Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Look of Success: Latos' Bewildered Panda Look

Andy Baggarly wrote of this in his report of the game yesterday:  the look on San Diego's ace, Mat Latos, face after Pablo Sandoval's homer in the 7th which drove him out of the game.  I think that is the look of success for the Giants as we move firmly into the pennant stretch.

As I wrote about in a post a few days ago, it appears that Kung Fu Panda has returned.  Sure, small samples, but what people are forgetting is that in statistics, the significance of data is unlike others, clearly out of the box.  Sandoval hitting homers were part of the equation that I noted in the post a few days ago.

Now the look.   Here is what Baggarly wrote:
Pablo Sandoval snapped Latos' shutout when he led off the seventh inning with a home run that bounced into McCovey Cove. It was a swing full of hope, and not only because it knocked the Padres' young starter from the game.
It might have been a sign the Kung Fu Panda is emerging from his season-long hibernation. He had gone 46 games without a home run before Thursday, but now he has two in a span of three games.
Not only that, but he connected on a pitch above the letters and off the plate. Latos had a look of bewilderment in the dugout -- the kind of facial expressions the Giants saw often last year when Sandoval barreled up pitches off the plate while hitting .330.
"High pitch," said Sandoval, smiling. "I haven't hit a ball out of the park like that all year. I think that's a good sign for the team and me."

That is something that has been mostly missing this season, Pablo swinging at pitches that clearly are out of the strike zone for a big hit, in this case a big homer.

Here is what Chris Haft reported on this:
After going 46 games without a homer, Sandoval now has hit two in the past three games.

"That was a big homer he hit today; don't ask me how he did it," Huff said. "That's special, man, to be able to hit a ball like that. That was a big homer -- that was probably one of the turning points of the game, to be able to get [Latos] out."
The thing about stats is that you try to look for things that are not like before to show that something has changed substantially.  While that works really well when dealing with rolling dice or analysis of a population, and it works well in baseball as well, as humans, we can take into account qualitative bits of data as well.

The qualitative data here is not just that he homered for first time in a long time, as well as hit well in a week stretch, which he hasn't done in a long time, but also that he hasn't been hitting well on balls out of the strike zone.  When Pablo was going well in his prior year and a third in the majors, he was great at hitting pitches out of the zone.

Sure, it would be better if he swung only at strikes.  But I don't really understand what the problem is when he was hitting like he was, particularly in 2009.  He is capable of hitting homers on pitches out of the strike zone and still able to hit well overall while doing that.  I prefer to take the path of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" because there will always be unforeseen consequences to trying to change things.  A batter's swing is a complex system that can be improved with training and education, but when you have a hitter like Pablo, you don't know if changing him might cause changes that you don't anticipate nor would like to see.

Great Photo in Chronicle



If we win and get into the playoffs, this would be a photo that captures it best, I think.  Here is the link to the article by Hank Schulman.

Additional Guillen Thoughts

I am feeling better about the Guillen trade now.  Reading all the article with interviews with him and hearing more about him, it sounds like he may have been underperforming both because of being on a loser as well as recovering from an injury earlier in the season, which he says is 100% now.  He's in his last season of his contract and wants to play next season, so he has to perform well for us to improve his chances of getting that contract.  He's excited to join a winner, something he has not done a lot of, kind of like with Huff, and so he's motivated to do well and help the Giants win.  Given how Bochy has been willing to push vets to the bench when not performing, I expect that if he don't do well, he'll sit or be released too.  Win if he delivers, nothing really lost if he doesn't because our other hitters, particularly Kung Fu Panda, should be hitting well enough in any case.

Speaking of which, sounds like Fontenot will be seeing regular playing time at 2B if Franchez continues season long pattern of up and down performance.

7 comments:

  1. I have to see a lot more from Sandoval to say that he's really coming out of his funk. However, the signs are positive. The only problem is that his defense is getting worse as the season progresses. Errors, lack of range, etc. are really costing the Giants big time. The difference between the Padres & the Giants right now is measurable in defense, mistake-free baseball, & pitching.

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  2. Question for the wise one.
    How many times have teams with Torrealba as catcher finished ahead of the Giants?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I assume you are talking about Boof, because I'm not the wise one.

    My answer would be "too many times", but that's the amazing thing about having a good team around you, no matter how average or bad you are, your team will win more often than not.

