high DOM% and low DIS%, and particularly how low DIS% is so important.

I wholeheartedly recommend buying Baseball Forecaster and learning more about their methods of analyzing baseball. It has been greatly illuminating for me, and if you want to get a taste for it without paying full price, they used to sell their old editions of their annuals on their website for half price or less (plus shipping); but that was before he sold the company off, and I haven't checked recently.

Giants Starters' PQS for 2009 Season

Matt Cain - (65% DOM, 4% DIS; 17:1/26): 5, 2, 4, 4, 1, 4, 3, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 5, 5, 5, 3, 5, INJ, 5, 4, 4, 3, 4, 4, 4, 3, 3

Randy "The Big Unit" Johnson- (31% DOM, 31% DIS; 5:5/16): 3, 0, 5, 0, 5, 0, 2, 0, 3, 5, 3, 2, 4, 3, 5, 1, INJ

Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (82% DOM, 4% DIS; 23:1/28): 0, 2, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 4, 5, 5, 4, 3, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 3, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 3, 4, 5

Joe Martinez - (0% DOM, 40% DIS; 0:2/5): 3, 0, 2, 2, 0

Ryan Sadowski - (17% DOM, 50% DIS; 1:3/6): 3, 4, 3, 0, 0, 0

Jonathan Sanchez - (45% DOM, 23% DIS; 10:5/22): 0, 3, 3, 0, 2, 2, 4, 4, 0, 0, 3, 0, 2, 5, 4, 3, 4, 5, 4, 4, 4, 5

Barry Zito - (52% DOM, 15% DIS; 14:4/27): 0, 3, 5, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 0, 5, 2, 0, 4, 0, 4, 4, 3, 5, 5, 4, 5, 4, 5

Giants season overall - 54% DOM, 16% DIS out of 130 games counted (70:21/130)

Giants Month of April - 40% DOM, 25% DIS out of 20 games counted (8:5/20)

Giants Month of May - 52% DOM, 17% DIS out of 29 games counted (15:5/29)

Giants Month of June - 44% DOM, 15% DIS out of 27 games counted (12:4/27)

Giants Month of July - 62% DOM, 19% DIS out of 26 games counted (16:5/26)

Giants Month of August - 68% DOM, 7% DIS out of 28 games counted (19:2/28)

Lincecum kept rolling into July and yet had another 5 DOM starts. But he did not lead the team in August, as, surprise, surprise, Barry Zito had 6 DOM starts out of 6. In addition, Lincecum was not even 2nd in DOM% for the month because Jonathan Sanchez had 5 DOM starts out of 5 for 100% DOM, just like Zito. Cain added only 3 DOM himself, as he struggled a bit, which is unusual because in years past, August was when he dominated. And Martinez had no DOM starts, leading to the acquisition of Brad Perry.

The staff altogether now have a 54% DOM overall: remember, only the best pitchers can achieve a 50% DOM in a season, but our staff is so good that as a group it has 54%. And if Sanchez hadn't decided to take on some of Johan Santana's mechanics, who knows how good he could have been this season. Since he has returned to the rotation, he has a 89% DOM, no disaster starts, in 9 starts.

Zito led the way to their amazing August where they had a 68% DOM: remember, only the elite pitchers of the league can get their DOM% to 70% and our pitching rotation did that together as a group. Zito has been amazing this month, leading the rotation and winning some tough games against the D-Rox.

Cain was disappointing because he has been up and down in August. I'm not sure why he is struggling, there is no sign that anything is wrong, for now, but he had been a horse previously, piling up the innings, so I'm worried about his health for the 2010 season, hopefully this is not a sign that he's starting to break down.

Johnson is not returning to the rotation and might not even return to the team. Sounds like he wants to return and do some relief pitching, which would be exciting to have. If he can be productive in that role, he would be a valuable addition to the bullpen.

With Penny joining the rotation, it should only get better for DOM. In his last 10 starts, he has 4 DOMs and 3 DISs starts. That would add to DOM while having the same DIS as Sadowski or Martinez.

Overall, the rotation performed pretty much like it did in July, only better. As I noted, with a 54% DOM overall and 68% DOM for the month, the staff has been great, and should only get better as long as all the starters continue to churn out the DOMs.

What's Good and What's Not

A DOM at or above the 40% mark is indicative of good pitching; above 50% is great; above 70% is elite. A low DIS is also indicative of good pitching, just look at the table in the link above showing DOM% and DIS% on the axes.

