Sunday, April 04, 2010

Your 2010 Giants Thoughts

Whether the Giants make the playoffs or not, you can't really tell whether that will happen to a great degree. You can never tell when the other teams just benefit from someone's outlier performance and aces your team out of the playoff picture. You also can never tell when something bad happens to your team. That's the sad truth that I'm finally getting.

But still, you can assess where they all stand relative to each other and here are the facts as I see them:
  • D-gers: Lost Wolf, who pitched great, did not get anyone who could be expected to reliably replace his production, though Vicente Padilla did do well with them at the end of 2009, so maybe (and they did that last year too, replacing Lowe's great production with Wolf; can they do that again? Padilla hasn't pitched that well since his rookie season and around that well since 2003). Manny has laid his gauntlet down and the last time he did that, the Red Sox found him unmotivated enough to feel forced to trade him away, and if I recall right, his stats were down until the trade to the D-gers. And the D-vorce should also affect the team as well, with the owner and the former president, his soon to be former wife, at odds. The divorce of the 'Dres owner caused the current downturn in their chances over the past few years, as they had to cut back on spending on players because of the settlement. The D-gers also benefited from both Hudson and Pierre playing above their career numbers for a while to help boost them up in the early part of the season. Hoping that players play above their heads at any point in the season is not the way to repeat what you did the year before. They won 95 games. I think these conditions should be enough to drop them to 90 wins or lower.
  • D-Rox: Lost Marquis, who had a great season with them, and they hope to reduplicate his production by re-adding Jeff Francis who missed all of last season. He pitched horribly for them during the spring. In addition, Huston Street appears to be out, perhaps for the whole season, and they are just praying with his replacement. At 92 wins last season, this should be enough to drop them to 88-90 wins, if not lower.
  • 'Dres: They actually looked like they might be on an upswing this season, with prospects like Kyle Blanks and Matt Latos ready to contribute, but the rumors of Adrian Gonzalez being traded just don't seem to go away, so that should make the team play tentatively until he is traded, at which point they have no chance of repeating. At 75 wins last season, they really needed some prospects to come through to reach 90 wins, but if A-Gon is a-gone by mid-season, their chances are gone. And a lot has to go good with their young prospects for them to add another 15 wins, and they don't really have any young pitcher that looks like he'll do that for them, to be that ace, and they traded away Jake Peavey last season, who could have been.
  • D-backs: They also have a lot of young bucks, but as nicely as they did in changing up their pitching rotation, they will still need Brandon Webb to come back and be like he was before. He is still recovering and might not pitch for the first month at least. At 70 wins last year, they needed a lot of things to go right, including him coming back and pitching like he used to, for them to do well in 2010, but even though they have a lot of nice young players who probably will develop and advance some this year, jumping from 70 games to 90 games without Webb at full strength looks like a poor bet.
Meanwhile, while people fault the Giants for not doing more for their lineup, they were just falling into the usual fan's Zone of Distortion where if there is any ordinariness in your team, your team sucks. What they don't realize is that when you have a team on the extremes, like the Giants are in terms of preventing runs from scoring, they only need to be ordinary with the lineup to win a lot of games. I have shown this mathematically in my business plan series.

Using various projections of the batting line for the main batting order for the Giants in 2010, the average expected runs scored per game across the six projections - Shandler, Graphical Player, Bill James, CHONE, ZiPS, and Marcel - is 4.49 runs scored per game. If the Giants matched their runs allowed of 2009, or 3.77 runs allowed, the would win 93 games with that runs scored average, which would have been very slightly above average in 2009, and to win 90 games with that offense, their runs allowed could rise to 3.94, which would mean giving up an additional 28 runs during the season. In other words, if the bullpen can be the same as it was last season - and it looks good with Runzler in there all season - one of our starters could be a whole run worse (roughly, over 32 starts) versus 2009 and we should win 90 games if this offense is as bad as most projections have them be.

