Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Your 2010 Giants: At All-Star Break

The Giants are 47-41, which works out to an 87-75 season.  Of course, that is a heck of a lot better than 41-40, but not as good as 37-28.  With Posey and Bumgarner now starting regularly at what they do best, 90 wins still look very possible, I still feel pretty good about that projection.

Of course, any season will have their ups and downs.  It appears that many Giants fans, including columnists who should know better, are not familiar with that concept.  It is not like the Giants have the greatest team around, I've never said that, but they are good enough to win 90 games, I felt strong about that in the pre-season, I'm stronger about that now.

Posey The Record Setter

Of course, Posey going crazy on this road trip sure helped with that.  Almost every projection of Posey that I have read have focused on the opinion that he will be a good hitter but that power will be lacking to be a premium hitter.  Despite all the homers he hit in Florida in winning the Golden Spike award, they only had him pegged to be a 15-20 homer per season hitter - eventually.  It was Matt Weiters who was the power hitting catcher.

But his road trip he exceeded all projections by as far as he hit that homer to right-center the other day:  IT'S OUTTA HERE!  He finished the road trip hitting .500/.553/1.025/1.578, with 6 homers in 40 AB, 15 RBI, 5 walks and only 4 strikeouts.  He was like Barry Bonds re-incarnated with those numbers and walks and K's.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, for the 10 games ending the game on Saturday, he had the most hits, homers and RBI in a 10-game stretch by ANY rookie in NL history.  HISTORY!  6 homers, 19 hits, and 13 RBI in that stretch.  There apparently were many who did that in the AL, but never in the history of the NL.  Exciting times to be a Giants fan.

And the future could be now.  Even earlier this year, in the pre-season, the prospect guru didn't think Posey would show much power, which is what all the scouting reports have said since we drafted him, noting in a video that Posey lacks the power to hit homers, but will be able to hit for extra-base hits though.  This was noted before the 2009 season: "Equipped with perhaps the best, and most advanced, hitting approach of anyone on this list, Posey can hit to all fields. While not a huge power guy, he's got plenty of extra-base pop, and could hit 15-20 HR a year in the bigs."  He hit 6 in the past 11 games, 7 in 137 AB so far this season.  ZiPS has him hitting another 6 the rest of the season, which would give him 13 HR in only 356 PA.  Prorated over a full season, that is roughly 20-25 HR season.

Mirror Image

As I noted in the post the other day, the 'Dres really hasn't done much since mid-May, they are barely above .500.  Early on, all of their starters were all firing on all their cylinders and the offense, as bad as it was, was scoring enough to enable the team to win a lot of games early on.  Until around then, the entire San Diego rotation was going great, enabling the team to win games they had no reason winning.  I view that as an example of how the Giants will look like in the second half, after the All-Star break.

We now have such a rotation.  Lincecum will be his usual self.  Cain usually tighten things up by a notch in the second half and goes on a great spree of well-pitched games.  Zito has been known as a second half pitcher forever.  Sanchez, as poorly as he has pitched at times, he has still pitched well overall.  And Bumgarner, after early hiccups in his first two starts, has been dominating.

Plus, our offense looks to be better than San Diego's, we have risen to be above the NL league average now.  As I've been saying since I published my business plan last season, with our pitching and fielding, if you can get a league average offense to go with it, that team can win 92 games.

Bete Noire:  LA and COL

The teams I'm more afraid of are the other teams just ahead of us, LA and Colorado.  I've tackled SD in my other posts, I'll try to do more on these two, but they have risen from the dead often enough in recent years that I wouldn't be shocked if they did it again.  Today, I'll tackle LA.  I'll try to do Colorado in the next post.

Why Not LA?

What are negatives I do see with the D-gers?  One is that they don't have a full rotation of great starters.  Their 5th starter is John Ely, who is OK for a #5 starter, but he is a weak link in the rotation.  I also still don't believe in Vicente Padilla.  I just don't see how he could have been so bad previously and now is super, even pitching in LA don't fix that.  Still, he's doing OK for them so far this season, but lets see how he does as the season goes on, his ERA is 2.20 at home, 6.00 on the road, and the latter is closer to what he has done in recent years, he will have to keep up that stellar performance at home, so he is a weak link in their rotation as well.

