Thursday, April 29, 2010

Your 2010 Giants: Pheel the Pain, Part 9 out of About 70 in a Continuing Series

Boo-hoo, Bochy suck, Sabean sucks, the Giants sucks, Velez sucks, Wilson sucks, and, what the heck, Bochy AND Sabean majorly sucks.  The sky, if you go to most any of the Giants boards, is falling and it is all their respective faults.

Giants Thoughts

Yeah, I get it.  It was a horrendous loss.  It was very similar to the 2002 World Series, we were sooo close to winning and had it pulled from our grasp in very quick and ugly fashion.

To paraphrase Tom Hanks from A League of Their Own:  "There should be no crying in baseball."  A Major League Baseball season is a war of attrition.  Any particular game is but a battle among the whole of the war.  This loss hurt, but it's a long season.

Too many people are still living in the past, whether the past few years when they were losing, or back in the 70's and 80's.  It is a new era, I've been saying this since Ann Killion asked a number of years ago, after the Giants parted with Bonds, what the Giants plans for the future is, what their identity will be, because she didn't see it, and what I wrote then I'm still writing now:  pitching is the Giants identity and plan, it has been for a long time for those who took the time and interest to study it in detail.  Don't live in the past nor miss what is under our noses now, our pitching is developing and maturing, and it should only get better, particularly once Bumgarner joins our conga-line of ace starters.

Do You See What I See?

The Giants are 12-9.  That's pretty good, last I heard.  And Sabean is the guy who put that together, the guy who is the butt of jokes among the Giants fan base.

Their pitching is great and look to continue humming along, though I doubt they will continue to be THAT good over a full season.  They just took on the two best NL teams and won the series from both of them.  They were 4-2 against them, beating good pitchers like Jaime Garcia (some are touting for rookie of year already), Adam Wainwright, and Roy Halladay.  They also beat Jamie Moyer and almost beat Cole Hamels.

So yeah, the loss to the Phillies stung and it stunk, but we got away with a win against Jaime Garcia that was handed to us when we probably could have lost that game.  And how often will Whiteside help us beat Roy Halladay with his offense?  A season will be filled with games like these, some going against us, some going for us.

So stop venting for a moment and think:  if you were told before the homestand that we would take 2 of 3 against the Cards and Phillies for a 4-2 homestand before facing D-Rox, would you have been happy or sad?    If you were told that our offense manhandled the Phillies pitching staff, both starters and relievers, and including especially Roy Hallday, would you have been giddy or morose?   If you were told that our pitching staff manhandled the two teams expected to battle for the NL League Championship, making them look like something the cat dragged in, would you have been jumping for joy or off the cliff?

We would have been very, very happy.

Playoff Implications

If the Giants are to do anything in the playoffs, assuming we get in (and I think we will, the offense looks like it can deliver it), we will have to take care of the Cards or the Phillies at some point in the playoffs, and likely both.  They are going to remember that our pitching sliced them up like they were a bottom dwelling team, one after the other.  We silenced their bats and took care of their pitchers enough to win 4 out of 6 and to win both series.  And we did that to their best pitchers for the most part (only missing Carpenter).

They will also remember Schierholtz manhandling them defensively, taking away extra-base hits, throwing them out on the basepaths (the Cards must have seen the highlight plays on SportsCenter).  You can't tell me that their 3B coach won't hold up runners on hits to RF if we play them again in the playoffs.  But where will that show up in the sabermetric fielding measures, particularly once Schierholtz won't catch the other team off guard anymore?

Offense Beating Good Pitching So Far

I have been pleasantly surprised that the offense has been scoring so well off so many good pitchers.  When I tried to look ahead to the month of April, it looked like we would have a tough month, but here we are 12-9, already assured of a winning month and with a win tomorrow, a great month, and while the pitching has been great, the offense has been good enough enough times.  And at 4.57 average runs scored per game, that is approximately what was projected for the Giants using the average of all the projections for the Giants (CHONE, Bill James, Shandler, Marcel, etc.) plugged into the lineup calculator, so it is not like the offense isn't doing what it isn't capable of doing, they have been doing almost exactly what they were projected to do.

Plus, they might have started the season against some lesser teams (Astros, Pirates) but still, they faced a number of good pitchers, even if the teams were bad (and they have faced good teams too, Braves, Cards, Phillies, as well as LAD and SDP), and were able to score runs on them pretty easily on the whole.  The list is getting impressive:  Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, Tim Hudson, Kenshin Kawakami, Paul Maholm, Charlie Morton, and now Jaime Garcia, Adam Wainwright, Roy Halladay, and they should have gotten Cole Hamels too.  This is a great list of pitchers who have in recent years put up sub-4 ERAs, so they are good to great pitchers who the Giants offense beat on enough for their pitchers to win.

