Friday, December 03, 2010

Giants Defense of NL West Division Title in 2011

I posted this in Fangraphs, thought I would share it here (hey, no tweaks for once!).  The author on Fangraphs noted the warning that I've seen other Giants fans harangue about:

This is the same lame analysis/excuses that I've seen the contingent of still active Sabean Naysayers espouse on: "but the Giants barely squeaked in."

After the Giants switched to Buster Posey as starter, the Giants won at a very high winning percentage for the rest of the season, around a 105-110 win season. With basically the same team they have right now.

Now they were hot initially, but using only second half stats, they were on a 98 win pace with Uribe the only missing player who played significant innings in the second half, and he only hit .244/.297/.441/.738, a hardly irreplaceable contribution, that is basically what Tejada hit for SD in second half. If you throw in Renteria and Guillen, that's .240/.305/.396/.701 and .266/.317/.375/.692, respectively.

And nobody hit out of their mind (¶ms=half%7C2nd%20Half%7CSFG%7C2010%7Cbat%7CAB%7C), with Burrell .258/.363/.520/.883, Huff .284/.385/.462/.847, Posey .283/.340/.472/.812 leading the way among those with significant ABs in the second half.

And there are positives for improvement in the offense. First Sandoval is losing weight (15 pounds so far) working with a fitness firm that has worked with A-Rod and Barry Bonds and if you analyze his ups and downs in 2010, his downs were marked by his divorce/child custody battle and his nearly losing his mother to a massive gas explosion. He hit over 1000 OPS in April and ended the season's last two weeks with high 800 OPS. Second, Ross should be an improvement over Guillen/Rowand/Schierholtz in RF in second half, even with his down year overall, that trio was in the high 600 OPS. Third, Belt looks ready to reach majors by mid-season and provide a good lefty bat, both OBP and SLG, and plus defense at 1B.

Meanwhile, the starting pitching, while one outlier in Sanchez (2.61 ERA), that is balanced by another outlier in Lincecum (3.76 ERA; horrible August, new slider in Sept took care of that). Bumgarner (3.14 ERA) and Zito (4.70 ERA) both look to regress to each other (Zito has 4.09 ERA over 2009 and 2010, not worth his salary but that is still pretty good). And Cain (2.91 ERA) looks repeatable.

Overall, the pitching staff will be missing Moto and Ray, the two pitchers with the worse ERA in the second half (6.20 and 5.19 ERA, respectively). That should help balance regression on the part of Ramirez and Lopez. That leaves possible regression by Wilson, Romo, and Casilla.

Possible positives here too. First, Bumgarner was flashing mid-90 heat in the playoffs, so who is to say that one of the top pitching prospects of 2010 isn't that good. Second, Sanchez could have reached a new level of performance during the regular season that he could repeat in 2011 (3.47 ERA in first half still pretty good). Third, part of the reason Lincecum was hittable in August was because of poor conditioning in the off-season and in-season. Lesson learned, he probably won't do that again. Meanwhile, he picked up a new slider that enabled the weakened Lincecum to be a batting practice pitcher in August to become an outstanding Lincecum in Sept/Oct/Nov.

So lets recap. Team that won roughly at a 100 win rate after the ASG retains all key contributors and dropped 5 who did not contribute that much, replacing with players who look to be better or same. And that is with players contributing as a group basically what they should be contributing, nobody really out there with a plus performance without a counter-balancing player who could regress back up. In addition, there are possibilities for improvement for the season.

Meanwhile, LA basically has the same offense, with Uribe being their major add (but not one that look to push up production), but pending what they do at C (but Victor Martinez is already gone), has basically the same pitching, with Garland as the upgrade, and that same team was significantly under .500 in the second half (31-43) after losing Manny, and Uribe and Garland are their major upgrades? Really, they are going to get 11-12 games better with those additions? And they have no top prospects ready to reload, not on level of Brandon Belt at least.

