Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Thoughts on Your 2011 Giants

I posted this on ELM's post regarding that Uggla trade, and it basically regards how I think the Giants will do in the 2011 season:

This is the flawed thinking [i.e. Giants barely got into playoffs in 2010] I've been seeing in discussions about the Giants. ajax covers changes that should make 2011 better [full year of FSanchez, Posey, Ross and even Torres]; I would also add two other big changes: Bumgarner full year, no Wellemeyer; and Kung Fu Panda's return.

The end of season is the result of the whole season's mix of talents but extrapolating that to 2011 is incorrect because of all these changes. The team was not static last season, as all the pundits have been saying when discussing the Giants 2010 season. The team at the end of the season is much different from the one we will have in 2011.

What some don't realize is that the Giants played at a roughly 100 win-rate since Posey took over the starting catching duties, and even elevated it in Sept/Oct/Nov to roughly 110 win-rate. If they do that over a season, they will win running away.

Of course, they probably will not play at that rate. The pitching can't possibly be that good over a whole season, can they? But even at a low 90 win rate, the Giants should be contending for a playoff position again.

Here is how I see why things will continue into 2011 from that ending to a playoff contending level. While pitchers probably won't be that great, Lincecum with his new slider will still be there, and should put in another Cy Young level season. Cain took another step in 2010 and I don't see him stepping back in 2011. Sanchez took a giant leap in 2010 and I don't expect him to go back either. And Bumgarner is like Posey's doppelganger: very young, yet very mature and very confident and talented. We'll have a full season of that.

Meanwhile, the bullpen will be greatly improved because we will have Lopez, Ramirez, Casilla, and Ray for a whole season. Plus, Affledt should not have as bad a season, he came around at the end when we needed him. And Romo will have another season under his belt and not be as inconsistent.

Our lineup, though, is probably where fans get off the bandwagon. Poor offense, blah, blah, blah. As I've been writing for years now, when you have a great defense (pitching, fielding) you can get into playoff contention with a crappy offense, even one as crappy as 2008 and 2009. For example, with last year's defense (3.6 RA), the 2008/9 offense would have legitimately won 88 games. And remember, 2011's defense should be better with 1) less Timmy hiccups, 2) more MadBum, less Wellemeyer, 3) better bullpen, 4) better fielding overall (Torres in CF, Ross in RF, Belt 1B).

And yes, I'm going there: I think Belt will be the starting 1B for most if not all of the 2011 season. His hitting in the minors and AFL, plus Sabean comments that they will move him up if he forces his way up, leads me to think that he will force his way up in spring training. He has shown the talent to do it, he seems to have the mentality to handle it, plus I have a bad feeling about Huff coming back, he might be gone. Even if Huff is here, he could move to LF and Belt 1B. I think a season like Pablo's 2009 is not out of the question for Belt.

That leads me to offense. We might lose Huff's great hitting at the end, but that was countered by how poorly Uribe hit at the end [Throw in Renteria too]. If we get them back great, but it won't be like replacing the two of their end of season production should be as hard, particularly if Belt comes up and hits like I think he can. Burrell was very good, but I think Ross can put up similar power numbers while providing much better defense [better than what Guillen did at the end of the season too]. Torres was actually pretty bad in September, either horrible or on the DL. He should be able to hit basically what he did in 2009-10 in a full season as a starter in 2011. Franchez should hit about the same while playing full season. Posey should hit about the same while playing a full season [remember, he "only" hit .283/.340/.472/.812 in the second half].

All that is about the same offense, and with that we still won a lot of games down the stretch. But, as I noted, the pitching definitely won't be at that high a level for a whole season (else, it'll be like we went back to the dead-ball era). I think the other big factor in the offense being good enough for us to win the division again is Pablo.