There are valid reasons it might get worse. Cain had his best season but his FIP was more like how he normally did, implying that he lucked out greatly. However a big assumption for FIP is that Cain is like any other pitcher, doomed to regress to the mean of .300 BABIP that most pitchers who are not knuckleballers or crafty lefties regress to. His BABIP in 2009 was .267, hence why sabers might think he lucked out greatly. However, he already has slightly over 4 seasons under his belt and his career BABIP is .274, only slightly above that. A study found that it takes seven years for a starter to show statistically significantly that he is below, but 4/7ths of the way there, Cain's career numbers are way below the mean that most pitchers regress to.

Another is that Jonathan Sanchez has been inconsistent in his career, and most lefties like that tend to just continue to be like that. Oliver Perez is a great example of that. However, each of his inconsistencies can be explained for 2008 and 2009. In 2008, his first year starting, he gassed out midway through the season, after dominating the opponents to an ERA under 4.00. In 2009, after increasing his stamina during the off-season, he was able to pitch effectively into September, when he did experience some downturn. However, unfortunately the WBC was that year and he pitched with his idol, Johan Santana, and decided to copy a mechanic of Johan, which works for him because he's shorter than Sanchez. Sanchez wouldn't change back until he was taken out of the rotation, and he had his no-hitter in his first start afterward, and in the starts AFTER the no-hitter, he had an ERA in the mid-to-high 3's. He's ready to put in a full season and with a low ERA, but no projection would see that.

Sandoval is viewed by some to regress as well, based on his numbers in the minors. But clearly he is no longer the hitter he was in the minors. He developed homerun power plus has learned some discipline at the plate and has been getting more walks. He also got into better shape over the off-season working diligently at that like he did fielding grounders at 3B during the off-season prior. Plus, it was discovered that he needed glasses, and now he can see the pitches clearly whereas last season he could only see blurs.

Wilson could be viewed by some as having an outlier season as well, but at some point you have to admit that he developed and reached a new level of production. Plus, he decided to add back his curveball, which was considered plus when he was drafted, to his repertoire, so that should help in preventing him from doing that much worse.

I also think that we will get more production out of either Rowand or Renteria or Molina, at minimum, if not more.
  • Rowand realized that he needed to get into better physical shape, that he's no longer young enough to get away without doing that. He's actually started both of his two seasons with us hitting great, then was useless to us the rest of the season. If he is in better shape, he should be that much more of a productive hitter.
  • Renteria's best stretch hitting last season was that roughly one month in Aug/Sept when he said that he felt no pain, and he hit great then, over 800 OPS. That is the way he hit before when he was hitting well, and he lost that huge chunk that was in his elbow with the surgery, so he could return to the hitter he was before.
  • Molina, I think was affected by two factors. One was that he was a father for the first time. Taking care of a child and working takes a lot out of you, and being a catcher, that probably just accelerates that. Second, he had no worthy backup offensively so Bochy just played him until he was spent and couldn't hit. This year, the baby should not be tiring him out as much, plus by the time he is starting to tire, Posey will be brought up to catch 2 games a week, which will keep him more rested and better able to hit as well as he could.
In addition, DeRosa starting in LF will be a good upgrade over the guys we had last season both offensively and defensively. He's amazing, he can play almost any position at a high defensive value while hitting slightly above average overall. His prior UZR/150 at almost any position is good enough to contribute a win every season, on top of whatever he does offensively. He's weak against RHP, but with a lefty taking key starts from him, he can be a highly productive player offensively and defensively.

Huff will cost us a lot of defense at 1B, but is a much better hitter than Ishikawa. I expect to see a lot of defensively switches to bring Ishikawa in near the end, after Huff got his 3-4 ABs, and that combo should both boost our offense over what we got last season, particularly on the road, plus allows the Giants to put Molina lower in the batting order, where he belongs, plus gives us a legit power source batting cleanup. Still, the defensive difference between the two could account for the 28 additional runs given up.