Padres, once they are forced to trade A-Gon, they will be A-Gone from the top of the division. And if you look at the Giants record, if it wasn't for their lousy record against the Padres, they would have won going away. If they would have simply played .500 with SD, they would have had 95 wins and SD 87 wins.

Rockies I can see as the major competitor for the division title. But they were 34-40 in the second half with the team they had. They had a mind-blowing great first half from Ubaldo to get where they got, and they were still 9 games behind the Giants at the end. They get some wins for more games played by Tulo, but are they really going to make up the 9? And if the Giants are the new improved second half Giants, they would need to make up 15+ games. And they just traded away Olivo, one of their better hitters; are they ready to go all in with Ianetta now? Jose Lopez, though, could be a good boost, but again, we are talking 9-15 games to make up, he's not that good.

I won't declare the Giants prohibitive favorites, because you never know how injuries and poor performance crop up, but right now, I don't see how the other teams have made up the difference between them and the Giants at the end of the season. You have to like the Giants chances to win the NL West Division.


  1. Good entry. Lilly for the full season and improvement of their star players will also make them competetive with us.

  2. The Giants have a heck of a lot more young players than LA and LA finished many many games behind the Giants. And they were even worse once Manny was gone, so they are fighting uphill against that as well. I'm not worried about LA.

    Colorado, however, is another question.

  3. I realize that the season went down to the last day, but... second best record in the league I think usually cuts it. Not too squeaky.

    I can, however, see the Giants needing to win the division - but too, all other things being equal, the only competition is the Rockies. And I don't see the plus/minus adding up to nine games.

    At first I was a bit meh about Tejada, but now I'm thinking if Panda is a little more, uh, mobile, and Belt pans out this year, there's an upside of a pretty damn good offense. And indeed, overall, the pitching I would expect to be about the same. Expecting that Cy Young from Cain sometime soon.

    Good times.

  4. As a matter of fact, I *do* like the Giants chances next year. :)

    But you must remember, if you're going to use second half stats from the previous season as a barometer, you have to ask yourself didn't that translate into 2010 success for the Rockies (who were 45-29 in the second half of the 2009 season)?

  5. these games have to be played out. On paper, or on computer simulation is promising, but reality has to set in, and anything can happen and often does. It does look good, but we all know it took 56 years for the giants to repeat, and many of those 56 years the giants had really good teams.

  6. Thanks for the comments everyone.

    22gigantes, my point about the second half stats is that nobody really had an outlier (like Ubaldo did in first half of 2010) in the second half of 2010 in order to win at such a high rate.

    If you look at COL 2009 hitters, you would find that Tulo had a huge outlier of a second half, hitting .344/.421/.622/1.042 and he hit 9 HR in a month span in basically September. He's a good hitter, but he's a lifetime .290/.362/.495/.857 hitter, that's a huge outlier that one would not reasonably expect to continue.

    And there were no other player who was doing horribly and thus would balance off his outlier.

    And that is my point about the Giants second half, which I chose because it was after Posey's totally hot early July hitting. If you look at the Giants hitting and pitching, everyone was performing about what one could expect from the player, and for the ones who played better, you can find one who played worse than could be expected.

    The D-Rox, however, played above their true abilities due to Tulo's over performance, but did not really have any significant underperformer, suggesting that when Tulo returned to normal, their offense would suffer.

    And there was also the worry that Helton's 2008 was the new norm and not 2007 and 2009. Same issue we are having with Huff now, except that Helton has been in decline for long time, while Huff was doing what he was doing before, and I think he is younger too. It turned out that he regressed back to his career decline.

    In addition, Giambi had a huge outlier, in a key role in PH situations, driving in 11 runs in 24 AB and hitting .292/.452/.583/1.035 whereas in recent years he only hit .231/.360/.450/.810.