Mediot Squawking 

It doesn't help that the media helps fuel the fanatics' passions based on an untrue premise.  Recently a Giants reporter, who I won't name because I like him otherwise, wrote an article about bringing up Posey while noting that Molina and Huff "are not producing."  Not producing?

Both had been producing big time (high OPS) until a recent 3 game no-hit streak, and while not hot since, they at least are getting hits since.  Both are among the team leaders in RBI's (hard to do when the #1 and #2 hitters weren't getting on base when Velez and Renteria were in their oh-fer-multiple-games stint, during our losing streak), plus Huff has scored 14 runs to lead the team by a wide margin.  Not producing?

OK, Huff's only hitting .111/.138/.222/360 with 1 HR in 27 AB in his last 8 games, but nobody is hot all the time, give him some time, his OPS was .862 when he hit this bad stretch.

Hate to think what he would write about this other free agent who signed in the off-season:  he also has 14 runs scored and 8 RBI's, bat in the middle of the lineup for his team, but  in his last 8 games, he's hitting a paltry .167/.219/.167/.385 with no homers during that stretch.  That drops his batting line to a below average line and relatively poor batting line for his career.  So it would make sense then that the writer would throw this guy under the bus too?

The only difference is that he signed for a huge 7 year, $120M contract and Matt Holliday don't have one of the top prospects in baseball who maybe could play his position for a while sitting in the minors.   I'm sure Holliday would have been happy that a team reporter was looking to replace him already with a hot prospect on the basis of an 8 game cold streak.

2010 and Beyond

The more I see how the rotation is working out, the more convinced I am that having a strong rotation, top to bottom, is the sure way to playoff success.  And given the way the Giants have been playing thus far, I don't see how they don't make the playoffs this season.

While the 'Dres are ahead of us right now, they are winning because of their pitching, not their offense, which has a low .243/.321/.388/.709 OPS.   Do you really believe a rotation of Correia, Garland, Richards, Latos, and LeBlank plus bullpen will sustain a 3.29 ERA (3.45 ERA for starters) over a full season?  I don't.

Injuries have decimated the rotations for the D-gers (Padilla), D-backs (Webb, Benson) and D-Rox (de la Cruz, Francis), and both the D-gers and D-Rox are in such bad straits that they could not even announce who would be pitching for them 2-3 games ahead because their rotations are in such flux over the injuries and/or lack of performance.  You can't tell me that they have adequate - or more importantly, equal - replacements sitting in the minors ready to contribute long-term this season.  And the 'Dres lost Chris Young (again), earlier this season, so they are not immune either.  And D-Rox sent down Hammel plus their starting pitching staff, other than Ubaldo Jimenez and Jorge de la Cruz, has been very hittable.

Meanwhile, the Giants pitching, while it won't be as good as it is now, should still be pretty good 1-4, for the season.  Cain, if you can believe, has been our worse pitcher, and he's only doing what he has done for his whole career, pitch good baseball.  And the offense has been about as good as expected, with both Huff and DeRosa not contributing as much as they possibly could over a full season yet, though Uribe really contributing greatly at the bottom of the order, as has Schierholtz.  And Velez and Torres contributed ugly Oh-fers much of this season as well, along with Bowker's invisible RF act.

The performance so far has convinced me that the offense can do it for us this season and get us into the playoffs in 2010.   And Posey's addition to the lineup for 2011 and beyond should just make the lineup that much better, with two consistent bats (as well as base runners) in the middle of the lineup, who are also athletic enough to be good base runners as well (Pablo just keeps on doing it scoring at home in highlight fashion).  That plus a rotation of Lincecum, Zito, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner for at least 2011 to 2013 should make the team annual participants in the playoffs going forward and should get us into the World Series at some point within 2010-2013, if not multiple times.

Dominant Rotation Mojo

I think this season so far shows the power of the Dominant Rotation (tm).  When you have good pitching top to bottom, it is hard to go into a long losing streak (though it will happen occasionally), but generally, with an OK offense, it will win more than it will lose over time.  And that should result in a good winning record at the end of the season and get you into the playoffs.