    I still think the 'Dres will peter out as the season goes on, the pitching is young and overachieving for the most part, and they will need to be shut down at some point else they will pitch horribly and give the lead to us that way. And if they are shut down, they have nobody to take their place(s).

    Of course, though, we are in deep trouble if Lincecum continues to struggle. We need him to return to a decent level if we want to hope for the playoffs.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Looked it up myself and it confirms what I thought.
    Torrealba came back to the National League to play with Colorado in 2006 (from Seattle). In 2006, the Rockies finished 1/2 game behind the Giants (Giants played 161 games that year). Every year since, he has finished ahead of the Giants.
    I know you believe otherwise, even in hindsight, which amazes me, but he should never have been traded.
    You insinuate that he is "average, bad" yet he is good enough to start on teams that all do better than the Giants, for some reason.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Didn't need to look it up, I know that Torrealba has been on teams above us. So what?

    You seem to think that I just "insinuate" things, any long time reader knows that I gather a lot of facts in my head and put it out there with my thoughts on it.

    Here is what I see of Torrealba: despite playing in a home park built to super-charge your stats, his OPS+ was always way below average (and I knew this when you commented):

    2006: .247/.293/.439/.732, 78 OPS+
    2007: .255/.323/.376/.699, 76 OPS+
    2008: .246/.293/.394/.687, 72 OPS+
    2009: .291/.351/.380/.732, 87 OPS+

    Avg NL C:

    2006: .268/.327/.416/.742
    2007: .257/.318/.394/.712
    2008: .255/.328/.387/.715
    2009: .255/.325/.385/.710

    As one can see, he didn't hit above the average NL C until the last season and he's having a monster offensive season this year, ironic in that he's now in a extreme pitcher's park now, but couldn't muster up any offense while at a hitter's paradise in Colorado.

    Now, would I have minded signing him during the off-season? No, I had no real problem with the Giants looking into signing him this off-season but was glad that we signed Molina instead. Still glad.

    The thing is that this is now, and that was then, he wasn't ready to start for us back then, not offensively at least. Now that he's reached his 30's, which is when some backup catchers start to finally figure things out offensively, I would have been OK with him starting if we didn't have Posey, he was always considered a good defensive catcher.

    ReplyDelete
  6. And you say that he was good enough to start for other teams, as if that meant that he was key to their success, but you clearly don't know the context of that.

    The fact is that Torrealba was never the "starting" catcher for the Rockies. In fact, in three of the four seasons he played for them, he didn't even get into half of their games, which is the minimum, very minimum, level I would set for a starting catcher.

    He was always the backup catcher because the Rockies catcher of the future was and is Chris Iannetta. However, he was never ready and so they would go to their backup, Torrealba, when they eventually had to send Iannetta down or sit him on the bench.

    In other words, the Rockies were looking for a starting catcher, yet thought so much of Torrealba that they didn't play him enough so that he would play in over half of the teams game.

    And isn't that what every team want in their starting catcher, someone who doesn't even get into half of his team's games?

    FYI, the Rockies thought he was so essential to their success that they signed Miguel Olivo to be their full-time starting catcher, with Iannetta as their backup catcher.

    ReplyDelete
  7. The only context where I would have been OK with keeping Torrealba to be the starter is the assumption that keeping Torrealba = not trading for AJ and losing Nathan. If there was anything that derailed the Giants success in the intervening years, losing Nathan was a big part of that.

    Still, people paint me as a silver lining guy, or a glass half full guy, but really, I'm more of a look at every angle type of guy.

    And the fact is that our losing during those years enabled us to draft Lincecum, Bumgarner, Posey, and Wheeler.

    There are good and bad consequences to many things. Zito, as badly as he messed up and costed us a lot of money, that also let to losing because we had less to spend on other things we needed. Losing Nathan, then losing AJ for nothing, that cost us too, but again, losing led to the opportunity to draft those guys.

    Losing is not entirely bad when you are picking quality players like the Giants have been doing, unlike other teams who have been drafting duds. Think how much better SD would be now if they had drafted anyone other than Bush as the #1 overall?

    Still that was a bad draft overall, only Verlander and Jered Weaver has had a good career so far, and Stephan Drew has been OK. Plus Phil Hughes is finally getting there, but that was a pretty bad draft (FYI, that was the infamous 2004 draft where the Giants punted their pick to the Royals, who picked Matt Campbell, who has not done anything in majors, haven't reached yet).

    ReplyDelete

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