    I would note also that CarGon was another over-performer in 2009 so there was the risk that he might regress, but clearly he reached a new career plateau that he continued and beat in 2010. So he held up his end. The others, however, didn't.

    There was an overperformer that came up, though, Ubaldo. With him doing so well, they ended up 49-39 for the first half. When he regressed to his mean, however, nobody rose in second half, in fact, the hitters regressed from their better first half (and whereas in H2 of 2009 they had 10 regular player hitting well, in H2 2010, they had 7 who hit pretty poorly), and with that double whammy, they ended up 34-40.

    So basically, in H2-2009 and H1-2010, the D-Rox won a lot due to Tulo's and Ubaldo's overperformance, but when nobody rose in H2-2010 and a number fell, their team sunk.

    Again, the Giants in H2-2010 did not have many over performers and those who did can be matched up with underperformers who should make up some of that difference when they regress upward to the mean. Meaning if the team plays to its expected performance level, they should win a lot of games again and could even withstand a drop of a vet or two and still be competitive.

  7. Oh, correction on D-Rox H2-2010, both Tulo and CarGon rose, it is just that a large number of regular players had a horrible second half, leading to their overall poor performance, despite Tulo's heroics.

  8. Trivia Time!
    Who wrote this about Buster Posey after he was called up?
    "Part of me wanted him to fail, because then all the people who were clamoring for him wouldn't think that they were geniuses."

  9. Given that you posted your comment here, I would have to assume me. It does sounds like something I would write.

    At least I'm openly honest about my feelings. Anyone who knows me knows that I would never want anything negative to happen to the Giants. But I'm willing to admit publicly that I have human feelings, that a myriad of feelings attend my every thought.

    That is part of my obsessive compulsive nature, I think of and am aware of the various different natures of my being, I try to see every angle of every situation, I try to see every point of view.

    At least I don't hide behind the anonymity of sniping at people under an anonymous name. I don't go and delete comments or links that don't agree with me (I still have plenty of Giants blog links even after they went totally anti-Sabean in tone many years ago) or that I think is repungnant.

    If that is all you have to say, feel free to slink back under that rock from whence you came from.

  10. The problem is that so many Giants fans are in a form of denial, which I've been working up a post on, but which I'll touch on here since Anon wants to discuss it.

    The dichotomy is that while many of you believe that Sabean should have been fired and still hold to the opinion that he lucked into the World Series this season, you are also celebrating the victory nonetheless.

    Logically, as Spock would say, that does not compute.

    If he lucked into it, how can any fan enjoy it. Whoopie, we won a championship by luck! Maybe we'll get lucky next year!

    Why bother following any sport where luck determines who is the champion?

    And does anyone think of how insulted the Giants playes would be knowing that there are fans who think that they got lucky? Because that implies that they didn't earn it. That there was no skill involved. That their hard work means nothing: becuase it was all luck.

  11. And if it was not all luck, then the logic that Sabean had nothing to do with winning the championship falls apart. Because once you start crediting something other than luck, then what is the common denominator: Sabean is the GM who put the team together and thus we are lucky that he wasn't fired when Giants fans wanted him to be fired.

    What these fans don't get is that just because someone made a lot of mistakes, as long as he made enough good decisions along the way and achieves success, all those mistakes don't matter because he was able to finish the deal.

    However, another thing these fans don't understand yet is that Sabean made a lot of great decisions that put the Giants in great position to make the playoffs every season and to win it all when they do.

  12. I truly believe that anyone can see that it was our pitching that won the day for us and helped us gain that Championship we all have been thirsting for all these years. Again, the common link is that Sabean put them all together.

    Had he lucked into one or another (and in many ways, he did, because others made the mistakes before him) and that one player did it for them, then yeah, I can go for luck being an over riding factor in the championship. Picking up Michael Jordan, Shaq, Duncan, those teams lucked out greatly one way or another, and yet they alone couldn't do it, it took putting together all the other pieces that finally enabled the TEAM to win, and that was the GM's doing.