I think Pablo's 2010 season is misunderstood. First, yes, it was not like his 2009 season. But despite all his problems, his OPS was around that of the average 3B in the NL in 2010. So it wasn't like he fell into the abyss. Second, it wasn't like he stunk the whole season, despite what a lot of people have been writing. He was Panda in April. Then the divorce papers hit and he was crap until the All-Star Break, then he hit like the Panda again. Until he had to fly down to Venezuela to sign the papers, and then he had another downturn. Once he recovered from that, he was Panda again, until he nearly lost his mom in the San Bruno pipeline explosion and fire. Then he was Panda again, in the last two weeks of the season. Then he froze in the limelight of the playoffs and World Series.

So, was he bad? Yes, but not all the time, and except for the divorce papers being served (which we have no timeline for), his ups and downs in the 2010 season matches up with key emotionally charged events happening in his life, things that get regular people very depressed or upset, and they don't do their job so well [and tend to eat a lot].

He should be back to his Kung Fu Panda-ness in 2011, assuming he doesn't have other bad personal events happening during the season. His talent never went away in 2010, it clearly came up for air when his personal life wasn't spinning out of control. People carp on his weight, but many people eat and get fat when they are depressed and angry. And even at that, his UZR wasn't that bad in 2010, in fact, if I recall right, it was better than his 2009.

So he'll be back in 2011. He might not lose all the weight the Giants want, but his bat will be there and that will put him back in the lineup, the Giants don't really have a choice. They had their tough love speech to get his butt moving on working to lose weight, but if he's hitting like he did in 2009, there is no way they are sending him down to the minors. [At worse] He'll be like Miguel Cabrera, play 3B in short-term before shifting to 1B because of his size.  [But if he works at losing his weight - and his willingness to spend the offseason in San Diego, away from home in Venezuela and his baby girl, suggests that he will work diligently at it - he could be our 3B for the rest of the decade.]

And if his bat is back, that is something that will mitigate any drop in the pitching relative to the end of 2010. And the Giants should win the NL West division easily if he is back and everyone else performs around where they are expected to.

Additional Giants Thoughts

As I've been saying, the 2010's will be known as the Giant's decade.  They will make frequent runs at the championship, and should win more with the pitching that they have led by Buster Posey.  Young players like him, Sandoval, Belt, and Brown (Killer B's offense?) will make our offense better than what they were in the 2000's, the Oughts.

Will they do it again in 2011?  I don't think one can ever predict a World Series championship.  You need things to go your way to do that (like Burrell and Ross, then Brooks Conrad).

However, you can't win it if you don't make it into the playoffs.  The Giants have a team that should be competing for the NL West title again in 2011, if not win it, so I'm hopeful for 2011.  Like 2010, it will depend on young players (Belt, Sandoval, Posey, Bumgarner) to perform well, and you can't always rely on that from young players.  But I think that they will, as Nike advocates, just do it.

It is good timing too.  The D-gers, who looked like they might have a perennial pennant winner just a couple of years ago (and thus is a cautionary tale for our Giants today), have some key underperforming players (Loney, Martin; but really, based on what they did in the minors, they overperformed in their first MLB season then fell back to their talent level) and a pending D-vorce that should derail their ability to compete (see what happened to the 'Dres when their owner Moore got a divorce) once that is settled.

The D-backs are back-tracking and cutting salary (ironically dropping Adam LaRoche, who passed on a 3 year, $21M contract with the Giants, losing a lot of guaranteed money and potentially a World Series ring).  And the rumor is that they are shopping Justin Upton.  You don't do that if you are planning on trying to win the division title, that is the behavior of a team re-trenching and re-building.  They have a nice group of young pitchers, much like the 'Dres did in 2010, which to me is good news because while they pitched well in 2010, their minor league stats suggest that they are no where near the ace status that most of the Giants starters are at.  And you need that to compete consistently in the regular season, let alone playoffs.

Speaking of the 'Dres, with the rumors of A-Gon being a-gone during the off-season, I don't see how they are going to compete in 2011 if they trade him.  That might set them up for 2012, but, again, only Latos look ace worthy, the other pitchers will get exposed at some point or another.  And they don't really have many top prospects (overall) that look to boost them up soon.