But they do have a solid top three in Kershaw, Billingsley, and Kuroda.  Kershaw has a big question mark on his performance this season, with a 2.96 ERA but 3.11 FIP and 3.79 xFIP.  But the other guys are below, so they should even out as the season wears on.  And the D-gers have reportedly been looking around for another starting pitcher to add.  Luckily, their cupboard is looking pretty bare right now in their farm system, but still, that is something that could happen if a team is stupid and give them a good arm for nothing much.

Unfortunately, ZiPS smiles on LA for the rest of the season.  It projects Kershaw to basically the same stats as now, 2.96 ERA (2.96 ERA currently, 3.11 FIP, 3.79 xFIP), Billingsley's ERA to be 3.44 the rest of the season (4.14 currently, 3.40 FIP, 3.79 xFIP), Kuroda to also drop, to 3.45 ERA (3.87 currently, 3.56 FIP, 3.62 xFIP).  Ely does not have a projection but FIP suggests improvement as well, his ERA is currently 4.63 with a FIP of 3.79 and xFIP of 3.99.  However, it projects 4.79 ERA for Padilla (4.04 currently, 4.37 FIP, 3.78 xFIP), though that is mainly because of how badly he did previously, he could be a different pitcher when pitching in LA.

The only other cloud I can find is regarding John Ely.  He is not that highly regarded a prospect.  The book I use view his potential as that of a #4 starter, so his ERA right now is way above where he should be, based on potential alone.  And he's actually been unlucky, or seemingly so, this season, as his home ERA is much higher than his road ERA (5.18 vs. 4.03).  And his peripherals right now supports his good results, he strikes out a fair number and keeps his K/BB ratio nice and high.

He could just be this good, he is one of those pitchers who don't have enough stuff, so he has to prove himself at every level, including the majors, and so far he has been very good.  He is kind of like their version of our Kevin Pucetas.

However, it looks like he just benefited from a great May (2.18 ERA), as his June (4.29 ERA) and July (19.80 ERA) are not as good.  He somehow didn't walk anybody in May, but then couldn't stop himself in June and July.  He appears to be headed off the cliff, so I have to believe the D-gers are looking to trade for another starter to replace him (or they could soon turn to their favorite guy to turn to in this situation, Jeff Weaver).

Their offense is their strength.  There are a number of players whose ZiPS prediction project a drop or continued performance.  Furcal has benefited greatly from an elevated BABIP, .368 vs. .318 career, ZiPS projects him to fall from .333/.383/.514/.897 to .290/.353/.429/.782, which is a huge drop in production.   He is hitting much higher at home than he has in the past, and pretty well on the road too, appears that his rest in May due to injury left him energized after he returned, kind of like his 2008 season where he was hot for a month and a half, but he should cool off.  With him as their lead-off guy, any cooling off on his part is very good for cooling off their offense.  From the lineup calculator, that drops their run production 0.17 runs per game.  If everything else stays the same, they should go 38-36 the rest of the season and end up 87-75.

Ethier has benefited from an elevated BABIP, .330 vs. career .319, ZiPS project a drop from his current .324/.379/.553/.932 to .297/.373/.517/.890, which is still very good, but still a drop.  I will take any decline on their part!  :^)

Russell Martin is projected to improve, but that is because he has been on a slide the past few seasons - .843 OPS in 2007, .781 in 2008, .681 in 2009, and .678 in 2010 - where he appears to have finally reached his actual talent level.  Projections assume that if you were good before, you will be again, but his slide is too radical to think that this is just some regression situation.  His BABIP has also slid down as well, his ISO too.

Loney has been as disappointing as Martin for D-ger fans.  He is still a subpar firstbaseman, the hope he engendered in his first season has dissipated into below average OKness since then, and does not look like he will do anything better going forward.  In fact, ZiPS project basically the same numbers but he is benefiting from a highly elevated BABIP right now, and really, his OK numbers now are the result of a hot July so far, else he was actually struggling from April to June.  And he's having a backward season, in that normally he's bad at home, good on the road, but this year it is reversed, better at home, a little below OK on the road.