Part of that is that even if we end up with Lincecum not starting out any particular series, we then could match up Zito, Cain, or Sanchez against the other team's ace and still feel we have some chance of winning that game.  That's because our rotation is capable of producing a DOM start over 50% of the time (Cain over his career, Sanchez when he's on, and Zito recently and in the deep past;  Lincecum is close to 80%, roughly).

Plus, even more importantly, we clean up when our guys face the other team's #3 starters (and #4 in some cases), because our guys are that much better, generally.

However, before I oversell it, that is just generally, over time and a lot of iterations.  In short series, anything and everything can and will happen.  I think I will include this analysis during the season to see how it works out over time.  But when your rotation is that much more Dominant than the other rotation, your rotation should win out over time.  It should have an edge in any short series, particularly if we can manipulate Lincecum to pitch the first and fourth starts (and seventh as needed).  Not only that, but we should be able to win the series early, which will give our starters extra rest, and perhaps allow us to start a series with Lincecum more often.

12 comments:

  1. Huff isn't producing. You posted his last 8 games (which are horrible) but take the biggest sample size we can get - his season to date numbers. .227/.314/.373. Adjusted OPS of 79. Which are slightly worse than his cumulative 2009 numbers.

    I'm not going to overreact and tar Bochy, Sabes, whomever. But Huff isn't producing. And he's our cleanup hitter. If he continues to post these numbers, he won't be the cleanup hitter.

    Like you, I don't think Posey solves a potential Huff problem. But that only suggests to me that another solution had better be explored as a precaution.

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  2. I'd add to this appraisal, OCG, that if the Giants hadn't been unlucky this season, as objectively measured by James's Pythagorean system, they would have an additional two or three wins. In addition, they lead the league in BA, are tied for fourth in OBP and SLG.

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  3. I am so exasperated watching Velez play poor defense and have really crappy ABs. What is it going to take to get Velez's ass shipped out of town? He has no business being on a ML roster.

    I agree, OGC, Velez does suck.

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  4. See John, it is very easy to get down on a player when he's going through a bad short streak. His OPS was 862 not that long ago. That was my main point, you are branding his season so far, basically one month's worth, by what he did in those 8 games.

    Yes, good points Campanari.

    Well, we agree for once, Boof.

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  5. OGC
    If you go back, what I actually said was that you should judge Huff's year by his entire year's numbers to date, not his last 8 games (which at the time were horrible). And I merely opined that the Giants should start thinking about alternatives to Huff in the cleanup spot. Which they promptly did by moving Huff down a slot for Friday and Saturday's games. (They moved him back up yesterday because Molina had the day off.)

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  6. John, I guess we can go back and forth on this, but I got what you meant, and I think I was clear on what I said, but I'll try again but from another angle.

    With the small samples that dominate a month's worth of stats, by looking at his full season's stats (which you were doing), you are damning his great production this season up to the point of his really bad hitting.

    Now that he's hitting again, your opinion of him should be flipping flopping, and will continue to flip-flop anytime there is any extremes to his production.

    Basically, what I was trying to say was that he started out nicely and appeared to be hitting well, and to let a few games of bad hitting, really 3 games of no-hits, then a couple of one-hit games and a sombrero hat-trick in strikeouts, make your opinion of him to be a bad producer is not the way I like to think. I prefer even keel, steady as you go, and I'll move off that opinion when the bigger picture clarifies things.

    For Huff, I liked what he did in his first 13 games, and even for the first 7 games of the 8 that were bad, 3 strikeouts in 23 AB says his eye was good, only the balls were not falling in. It wasn't until the 8th game with the 3 strikeouts that made his stats during that stretch look really bad.

    As the games since then has shown, the balls are starting to fall in again, and his OPS is now good again, at .839, for 1B or any position.

    And the way I read your position, now you would say he's producing since his OPS is high and his batting line is looking good whereas just 3 games ago you had the exact opposite opinion, whereas my position has been that he has been producing overall, which is most important, and that a short bad spell wasn't going to change my opinion on that.

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  7. Nope. I'll stick to my position:

    (1) I prefer large sample sizes, not small ones. This is as big of a sample as I can get. (I also like to look at someone's past numbers in terms of judging probabilities for this season - why I mentioned Huff's 2009 numbers.) I am pretty sure you agree with this position. I'm also confident that if one didn't like the one month sample size, the best argument one can come up with in opposition to "he isn't producing" is "it's too early to tell" not "he is producing."

    (2) Although it matters, I don't care as much about how Huff compares to other 1B as I do with how he performs with respect to where they put him in the lineup.