That leaves the D-Rox.  Jimenez is not going to have another half season like 2010, but he will be very good. And Tulowitski will have a healthy season in 2011 (won't he?  He seems to get injured all the time, but appears to alternate, making 2011 a non-injury year).  Car-Gon looks to be the real deal (thanks for that idiotic trade, A's!), and unlike the other teams, they have a couple of nice young pitchers in Jimenez and Chacin.  Thus I see them as the Giant main competitor for the NL West title.

But the Giants have more pitchers and of greater quality, and the D-Rox's offense doesn't look that great beyond Tulo and Car-Gon.  And, after all, they only won 83 games last season, and it wasn't like they played great when Tulo was in the lineup or that poorly when he wasn't (around .500, so it was not like they fell off the cliff, and they had chances down the stretch).

So the Giants look pretty good for repeating in winning the NL West division title.  Not only do they look like they could be even better in 2011, but all the other teams look vulnerable and/or weak.

And once you get into the playoffs, our pitching will get a chance to dominate again.

15 comments:

  1. I agree with most of your post. However, with regards to Panda I think you are engaging in wishful thinking. I believe the vision detected last off season were the cause of most of his hitting problems and if not then he just failed to adjust to just how far outside the strike zone pitchers were pitching him. To me it is wishful thinking to believe that he will make this adjustment in 2011 that he did not in 2010 or that his vision will get corrected if that was the cause as I suspect.

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  2. Oh, I also disagree on Huff. i think there is an excellent chance he returns. I am much more worried about losing Uribe as I can easily see his agent steering him elsewhere (Cardinals, Reds, Dodgers, maybe even Padres or Twins) because he (the agent) is upset with Sabean gaming him last offseason by hiding FSanchez's injury.

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  3. I went though your reasoning too.

    But then why did he bat 1.000+ OPS in April if it was his vision?

    If it was because he didn't adjust, then why did he have periods of good hitting latter in the season? That suggest some adjustment. And he ended the season on a good stretch for two weeks. (I know, SSS, but when he was so bad before, I think that's significant).

    I hope you are right about Huff, I would love to have him back at fair price.

    Uribe, I can go either way on, but basically I want a fair price too, but see him (and Huff) getting over-priced bids and leaving.

    I would be OK with Uribe leaving and we get draft pick, then we can sign a great defensive SS (Everett?) on the cheap. I think with Sandoval, Posey, Belt in middle of lineup and Torres leadoff and Franchez 2nd, plus Ross 6th, I think offense will be OK with poor offensive, but great defensive SS. Signing Huff would really make such a SS really OK, I think.

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  4. We defintely need a good defensive SS, especially if Panda is going to be at 3b. I don't care what the UZRs say (just like they also said with FLew), I trust my eyes that tell me that Panda is not a good defensive 3Bman.

    I know that you're not in favor of this, but I would be OK with trading J. Sanchez if it bought us someone like S. Drew or J. Reyes, both of whom are rumored to be available.

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  5. Well, not that I'm in favor, but rather I don't see it happening.

    Drew I think AZ won't trade within division. Already said that is their preference regarding Upton.

    In any case, he's an AZ hitter - only .734 OPS away - which is not very good plus is only average defensively per BB-REF, for an ace-worthy starter like Sanchez. Pass.

    Reyes, however, is proven offensively plus above average defensively, young, signed for a number of years I think, that is what I think Sanchez is worth.

    Pick up a cheap $1M flier for open starter spot, Vertugo looking great in AFL, could be ready by mid-season.

    I would definitely go for that trade, not sure Mets would, even if we threw in some MI prospects like Gillaspie, Culberson, Noonan, Crawford.

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  6. Reyes will be a free agent at the end of next year, which is why the Mets are considering trading him.

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  7. Well, that is not ideal, but we only got Sanchez for another two years, for one year of Reyes plus hopefully re-sign him.

    I can still go for that.

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  8. I don't know how good of a defensive player that he is, but Jadon Bartlett is also supposed to be available from the Rays.

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  9. SandovaI might or might not hit, but I see defense as his primary problem.