Overall, I see a lot of possibilities of the Giants doing much better than expected by projections, but don't see a lot of huge downsides. Renteria could go bad, but then he would either bat 8th or if he is bad enough, Uribe would take over. Rowand couldn't really get much worse, I don't think. Molina similarly, plus we would have Posey ready to jump in if necessary. DeRosa could do a bit worse than he did in recent seasons and still be better than what we had at LF. Huff could fail, but then we put in Ishikawa and get about what we got last season, no big downside there.

Schierholtz is a possibility, but with Bowker hitting so well, I expect at least one of them hitting well enough to keep the position productive over the season. Maybe Sanchez can't put in a great season, but I think Cain will get close again, Lincecum will be Lincecum, and Zito should be around what he was last season, his velocity appears to be the same and so he should be able to continue to do as well as he did last season, overall.

All this makes me think that winning 90 games should be a strong possibility as long as players produced as projected plus some performing the way I speculated above that they could. And as I showed with the other teams, they should be either around 90 wins or less, giving us a good chance to win the division title and making the playoffs.

And if we make the playoffs, our rotation will be stacked with Lincecum et al, all very dominant pitchers, giving us a good chance to go deep into the playoffs if given the chance.

6 comments:

  1. You know Martin, this is the second or third time I've seen you say that the Dodgers would be hurt by not replacing Lowe's production. At first I just thought it was a mistake, but now I'm wondering if you do seriously believe that Derek Lowe was a Dodger last year? Because, he wasn't, you know.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are right, thank you for mentioning it to me, and please let me know the first time, thanks.

    I mean to say Randy Wolf, though the Lowe reference applied to last year too, and they did find a replacement in Wolf. Will they strike gold again with Padilla, who hasn't pitched that well since his rookie season? I don't think so.

    Thanks again, and sorry to everyone, I will fix the post.

    ReplyDelete
  3. My take is similar to yours. I've got the NL West as:

    1. Giants
    2. Rockies
    3. Dodgers
    4. D'Backs
    5. Pads

    The top 4 teams are very close with the Giants squeaking out a win with their pitching.

    I have the Yankees and Cardinals in the World Series with the Yanks repeating as champs. Details on my blog.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've been reading your blog quite a bit lately. Your writing makes me very happy. You're optimistic but still rooted in the reality of the situation. I hate negativity, that's why I avoid some of the other blogs. Those kind of people are never needed. I still would like them switching DeRosa and Bowker to RF and LF respectively, but at least giving him a chance to play everyday is a start. I feel good about him. Keep up the good work.

    ReplyDelete
  5. DrB, your order is probably what I would have chose had I been brave enough to give an order.

    It is just so crazy how each season works out, with unexpected things happening all the time, it is so hard to account for all those factors.

    But I'm comfortable in saying that the Giants should win 90+ games and seriously competing for the division title with the D-Rox and D-gers. And the D-backs should be close too with the young offense they got, and nice set of pitchers (but losing Webb hurt their chances a lot).

    I will have to check your blog, thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anon, thanks for your comment. Well, I would be negative if I thought it was a negative situation.

    But yeah, I know what you mean. There are some who are haunted by the 60's and 70's and all they could think of is doom and gloom. I followed some who moaned and groaned through the 2002 and 2003 seasons, and I frankly enjoy baseball a lot, and I couldn't understand how they could not enjoy two great seasons like them.

    I guess I took different lessons from the 70's and 80's, which were when I was growing up. I learned to accept each season's flaws when they were bad, but enjoyed greatly the seasons where I thought they were going to compete and do well, like I thought last year and this year.

    And I still enjoyed the bad years, like all the years prior to 2009 when things were not so great, but I understood that and accepted those teams' limitations.

    Actually, given the Minor League Splits' defensive stats, Bowker is much better defensively in RF. I would leave them where they are, DeRosa should be fine anywhere he goes, and give Bowker a chance to prove whether he can handle or not.

    ReplyDelete

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