    (3) Based upon his poor performance to the date I wrote my original entry, the Giants moved him out of the cleanup slot. It seemed to work and I approve. So, unless you're willing to tag Bochy or whoever helps him make these choices with the same wishy-washy tag you seem to want to put on me...

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  8. OK, John, just to get it right, your position was first "biggest sample size we can get - his season to date numbers", and now you are bringing up his 2009 numbers.

    Which is it? If you are going by his 2009 numbers, you would have to be a fool to put him in the middle of the lineup. In fact, you wouldn't need to bring up his 2010 numbers at all, that's a much larger sample size for 2009, and is so bad that he shouldn't be batting in a key RBI spot.

    Plus, I guess you don't understand elemental position values: 1B, as a rule, are much better hitters than any other position, on average. If any hitter is hitting well for a 1B, he pretty much would be hitting well at almost any position in the lineup. The average 4th place hitter hits .279/.353/.482/.835 in 2009 and that would be great to get from any position in the lineup except for the 3rd place hitter.

    Huff:

    2010: .271/.357/.482/.839
    Career:.282/.341/.472/.813

    And, unless you have a crystal ball of some sort, nobody yet has figured out a way to tell whether a player's one bad year negates a career of good hitting.

    As recent as 2008 he had a career year, and if you look at his 2009 stats, his SO%, BB%, SO/BB area all within his normal career ranges.

    The main problems with his 2009 are that his BABIP was .260 vs. a career .292 BABIP (most players regress to their career mean, until they hit their decline) and his HR% was very low. He's only at .275 BABIP now,so it is hard to tell if he's slowing down or not, but his run for an inside the park suggests he's still able to run out hits. He also suffered from a career low 2.5% HR% when he has a 3.7% for this career (4.1% in 2010).

    So far this season, he appears to returning to his career means as his 2010 might be the rebound after his horrible 2009 season. True, it is too early to tell for sure, but I think "he is producing" is closer to the truth than "he is not producting".

    And if lineup position is how you are going to judge where to put him here are some numbers to chew on:

    4th: .277/.343/.458/.802
    5th: .264/.325/.441/.766

    So if you believe that lineup position matters so much, then he should really be batting 4th, not 5th, and not get your seal of approval for the move. That is, if moving him really contributed to his hitting like he has.

    I personally don't think changing lineup position matters much to the production of the lineup. Most studies find that it doesn't matter, and those that do, find that only one key position (I've seen leadoff and second named as key positions before) matters.

    So I'll stick to my position as well: I just have a problem with anyone who, just 8 games ago, wouldn't have said that Huff was "not producing" and would have said that he was producing, yet, 8 games later, he is suddenly not producing. And now 3 games later, he is producing again (using your definition of producing, which was OPS+, he's 116 now). Nobody can slice and dice the data to that level. That's wishy-washy thinking, no matter who is doing it, whether Bochy or whomever.

    And according to your definition again, you say that his 2009 rules more, so he's not producing, but now that his OPS+ is 116, he is producing. Don't matter where in the lineup he bats, that don't make any sense.

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  9. OGC-
    I think you need to re-read my original post. It has all of the context I think anyone needs (including how I brought up 2009) to characterize my thoughts fairly. Never said in that post or subsequent ones that 2009 "mattered more."


    I had more to say because I actually think we're making two completely different arguments here past each other but I honestly don't have the time to respond to a comment which not only misstates things I think I said pretty clearly but also include bs ad hominem stuff like "I guess you don't understand elemental position values." And I then remembered why I stopped commenting here last season.

    Best of luck. Hope the Giants keep it up.

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  10. I get no joy in replying to you either, John.

    You are the one who said that you "prefer large sample sizes, not small ones" and "why I mention Huff's 2009 numbers".

    And you don't understand when you write "I don't care as much about how Huff compares to other 1B". That is not BS for me to call you out on that, just as you felt the need to call me out about Huff isn't producing (in your opinion), it does matter how he compares. I am sorry I threw out the elemental part, so I'll apologize for that, I see what you mean. Unfortunately in my haste to reply I didn't catch that, as, like you, I don't have time for this.

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  11. What can I say, I'm obsessive.

    As I noted in my blog description, I like to teach, and that is part of why I write and I comment. Illogic bothers me. It bothers me greatly. Hopefully others will learn where certain others don't.

    The comment is about Huff's season to date. I say that it is illogical to pick a particular date early in the season and say, yea or nay, he has or hasn't been productive. Small sample issues massively dominate the analysis.

