Friday, January 21, 2011

2010 Giants Fluke: Sabean Naysayers and D-gers Fans Are Like One Mind

The latest tweets I've been seeing (OK, a while back, it took me a while to post this :^) is a raft of D-ger fans who tweet that the Giants 2010 World Series Championship is a fluke.  Thus the Sabean Naysayers are the strange bedfellows with these D-ger fans, as both believe the 2010 Giants was a fluke that won't repeat as World Series Champions.

And why such disparate populations can hold similar beliefs is that this is true irrespective of who the team is, whether the Giants or any other team.  It is very hard for teams to repeat, due to the three tier playoff structure, which makes it hard already just to get to the World Series, let alone win it, let alone repeat as winners.  Even if a team were 60% likely to win the first two series and making the World Series, the flip side is that they will lose 40% of the time:  that's roughly one-third chance (60% x 60%) of just making the World Series again.  Cause that is how randomness works in baseball.  This is not like basketball or football where there is a strong home team advantage as well as very dominant teams as well.

However, many take this further and say that the Giants 2010 season, period, was a fluke:  that is when their train of thought goes off the tracks and over the cliff.  The Giants have proven that with all this great pitching that they can win, even with a poor NL offense, as they did in 2009.  And the pitching is improved now vs. 2009 and 2010 in multiple ways.

First of all and very prominently, Madison Bumgarner should be a big improvement over Randy Johnson, Ryan Sadowski, Joe Martinez, and Brad Penny in 2009 and Todd Wellemeyer and Bumgarner in 2010.  The former had an ERA of mid 4's and the later close to but over 4 ERA.  All the estimates I have seen regarding Bumgarner are under 4.  He has shown that when he has his velocity, he is a plus pitcher but that even without his velocity, he has enough savvy to be a good pitcher.  That will limit the number of disaster starts (as defined by PQS), which will make it easier to put up a good ERA.

Second, Matt Cain has made advancements in 2010 that should continue forward.  His DOM% has moved into the near elite range to 67% (I have defined 70% as elite), after he put up good seasons consistently in the 50% range previously.  His Command (K/BB) has risen from 2.0 in 2008 to 2.3 in 2009 (by dripping walk rate from 3.0 to 2.5) and then it is projected to go to 3.0, which is near elite status (3.0+ for elite).  He has started realizing what his coaches have been telling him over the years:  the batters can't hit your stuff, don't be afraid to pound the zone.

Third, Jonathan Sanchez has improved as well.  In 2008, he had a great first half then fatigue set in and he faltered in the second half.  In 2009, he screwed with his mechanics in an effort to emulate and honor his favorite players, Johan Santana, which ruined his first half, before having a great second half which started with his no-hitter.  He then built upon that great second half and took it up a notch in 2010, putting in two even better halves.  True, he tired out in the playoffs but like he did in 2009, he will probably prepare himself to last even longer in 2011.

Some note that he had a lot of lucky metrics, but what is missing from the comparisons is that he had a bad second half of 2008 which was not representative of his skill set and a bad first half of 2009 which again was not representative either.  He had a high 3 ERA the first half of 2008 and mid-3 ERA in 2009 after he fixed his mechanics, starting with the no-hitter.  Setting his expectation at mid-to-high 3 ERA in 2011, while down from 2010, is still very good and excellent from the #4 slot of the rotation.

And that is what I expect for the rotation in 2011, Bochy will obviously go with Lincecum first, then say that he wants Zito second because he wants to break up his two hard throwing righties, then Cain, then Sanchez and Bumgarner, because he wants to take it easy on his very young lefty.  They could potentially skip his start once in a while to give his arm a rest early on so that it won't be as affected later in the season when they need him.

Lastly, and most importantly, Lincecum added a key new pitch with his slider, in late August, early September 2010.  That combined with his deadly changeup that he had before, and now a renewed commitment to fitness and conditioning, like returning to long tossing between starts, which he had fell out of, he is poised to even outdo his two Cy Young seasons (2.62 and 2.48 ERA respectively).  Dare we dream of a sub-2 ERA season?

Altogether, the pitching rotation should be as good or better than it has been in 2009-10.  From substantial upgrade in talent (Bumgarner), gradual development and growth (Cain and Sanchez), to adding another weapon (Lincecum), the Giants staff is poised to conquer the world again.  At such low ERA, even a poor offensive team can win 90-95 games, which would put them right in the mix of things to win the division or the wild card slot.  And that is really all you can ask for out of your team year in, year out.  And that is no fluke, the pitching is as good as it gets and once you get into the playoffs, that is where things get flukey.

And yet, there are ways to maximize your chances there, as BP's Billy Beane chapter in their book, Baseball Between the Numbers showed.  I plan on going through the findings of that chapter in posts yet to come.  I hope to show that the Giants strategy, whether consciously or separately, follows the findings in that chapter very closely and to convince those readers here who have read my business plan but haven't bought into all my conclusions.

4 comments:

  1. great post OGC. i still think there is some concern about the staff in the repeat year. it just seems the year after effect, whatever that means exactly, hampers staffs from being as good in the repeat year. however, if ever a staff were to buck that trend it is this one.

    especially appreciate your work on cain.

    baseball-monk.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Stephen. Yes, I think there is some validity to that effect, I have seen it happen before with other players, Hamels being the latest and best example.

    I guess my point is that the Giants have already handled this successfully for Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez, and appear to plan for and successfully handle before, so I am not as worried about it for 2011 as others. I think this worry was part of the equation in how the Giants handled the starters in the playoffs, pulling them out for Wilson even though they appeared to still have something in the tank, but for which some Giants fans got mad at them for it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great post. Of course the worry in the rotation is Zito. Will he perform better this year? If not, who will take his place? Changing the subject a bit,
    More worrisome to me is the loss of Uribe and Renteria. Especially if Sandoval is over throwing first!! Tejada is a great replacement but we need a 3rd base. What's your take on this?
    CT

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks CT. Believe it or not, Zito actually is a good pitcher, just not on our rotation. I think he will be fine in our rotation, and I like him #2 so that Cain and Sanchez gets to face lesser starters.

    I love Sandoval. As bad as he may have looked in 2010, the defensive stats liked what he did in terms of what he did. Now that he is in better shape, he should get to more balls. And I feel that his poor performance, both offensively and defensively, was directly related to his marriage and custody problems, then his mother's near-death experience. I was a mess when I had to deal with similar problems, so I have empathy and sympathy for Pablo. I think he will be fine in 2011 and even if he's a bit shaky on defense, I think his offense will make you forget about any defensively shortcomings, and I would bet he's probably about average.

    ReplyDelete

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