    So yeah, he lucked into Cain, but then again, most thought that was an overdraft and BA and other experts thought that LAD had a much better prospect. Lincecum was luck, but then again, many thought that his body wouldn't hold up, that he wasn't a SP. Sanchez was drafted way back in the draft, so there's a huge amount of luck there as well, yet Sabean not only drafted him but KEPT him when so many people were clamoring for him to trade him for a bat (and since you want openness, I was one of those who thought we could trade him for a bat, but then saw that keeping him would be even better, and changed my stance). And Bumgarner, well, many wanted Jason Heyward or Brad Mills (and I mainly just wanted a bat), but like with Sanchez, I see now the beauty of having 4 ace-level starting pitchers.

  13. Most important of all, where there was no luck and all Sabean involved, Sabean made the decision that the Giants were going to hold onto these four pitchers, when fans clamored for Rios for Lincecum, Fielder for Cain, various hitters include Cory Hart for Sanchez, and I saw trade proposals for Bumgarner as well.

    Posey, well, I did want him, but there were those who openly wanted Smoak and thought he should have been drafted instead of Posey, imagine what a mistake that would have been. We would not have won with Smoak instead of Posey.

  14. And that's part of the problem, many of the people who think that Sabean should have been fired and think that he lucked into this, don't go back and examine what their thinking was along the way.

    They don't remember that they wanted Smoak, all they remember is that Posey is god and should have been brought up in April. They don't remember that they wanted to trade away Lincecum, Cain, and/or Sanchez along the way, and there was no way we would have won without those pitchers.

    And there we go again, we wouldn't have won without those pitchers, those pitchers that Sabean decided was too good to trade, aren't we lucky he didn't listen to all the "geniuses" who think they know how to run a ballclub better than he can?

  15. And I doubt history would have ended up the same if Sabean were not the GM. Lincecum might not have been drafted. Look at how scared regular MLB people were, who is to say Sabean's replacement would not have been similarly scared?

    What if his replacement felt the same way about balancing offense and pitching as many fans thought was right, and traded away one of our pitchers?

    And there is almost no way the new GM would have drafted Bumgarner, he was considered a big overdraft, many hated this decision, many wanted the Giants to pick a hitter, why don't they know how to run a ballclub? And really, the logical thing with that pick was to go with a position player. We needed hitters in our farm system. Picks at #10 are hardly slam dunks, lot of risk involved with any pick there, only 10% chance of finding a good player, according to the stats I compiled on drafts.

    So why not draft a hitter, like Brad Mills, you know, an established college hitter, like how Baseball Prospectus, saber-brains that they are, says drafts should be done, college hitters are much safer picks than a high school pitcher, way safer, they must have hated this pick based on their research.

    I know I was flabbergasted the Giants picked a pitcher. A pitcher? When there were good position prospects to draft? Are you freaking kidding me?

    Yet, it appears that he made the right decision. Had we had Heyward, we definitely would not have had Ross the Boss. We would have had Zito pitching those critical games during the playoffs. And I don't believe that he would have matched what Bumgarner did.

  16. And that's where the "BUT BUT BUT" comes from the Sabean Naysayers, but he signed Zito and Rowand to those ridiculous contracts.

    So lets get to the heart of the matter: do you think you are perfect? That you've never made a mistake in your life? Lord knows I've made plenty of mistakes (one probably being allowing comments here - I jest, I jest! :^) and I think I'm safe in saying that everyone has made their share of mistakes along the way.

    Funny thing, most people in life make a lot of mistakes along the way, and yet when they become successful, we don't say that they are lucky. We usually say that it was all part of the learning process, or that it was not germane to his success.

    So yeah, it would have been a heck of a lot easier to win had Sabean not made those two deals. But then we would not have had those pitchers in our rotation and bullpen pitching for us in the playoffs, for just as sure as someone else probably wouldn't have made those deals, they most probably would not have drafted those players, and even if he did, he probably wouldn't have kept them all either, because most people want their team to be balanced, they think that you need to have a better offense to win.