However, Manny looks to continue being Manny and Kemp has been under-performing this season (Rhianna sapping his strength?  Or maybe she's bringing him down mentally?), and thus should return to his prior goodness.  Casey Blake et al will probably perform about the same, but they aren't the key offensive players on this team.

Their bullpen looks good again, but any bullpen where Jeff Weaver and Russ Ortiz can find a role at any point, to me, is a bullpen that has troubles.  They obviously have a great closer in Broxton, but again, can't be that great with these two on there, plus some key relievers - Monasterios and Kuo - have ERA's that are much below their FIP, suggesting that they will regress some.  Schlichting has done well too, but he's been more of a long reliever so far, not a key setup guy, and he looks like he'll fall too.

They only have three relievers with great ERA, Schlichting (0.64 ERA, 2.47 FIP, 4.03 xFIP), Kuo (0.99 ERA, 1.83 FIP, 2.76 xFIP), Broxton (2.11 ERA, 1.21 FIP, 1.94 xFIP).  Weaver and Belisario are OK (3.54 ERA, 3.29 FIP, 4.68 xFIP for Weaver; 3.79 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 3.78  xFIP for Belisario).  The rest have been not that great overall, nobody to shine a light on.

Overall, not too many cracks in their armor.  There is some regression expected, but also others who should do better.  Also, they have played above their expected, their Pythagorean W/L is 47-41, not 49-39, so there could be a regression later in the season.  Plus there is the drop in production with Furcal that could push them down as well.  The best thing I can say is that their entire season's success is built on dominating four teams, which luckily for them are NL West teams:  AZ (10-2; accounts for almost all of their 10 games above .500), COL (4-2), SD (4-1) and SF (5-1).  So against non-NL West teams, they were 26-33.

That should not happen for the rest of the season in the NL West.  They only have six more games left with the D-backs, and all in two of their last three series of the season, so no boost until then.  It could be all over for them by then.  I don't see them continuing that against the Giants, to that degree, going forward.  With basically the same teams last season, they were 11-7.  The Giants now have Posey and Bumgarner plus Huff and Torres hitting, so projecting a split seems fair, at 6-6, which would only equal what happened last season.  Now, they might continue to beat up on SD, but they battled to a standstill last season, and SD is improved this season, so a split again of the remaining games look probable, 7-6.  Now, they kicked COL's butt last season, but COL is improved with CarGon hitting so well and Ubaldo reaching a new level, 7-5 seems fair.

That's 20-17, which with their current 49-39 would put them at 69-56.  If they continue their non-NL West winning percentage, they go 14-17, which puts them at 83-73, with 6 games against the D-backs to account for.  You can maybe add another win or two against SD or COL, but it looks like LA will probably be around 90 wins again, though probably under it this season.  Plus, given that their players have either performed to expectations or above it, that is, nobody is projected to really have a much better second half, but there a few who are projected for drops, in particular Furcal, that is another factor suggesting that they will be under 90 wins at the end of the season.

I wasn't feeling good about our chances against LA when I started this, but now I feel like we have a fighting chance of beating them.


  1. Bochy has a dilemma coming up: What to do with Todd Wellemeyer when he returns from the DL? Does he lose his spot to Bumgarner and go to the pen? Does Bumgarner get sent down? Curious to hear your thoughts on that?

  2. Yes, I think you are curious. :^)

    Glad to share my thoughts. I think it's pretty clear that Bumgarner is the 5th starter, period. There is no dilemma.

    Other fans see the Giants as not committed to their young players, but I see it another way: they don't commit to young players with unproven talents. Once they commit to one of their good players, they stay. Look at the guys on our starting pitching, once they are up, they stay up. Lincecum and Sanchez, in particular, could have been sent down before (would have saved us $7M this season) but they kept them up.