If you had to chose a high DOM% or a low DIS%, pitchers tend to have a lower ERA when you have a low DIS% vs. a high DOM% (obviously if you combine both, you have a much better chance of having an elite pitcher).

August 2009 Comments

With their stirring sweep of the D-Rox, the Giants have climbed back to the lead spot for the wild card, tied with Colorado. With how well the pitching staff pitched in August, the offense (and bullpen) really let them down by not doing more with what the starters accomplished in August. Still, the team ended the month 16-12.

And the offense did do better, despite both Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Garko not doing much for the team, the former because he wasn't around as he did help when he was in and the latter because he didn't hit as well as he had previously. The team averaged 4.39 runs per game in August, a nice jump in offensive production.

However, a lot of that was from playing in Colorado, where they scored 23 runs in 4 games. That means the Giants scored 4.17 runs per game in the other games. They also benefited from playing in Houston, scoring 21 runs in 3 games. That drops them to roughly 4 runs per game, which is how badly they scored in previous months.

And, despite the good outings by our starting rotation, the Giants still allowed 4.18 runs per game. As contrast, it was 3.48 in July, 3.30 in June, 4.00 in May, and 4.00 in April, the worse in the season.

And that was entirely due to the bullpen, as the ERA for starters in August was 3.35 while the relievers had a 4.46 ERA in August. It was the worse month for the relievers which had a 3.36 ERA in July, 2.57 in June, 3.43 in May, and 4.16 in April. So, while the starters have taken things up a notch in the second half (3.63 ERA first half; 3.33 ERA second half), the relievers have took things down a notch (3.29 ERA in first half; 4.25 ERA second half). It would have been nice if the Giants could have picked up Trevor Hoffman from the Brewers to bolster the bullpen, or even Aaron Heilman. Hopefully Waldis Joaquin can add to the mix but that is a lot to ask for from a rookie.

Going forward, taking into account both the Giants and D-Rox records home/away, good/bad teams, and the number of games left for each, the Giants and D-Rox should end up tied at the end of the season. However, with the Giants playing them for 3 at home, that would tip things in favor for the Giants to end up one game ahead at the end. So things should be pretty close between the two teams the rest of the way.

But, of course, things will not work out exactly as those prior records did. The remaining games will be a different mix than what had happened before. Plus both teams have been playing much better than they were earlier.

In particular, the thing is that the next 13 days will be huge because the Giants will be playing tough teams like the Phillies, Brewers and D-gers, while Colorado will be playing easy teams like the Mets, D-backs, Cincinnati and San Diego. In addition, Colorado will be playing most of those games at home, while the Giants will be on the road for the most part. All this will happen before Colorado show up in SF to play 3. They could be up on the Giants again by 3-5 games depending on how well they beat up on their patsies at home and how well the Giants hold up against tough teams on the road.

Then the shoe is on the other foot. Colorado will be playing St. Louis, Milwaukee, and LAD in their last 10 games of the season. The Giants would be playing in their last 13 games the D-backs, Cubs, D-backs again, and lastly the 'Dres. If the Giants could hold their ground and stay relatively close during the next roughly 2 weeks, then they should be able to pull ahead of them in the last two weeks of the season. And should they be behind by a good number of games, this stretch of lesser teams to play is the silver lining that might help them back on top.

And, of course, the fulcrum for all these games is the 3 game series we have with the D-Rox in mid-September. It could be another situation like the last series where the Giants are behind the D-Rox by a number of games but could pull themselves back close to, or even ahead of, the D-Rox by sweeping them again. But that is a lot to ask of the team to do again.

The Giants will need to hold their own. If they can split the road games and keep winning 2 of 3 at home, they can go 7-5 in the games before the series with Colorado. Judging by how well they have played before, the D-Rox could go 8-5 or 9-4, meaning the Giants would be only 0.5 or 1.5 games behind, or perhaps 2.5 games back. Beating them 2 of 3 would roughly return us to equal to them in record and leave us with the soft part of the schedule, while they face the tougher teams.

The caveat there is that by then the Cards and D-gers might be preparing for the playoffs and resting their better players, while the Brewers would be just finishing off the season. That would make it easier on the D-Rox to beat them, as they don't have to face the other team's best lineup on a daily basis. We will see how that goes when we cross that bridge.

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