Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Your 2010 Giants Won NLDS: Giants Gauntlet Great

I had intended to include this YouTube video once the Giants made the playoffs but forgot to do it, so now the impact is more muted.  Still, it represents my feelings about the Giants and the playoffs (and the lead singer reminds me of Tim Lincecum with a haircut, so I thought that was appropo as well):

If this song was appropriate before, it is more so now that the Giants beat the Braves to win the NLDS. Here is another song, with lyrics modified to a Giants theme (props to Will for providing me the link in my comment area), of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing":

Ironically Journey's singer, Steve Perry, is a big Giants fan who is horrified that the D-gers had adopted their song, without his permission, and he's been trying to, first, get them to stop using the song, and second, to get the Giants to adopt the song, but because the D-gers been using it, the Giants don't want to appear to be copying their hated rivals (my words :^).

But I think the song I selected is more appropo because, one, well, my belief has been strong for a number of years now, and two, I do think it's the Giants time now, whether they win against the Phillies or win the World Series or lose along the way, as I truly think that the 2010's is the Giants decade with their core of young players - Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner, Wilson, Posey, Sandoval, Belt, Wheeler - and key older players like Huff, Burrell, Torres, Sanchez, and right now I would add Ross too, he's been great for us down the stretch and now into the playoffs, he has played into my thoughts of what the 2011 Giants will look like.

Pitching Can Dominate Hitting

As any long time reader knows (read my business plan if you are not) I've been harping on the fact (from the most current research that I know of) that pitchers can dominate games, and from my PQS studies, one can see that the best can do them more often than not (DOM% > 50%).  And that having a whole rotation of pitchers who can do this will be an incredible advantage for a team in the playoffs.  For the NLDS:

Lincecum:  5 PQS in Game 1
Cain:  5 PQS in Game 2
Sanchez:  5 PQS in Game 3
Bumgarner:  5 PQS in Game 4

I would bet that once I dig into September's PQS analysis, we would find that the starting pitchers had an incredible percentage of DOM games (4 or 5 PQS).

Braves Playoff Lineup Was Good

Not that the Braves starters were not dominating too, just, obviously, not as dominating.  The Giants Gaunlet - Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner - basically shut the Braves down.  While the Giants only scored 11 runs in the four games, the Braves only scored 9 runs.  And the Giants Gauntlet only gave up 3 ER (4 total runs) in the four games, and one of them on firstbase scoring on the homer that a reliever gave up. 

Obviously the Braves offense were  not as potent without Chipper Jones and Martin Prado, but it was not like the playoff lineup was not without their good hitters:  Brian McCann, Matt Diaz, and they added Derrek Lee and Rick Ankiel, plus, of course, they have their Rookie of the Year candidate, Jason Heyward, who was the odds-on favorite all season long, until he faded at the end while Posey pushed his performance up another level in September.  And Prado was struggling in September before his season-ending injury. 

In the first 19 games after Jones ended his season, the Braves averaged 6.4 runs per game.  And 4.6 runs per game for the rest of the season (only averaged 3.5 runs in Sept/Oct, partly because Prado was hitting in the low 600 OPS then).  So it was not like the Braves lineup was left impotent, because of key additions of Lee and Ankiel.

Giants Gauntlet Dominance

For more perspective on the Giants pitching (and fielding), since August 30th's game, the Giants have played 31 games in the season and 4 playoff games:   26 and 3, respectively, were games where the Giants allowed 3 runs or less.  See my Performance box to the side for stats on how important that is and how often the Giants win when they do this.

Just about as amazing is that out of those games, the Giants allowed 4 runs or less in 28 and 4 games, respectively.  That is 3 games in 35 where the Giants gave up more than 4 runs.  Some teams do that in one weekend series, let alone over a 6 week period.

This is a culmination of what I've been preaching for years now about how having a rotation full of pitchers who can dominate the opposing team will wear down the competition, over time.  The key is that the Giants will clean up with ace-type starters in the back of the rotation going against the other teams' 4th, 5th, and 6th starters.  The Giants were 21-12 in Jonathan Sanchez's starts.  The Giants were 11-7 in Madison Bumgarner's starts.  That's 32-19, 13 games above .500 for a 92-70 team, 22 games above .500, representing 59% of the games above .500 between the two of them.

That becomes a key during the playoffs as well.  Whoever we throw up 1-2 against the other team matches up well with their aces.  We'll probably split those.  But then 3-4 we can throw up two more aces vs. most team's 3-4 in talent, and we can win those.  Then we split the 5-6 and the Giants win the series!  Even if we split the middle, that leaves one of our aces pitching Game 7 against the other team's #3 starter.