    At game 13, that sample size says that Huff has been very productive, .862 OPS. 8 games later, the largest sample size you got says that he's unproductive, OPS of .687. Now 3 games later, his OPS is .854 and he is productive again, that is, if you base your opinion on the largest sample size available. If you always rely on the largest sample available, then your opinion will change with each hot or cold streak. That is, if you are truly unbiased in your opinion on the situation.

    That is no way to determine whether a batter is productive or not. Hot streaks, cold streaks, those will whipsaw your opinion on how productive a hitter he has been. At best, and that is true for most people, the way and time you decide to analyze exposes your true opinion on the matter, many times analysis is just a justification of your underlying belief of the situation.

    The key, in such situations, is experience with data analysis and knowing how to cut the data to illuminate.

    This happened last year too. People believed, and many still do, that Fred Lewis was screwed out of his starting job. They saw his shiny batting line and OPS that he had, but didn't realize that his two hot weeks early in the season propped him up for a long time. He was massively cold as a hitter for a long time when the Giants finally cut him out and put Schierholtz in. He should have been taken out earlier, I think.

    Looking at Huff's data, he was pretty productive up to that 13th game, .862 OPS was a good sign, but he had hits in 10 of 13 games as well, and 2 walks in one of the three hitless games. Also, he walked 7 times and struck out only 6 times in 48 AB, both very good ratios, albeit small samples. He was very productive for most of those games, getting on base in 11 of those 13 games, producing a .862 OPS.

    Now, 8 games later, his OPS is shot to hell. But why? basically 4 no-hit games out of those 8. Why should 4 games overshadow what he did for the first 13?

    But it does when you are dealing with small samples. So you need to analyze and see if things are different. You need to know what data need to be culled out to properly analyze the sample. Except for that 3 strikeout game at the end of his bad streak, he had 1 walk and 3 K's in 23 AB, which is a good ratio for strikeouts. So it wasn't a matter of him doing poorly during that streak, it was a matter of the balls not falling in for him, a result of a low BABIP, not because he was not productive.

    And now he has started up again. It is not because he got moved to 5th. There has been no study that shows that a hitter gains anything from movement in the lineup. There are theories but no proven study.

    It is logical because he went through that bad spell because of an abnormal BABIP, as his strikeout ratio was fine up to and including that 3 strikeout game. At that point, his batting line might have been bad, but he still only had 12 K's in 75 AB or roughly 15% strikeout rate, which is what the best hitters keep it down to but his BABIP was below .250, and it was .292 for his career. He was missing 3 hits, which would have made his BA .267 and his batting line roughly .267/.354/.427/.781, which would have been productive. He lost roughly 100 OPS points because of bad luck that he suffered in those 4-8 games.

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  12. That is why you can not just simply look at the biggest sample you have and assume that is the best you can do, particularly when there is roughly one month of games played so far. You have to know how to tease out the real story.

    Now, does this mean that Huff is back and will hit more like 2008 than 2009? I realize that this is a big question left unanswered by all this. I don't know for certain, but the signs certainly points to it, whether it was 13 games, 21 games or now 24 games into the season. The data has not wavered.

    His strikeout rate, which is a key indicator for any hitter, has been at or under the 15% benchmark that you want hitters to be under. That does not guarantee that you will be a good hitter, but Ron Shandler's studies found that there is a much greater likelihood of a .300 hitter among the samples with the benchmark under 15% than above.

    That likelihood increases when the hitter can walk as many times as he strikes out. Huff is not there but is pretty close to the 1:1 ratio that only the best can do at 10 BB:13 K.

    Astonishingly, if you look at his career numbers right now, and compare his time in Detroit with his time in SF, oddly enough, he has the same number of walks and strikeouts, 10 and 13, but more AB and PA with Detroit, but his batting line is much, much better with SF because balls are falling in for him now, .275, vs. a meager .198 with Detroit.

    His numbers this year is boosted greatly by his great hitting in SF so far and his poor road numbers dominated by playing in LA and SD for 6 out of 9 road games, two of the worse pitcher's parks in the majors. Getting to hit in Florida, which I believe is a bit of a pitcher's park too, but much more neutral, should be like hitting on the moon, relatively, for him.

    He has also been very lucky against LHP this season, and that will go down, as he has historically done poorly against LHP. Damning his production because he couldn't hit in LA or SD is one of the analytical dangers in his data set, though.

    Hopefully others can see that Huff has been mostly productive, looks to stay productive this season, but at only one month in, we can't really say for sure yet, but the signs are at least positive up to now.

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