    Well, Sabean proved you all wrong, you don't need much of an offense to win with the pitching we got, the pitching that Sabean put together and more importantly KEPT together.

  17. So if you still want to complain that he don't know how to build an offense, you haven't been reading or understanding anything I've been writing about for 3-4 years now.

    You don't need a great offense to win if you have great pitching. You need just enough.

    And sure, he slapped together the offense: what would you prefer, that he did nothing? That he would have traded away one of our great pitchers to get that great hitter?

    You need to realize that his hands were tied. All the other teams wanted his pitching, knew that he was desperate for hitting. If you've ever been in negotiations before, people pounce on your weakness insisting on very high payment but then when they go to another party, ask for much less because that other party was not as desperate for.

    So Sabean picked up players that others didn't want anymore that he liked or thought might have that burst to help the team. So Guillen didn't work, he did pick up Ross and he did.

    It is not like a magic ball where you pick a player and he will magically do well for you just because you picked him. Some produce and some don't.

    And anyone who thinks Guillen would have been selected over Ross for the playoffs didn't watch this season. Guillen did nothing while Ross played and hit very well for us in September, over 800 OPS.

    And if this season was about anything, it was that if you produced, you would be picked to play. Torres and Rowand. Burrell. Posey and Molina. Sandoval got sat down. The bullpen was all about that, only the guys still producing got the call, everyone else was left off the roster.

  18. Sabean won this championship for us, why is that so hard to see? I'm very thankful that he did. I think that he has us set up for many more years of success, and the offense is starting to shape up as well, Posey, Sandoval, probably Belt, maybe Brown, maybe Jones.

    Frankly, I thought fans wouldn't be so cold-hearted. Sabean just won us a championship that we've all been wanting. To qualify your support for him is mystifying.

    He put together the team, for better or worse, obviously better since we won it all. Heck, he kept the pitching together when many people wanted better hitting instead.

    And I'm not saying you shoud worship him and think he can do no wrong. But to still think that he should have been fired, I just can't understand that. He just won us the championship that we all have been waiting for so long, yet you can't find it in your hearts to forgive the mistakes he made along the way and realize that it was all part of the process that led us to this joyous point, of the Giants being the 2010 World Series Champions!

  19. Man, OGC, you shoulda just written another column. :-)

    Re Zito and Rowand, okay, bad contracts. But, one has to look at the roster and farm system as a whole - players will overperform, players will underperform. I place very little stock in the "oh no they've run out of money!" arguments, I think they're naive, but the fact remains you have a team that won 92 games on a $100 million payroll. And in terms of essential parts, has young players either in MLB or on the way. These things have to be taken as a whole when evaluating a GM.

    There are one hell of a lot of parts, and the parts are going to result in a team that will win 270+ games over three years. And one assumes, 90-95 per for a few years after that. Save the Twins maybe, it's very hard to find a non-big market team that can say that.

    And you're right - if the conventional wisdom of the blogging pundits had had it's way, the team as it stands would not exist. One forgets the howls over signing Huff too - that worked out pretty well.

    And Ross was a steal. It escapes me how people can write a few hundred words decrying decisions and can't even bother to know the players. That bat right there replaces Uribe (and probably a bit extra) but people are clueless.

  20. I could not agree more with this...I hadn't realized that Uribe was so mediocre in the second half. And you're right -- the projected regressions really do balance out. I remember reading something from Rob Neyer that was like "The Giants haven't made any are they going to improve?" This basically answers that. Keep in mind, though, that Guillermo Mota may actually return after all, as the Giants just signed him to a minor league deal.

  21. the historic outlier in the Giants run to the championship was the team era after August

    it was the greatest pitching in generations

    stay healthy and do it again and again ...



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