Phillies Different Beast, But Still

However, the Phillies have 3 ace-level starters in Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels, so that formula for winning won't play as much with those three.  Earlier today, they decided to go with Blanton in game 4, and that gives the Giants an advantage there, as they should have Bumgarner there.  It will be twin matchups, Lincecum vs. Halladay, Sanchez vs. Oswalt, Cain vs. Hamels, twice during the series, Lincecum vs. Halladay in games 1 and 5, Sanchez vs. Oswalt in games 2 and 6, and Cain vs. Hamels in games 3 and 7.  That is, assuming the Giants are not down 0-3 in game 4 and start Lincecum on 3 days rest.

Still, the key thing for the Giants is that they can match up with the Phillies pitching all series.  During those 35 games I noted above, they shut down good offenses in D-Rox, D-back, Brewers.  Out of 19 games against above average offenses, they kept them at 3 runs or less in 17 of them.  They can handle the Phillies hitters the way that their H2O handled the Reds hitters, which is pretty much shut them down.

Look at what the Phillies starters did to the top offensive team in the Reds:  the Giants rotation is equal to them, why can't they do the same to the Phillies offense, which is around as good as the Reds (and about as good as the D-Rox)?  And the Giants shut down Colorado at home, where the offense rules much greater than for the Phillies bandbox of a home.  Why can't they shut them down as well?

Playoffs Different Beast

As I've noted in my business plan series, two different research efforts by Baseball Prospectus and The Hardball Times, two of the most respected baseball analysis sites around, studied the issue of winning in the playoffs, using different methodologies, came to the same conclusion:  offense don't really matters in the playoffs, it is the defense, comprised of the pitching and fielding, that influences which teams win and which teams loses.  It is not a perfect recipe that guarantees a World Series championship, but if you want to maximize your odds of winning in the playoffs, that is what you have to do.

Baseball Prospectus' study went further and provided metrics by which one can see which teams have the better chances.  First off is a pitching staff where they have a high K/9 among the participants.  Second off is a closer who has a high WRXL, which is BP's proprietary metric for measuring how well a closer does.  Third off is a top fielding defense, as measured by BP's proprietary defense metric.

For 2010, the Giants K/9 was 8.2 while the Phillies was 7.3.  However, there were a number of starters who brought down that average for the Phillies, who will not be in the rotation during the playoffs, so that is probably about even, though I would bet the Giants still have the edge because of Lincecum and Sanchez, plus Bumgarner's K/9 was stellar in September, as he improved greatly that month.

Now for closers, in 2010, Brian Wilson had a 6.271 WRXL while Brad Lidge of the Phillies had a 2.864 WRXL.  Clearly, Wilson has had a much better season than Lidge has, by far, by that measure.  That will pay off in close games.  And Lidge had a relatively high 2.96 ERA and Wilson had a relatively low 1.81 ERA.

Sabermetrically, Wilson is far superior too.  WHIP of 1.18 vs. 1.23.  Only walks 3.1 BB/9 while Lidge is wild, with a 4.7 BB/9.  Wilson strikes out more, 11.2 K/9 vs. Lidge's 10.2 K/9, which is superior either way, though.  But in terms of K/BB, you want your best relievers to have a 2.4+ K/BB and Lidge has a 2.17 K/BB while Wilson has a 3.58 K/BB.

Oddly enough, BP does not publish their stats on fielding.  The best I could find is their stats on defensive efficiency.  The Giants are among the top in DE and PADE, while the Phillies were good, better than average, but in the top third, maybe, in the majors.  That suggests that they are the better fielding team.

So it seems like the Giants have better ingredients for winning this series than the Phillies do, per Baseball Prospectus' research.

Baseball Prospectus' Nadir

I wonder how BP is feeling about their 2010 book right now.  I had been wanting to address this earlier in the season, but never got around to it.  In that annual, they spent their whole chapter on the Giants discussing why Brian Sabean should be fired.  I have had a problem with their clear bias against the Giants over the years (the Giants must have really pissed off BP at some point) and I had kept on buying their books because of the stats and data.  But after that chapter, given my feelings about Sabean, I cannot bring myself to buy their book going forward.

I wonder if they have had the guts to address that chapter at their website (I'm not a subscriber).  Seems like that would be the elephant in the room right now, for, from my perspective, their reputation is on the line with how the Giants are doing.  It is one thing to bad-mouth the decisions that the Giants have made over the years, but a whole another level when you are publicly advocating for the GM to be fired.