    He couldn't catch or grip it cleanly.
    His throws were high, low, and wide both stationary and on the move.
    And most disturbing was his total butchering of the position - terrible decision making combined with consistent inability to make basic physical plays (get BACK to the BASE on the bunt, THEN turn).

    A third baseman like that better hit 40+ HR, have a 400+ OBP, or OPS near .950. Very few teams can survive that kind of defense, and the Giants least of all with run prevention so critical to their success.

    If his personal problems so affected his performance at 3B (and at the plate), well, negative events happen in everyones life, and if he doesn't quickly learn to play thru them, he'll be fondly remembered - starting next year.

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  10. Boof, great minds think alike: I had mentioned Jason Barlett on another site somewhere. He is suppose to be pretty good defensively, but not as good as Adam Everett, who I believe is a free agent. But he hits better than Everett, so there is that.

    He's not that good a player overall, though, so he could be easy to trade for because I think the reason he's available is he's arb-eligible, making bigger money, and Rays have a couple of young cheap prospect, including Brignac (who I wouldn't mind either), who could start for them.

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  11. EL, I have heard that defensive problem, but if the defensive metrics has him improved in terms of runs saved, perhaps 3B in 2010 just had a bad year, as the metrics are all relative to how other 3B play.

    I know some would view this as psycho-babble, but the way I see it, what you describe is exactly what happens when one's actions move from subsconcious to conscious.

    Malcolm Gladwell wrote about this, regarding choking, in the New Yorker (I've referenced this before), and basically what happens is that some people basically become too conscious of their movement when put under pressure, reverting to the mode you have when you are first learning anything, instead of relying on the muscle memory that you had hone through years of practice.

    I had it happen to me in school. Playing for fun, I was great manning 3B, but once the lunch-time league started and everyone was watching, my balls sailed over the head of the 1B, even Yao Ming couldn't catch them.

    I think Pablo's mind was not on the baseball field. So his hitting and fielding suffered because instead of using muscle memory, he was thinking about his movement.

    I think both will recover to 2009's level of performance with time off and a clear mind in 2011, assuming no other emotional bombshells happen.

    I agree though, if he's playing as you describe, he'll have to go to the minors. Perhaps that was the Giants way of telling him what you wrote in your last paragraph, giving him the threat of the minors. Because the way he hit in 2010 (and fielded, based on what you and others I've read said) is not tolerable for 2011.

    But you have to admit, sure, there are negative events, but a divorce, losing your child, and almost losing your mom are pretty extreme events on their own, but he went through all three in 2010. I'm willing to cut him a break on that, but like you, I feel he has to step up in 2011. I think he can.

    As I noted, it was not like he was bad all season. There were pockets of pretty good Panda-like hitting amidst the dross. If they weren't there, I would be much more negative about Pablo for 2011. That they were, it showed to me that his skills were there, only he was distracted from utilizing them much of the season by a series of horrendous personal events. That's why I think 2011 will include a return of Kung Fu Panda.

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  12. I hope you're right, but it puts the team in an uncertain position.

    If they count on him playing to 09 and he doesn't, they have a massive hole to fill after the season has started. If he doesn't at least field impeccably in the Spring, I think they make a move.

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  13. I have to agree pretty much with everything - the big hole is at SS. As much a fan as I am of Uribe, he's going to get an overpriced contract from somewhere. I wouldn't be surprised though if, within reason, the Giants go the high end with Huff. But the rumor mill is a little spooky seeming.

    My impression of Panda is he loves to play the game, and loves the spotlight too. So he'll be motivated to do what he needs to do to make adjustments. I see the lack of thoroughness in that area as the main problem, not his weight. Doesn't help of course that he's as big as a house, but I personally don't really see the connection as that and that alone. But too - and this is the wildcard - I completely agree with OGC's implication that Panda's mind was too MUCH in the game, not the other way around.

    Hopefully, a season with fewer distractions will help. But (and this is not meant to be cold) he does need to learn to keep what's off the field off the field. If he does, the weight and the defense will be an issue a few years from now, not now.

    So anybody think that Runzler is being groomed for if/when Zito tanks?

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