    Bumgarner is clearly one of those, so he's our 5th starter going forward, I think. Of course, like anything, there is some fluidity. But I doubt the Giants would send him down if he suffered through a month-long meltdown like Lincecum did, I think he's here to stay. But they could spot-start Wellemeyer to give Bumgarner a rest here and there because his arm is still untested in terms of stamina deep into a MLB season, which is longer than the minors, and way longer than amateur.

    It has also been pretty clear that Wellemeyer was just keeping the seat warm for Bumgarner until he was ready, particularly once it was clear that he couldn't pitch on the road, for whatever reason.

    Even if Todd were pitching well, I'm pretty sure the Giants would still have called up Madison, except that in this case, Todd would have been traded off to get some prospects.

    Todd should become our long man in the bullpen. Our starters are not supermen, they can get injured just via the game, like when Cain was taken out by that line drive off his elbow last season. And who knows what the lifespan of any of their tendons et al, pitchers are just very fragile.

    So the Giants need relatively capable backups in case something happens. And we are kind of short, there's Martinez and Pucetas, and that's basically it for now, though if things got really bad, I wouldn't be surprised to see Eric Surkamp called up, I've been seeing his name a lot in DrB's accounts of the minors, really dominating starts, and that reminds me of how Jonathan Sanchez was pitching in the minors before getting the call up.

  3. I think that, health providing, our rotation is Lincecum, Zito, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner for the foreseeable future. I don't think the Giants will be trading to get a bat unless they offer full value for our starters. Rios for Lincecum and Hart for Sanchez is not full value.

    I think the first to go will be between Zito and Sanchez. If Zito can continue pitching like this, once we get to 2 years left on his contract (we are half-way in, there are only three seasons left after this season), he would be tradeable to a desperate borderline playoff team mid-season in the next two seasons.

    Sanchez has two more years of team control. He has high potential but also has been the least consistent as well. However, so was Randy Johnson early in his career (not that I think they are comparable, just that shakiness does not mean he couldn't develop).

    And if Wheeler is like the others, he should be pushing for the majors in 2012 or 2013, too bad the nail set him back this season, but I think San Jose and Richmond in 2011, Fresno to start 2012, then join the team 2012-13.

    So when he comes up, who goes? I have to think it would be Zito, due to age, as well as if someone is willing to take the contract. 0.5 to 1.5 years worth left won't be so bad to a desperate team that needs pitching. That would be mid-season 2012 to mid-season 2013.

    Still, if the Giants can get a mega-package of players, like the one the A's got from Arizona for Haren, I think that they could be tempted to trade away Sanchez.

    No insight or inside info, but my gut tells me that they will ride the Lincecum-Cain duo as long as they will allow. Perhaps Bumgarner or Wheeler might get to that position, but I don't see it happening with Sanchez, because he's been so up and down.

    Still, he probably has better stuff than anybody on the staff, so I wouldn't write him off either. Took Koufax years to get settled down (again, don't think they are comparable, just noting some lefties take more time to develop).

    I just think that it will be good times for the Giants for the foreseeable future in our starting pitching rotation, good dilemmas.

  4. Yes, thank you for this. I'm not as scared either anymore. We could totally do better than the Dodgers. Even though the FIP of many of their pitchers would suggest that they should be having a lower ERA, you must remember, their fielding (mostly the outfield) is horrible. So I am not expecting it to get too low. Still, there's a lot to look forward to with us. It's like the beginning of the season all over again except instead of seeing placeholders, we'll see the mainstays. No Rowand leading off, no Bengie catching, but most of all, no Wellemeyer! Andres, Buster, and Madbum being there makes everything better! Go Giants!

  5. I should have noted the NL's win of home park advantage in the World Series, hopefully the Giants can make it there this season, they will need all the advantage that they can get.

    It will be tough for them to make it there, it is such a gauntlet the way the playoffs is set up now, even the best teams will lose a short series at least a third of the time, and they have to get through two series to get to the World Series, but like a lottery ticket, if they make the playoffs, at least they have a chance.