Yet, despite all the horrible decisions that in BP's opinion Sabean has made (and he has made them, no doubt), the team won 92 games and stands one series win away from the World Series.  Not exactly a fireable offense, I would think.

Now, they could pussy-foot around the issue by saying that Sabean made a lot of good decisions in season, with the acquisition of Burrell, Lopez, Ramirez, Ray, Guillen, Fontenot, and Ross.  But I would find that to be a lame, CYA response, if a GM deserves to be fired pre-season, unless he pulls off an Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter for John Bowker and Joe Martinez trade, anything less should not result in a winning season, let alone a season the Giants have put together, because no team that a GM who deserves to be fired has assembled should win by adding complementary players like these to the mix.

A team created by a GM who deserves to be fired should be no-where near what the Giants did this season.

Yet that is where we stand now, BP claims to know baseball better than anybody (just ask them, they are not modest) and called for the firing of a GM because he did not build a team the way that BP thought would lead to a successful future (or something like that, I don't recall any detail other than they want him fired, it has been a while, and frankly, this would be the only reason I would fire a GM; if you want a perfect GM, then don't live in a glass house).  The team, which BP didn't think much of last season or this season, has averaged 90 wins over the two seasons.  And look pretty good for years to come.

Ironically, the Giants roster look like it was built by someone reading Baseball Prospectus' great book, Baseball Between the Numbers, the chapter on building a team that would maximize your chances in the playoffs (this is the research study I referenced above and base a lot of analysis off of).  The Giants have focused on pitching and fielding overall, and have added enough offense to win with that. They also have been trying to add speed to the team for years (and failing so far, but maybe Burriss and Noonan will eventually turn out, plus there is Adrianza and Peguero, and now there's Gary Brown, who I have a lot of hopes about succeeding).

Giants History Against Playoff Teams

I had also in the past covered the Giants past history with the playoff teams and did not do that.  The Reds, nothing really, other than the Dusty factor, plus they are gone now so I will not bother researching anything deeper in the past.  The Braves, we are still owed, despite our beating them in 2002, for what they did to us in 1993, that was rightfully our title, but the 'Dres handed it to them on a silver platter by giving McGriff to them for basically nothing, didn't even get a top prospect out the Braves for him.  The Giants have not had anything against them recently, but on a city level, the Giants beat the Philadelphia A's in 1905.

If the Giants make it into the playoffs, obviously the Yankees owe us for the 1962 World Series, plus they should not be able to buy the World Series year after year.  Plus maybe Sabean would like to show up his former employer.  The Rangers we have no history with, other than giving us nice pieces for Molina.  Obviously, Molina will have something to prove against the Giants, but that is on a personal level.  Plus, they haven't been waiting as long as our fans have.


  1. A little off topic, but it is being reported that the cost for the acquisition of Jose Guillen is Kevin Pucetas.

  2. Was the BP take on Sabean before or after Burrell and Ross fell into his lap?

  3. Eh, Boof, I go off topic all the time, eh?

    I tweeted about that this morning, but I don't see why people are all upset over this. Two years ago, yeah, I would have been upset and would understand why people are upset.

    But after two underwhelming years in AAA, he just isn't getting it done as a Giants prospect. And I don't see him as someone like Frandsen or Bowker who might benefit from a change of scenery, he has been working with an organization that is known for getting the best out of their pitching prospects.

    But good luck to him, I like him as a prospect, but his prospect status has dropped tremendously in the past two seasons.

    To Anon, I thought I had mentioned this, but this is BP's annual which is published pre-season, which, of course, is way before Burrell and Ross were acquired.

  4. Ordinarily in a 7 game series, all you need is 2 dominant starting pitchers and a dominant closer. What makes this one so interesting is that both teams have 3 dominant starters! I can't think of any time in the history of baseball where a comparable matchup has occured. What that does is put each of the first 3 games and probably the last 3 into the tossup category. Obviously, it could break either way, and it might be slightly more likely to break Philly's way, because I do think they have a better lineup, but as you go down the list of tossups, you finally come to game 4 which is where the Giants may have the advantage. This entire series and a trip to the World Series may hinge on the performance of a rookie, Madison Bumgarner.

  5. Excellent comment, as usual, DrB! Yes, our hopes of playing in this season's World Series probably hinges on the performance of our magnificent rookie, but still, a rookie. But he stepped up nicely in the last month, best ERA except for Sanchez (1.13 vs. 1.01) and shutting down the Braves. And with all that rest, should be strong again.



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