    I still think that they have a fair chance for the playoffs. They are not that far behind, and as I've been analyzing, the other teams have been lucky so far and would need their luck to continue, whereas the Giants only need to continue to do what they have shown themselves to be capable of previously.

  6. A helpful analysis, Martin,and appreciated. Yes, I think it is possible LA has overperformed and will regress to their expected (lower) performance in the second half. EXCEPT: I think Colletti is guaranteed to bring in 2 pitchers, a SP and a RP. If he gets them LA will be significantly improved. They have some injury concerns you don't mention. I have always admired the way Furcal plays, but he plays so hard, and now that he is getting older, he is a real risk for injury. Ditto with Manny. And Padilla. So, I think they are more likely than other teams to lose significant players for significant injury time.
    Next, I think SS will become a problem for SF. Uribe just is not an everyday player. And Rent is both injury prone and very questionable as to his current skill level. Rather than Hart/another OPF, this team really needs a Furcal type SS - for D and as a contributor on O.
    Lastly, as exciting as Posey's last 10 days were, it is folly to expect him to carry the team. He can be expected to contribute - and be a significant upgrade over Molina - but he is not, I don't think the amazingly productive clean up hitter we have just witnesses. Example: Virtually every HR he hit to RF on this trip would have been an out in ATT. To be productive in ATT, he is going to have to develop the ability to hit to LF - evn when he is being pitched to hit to RF. That is a tall task for a rookie. However, if Uribe can get back to hitting even 280 with some power, a 3,4,5 of Huff, Uribe, Burrell, with Posey at 6 is still a Giant leap over 2007, 08, & 09 Giant teams. If Torres and Sanchez ramain productive at 1 & 2, we will have enough O.

  7. Ely is a non-factor. He's going to the minors and they are bringing up James McDonald. Bank on the Dodgers bringing in a veteran SP & RP for the stretch run.

  8. Hey. Leave Uribe out of this. He was one of the few watchable hitters last year. He was good until the end of June or so. He'd been battling a hand injury without telling anyone about it. Before that he was doing good especially compared to the other SS in the league. Perhaps his defense is not as good as you'd like from an important position like SS, but, I'd rather have him there than Edgar.

  9. Thanks for the comments.

    Sorry allfrank, not fully up on each team, wasn't aware of LA's injury concerns. Thanks for mentioning, that would be further concerns for their production in the second half.

    Yeah, Baggarly noted the issue with our SS. I think that between Uribe and Renteria, they can cobble together a good enough season, and if both runs down, I can see the Giants bringing up Burriss to take some at SS too.

    Not sure what is available at SS that would be worth getting. We would be taking salary on someone who isn't that productive, at best, because the Giants are not going to trade away the future. Don't know who the Giants consider to be non-keepers, so I don't know who we might trade.

    I'm not expecting Posey to hit like he did the past week and a half. But now I feel more confident that he will show enough power to bat in the middle of the lineup.

    We don't need him to be superman to have a good enough lineup to win with our pitching and fielding, we just need him to be an above average hitter, maybe mid-to-high 800 OPS, that would be good to go with Huff and create a presence in the middle of the lineup.

    Boof, if James McDonald was any good, he would have started the season with them, he's been up the past two seasons and haven't done that well in the majors. And, in any case, he isn't doing that well in the minors right now, 4.41 ERA in AAA means that he is probably a 5+ ERA in the majors, that will still leave them with a weak spot in their rotation relative to our rotation.

    I know that LA will try to bring someone in. But with no prospect really considered much of anything, as their farm system is dry (ranked 24th by Baseball America), they will be slinging the spaghetti to the wall again (like they did in previous years with Jeff Weaver and Vicente Padilla before) and hoping that they can find the magic. That is not something I would worry much about.

    Bringing in a veteran SP is a given. Getting someone good enough to make a big difference is another thing altogether. With nothing much in the farm, I just don't see them getting anyone who will surely help them, like a Cliff Lee would have. To get Lee, the asking price was Loney or another young buck (don't recall who). They will be stuck, like the Cards, in picking up somebody's leftover like Suppan.



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