Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why 2011 Giants Look Good Still for Repeating NL West Division Title

Many Giants fans are worried about the Giants offense.  But, there is no real reason to, it was never our offense that drove the success of the Giants from 2009-2011 (and really since post-ASG 2008 when the team was .500 from July 22 on; they were 40-58 prior to that), it has been our pitching.

Our wonderful, young, homegrown, and ignored pitching.

Homegrown and Young

Oh, yeah, Lincecum would get a lot of attention - Cy Young's have a way of doing that - but really, the vast majority of Giants fans have ignored the pitching.  There were many complaints about the age of the team, but we have had mostly young pitchers on our staff, it was just the lineup that was old, mainly because we had no young hitters to bring up.

Now the Sabean Naysayers would say that this was his fault.  And yeah, I can go for that, as long as they would acknowledge that he had to focus on pitching.  The draft is no way to re-build a team on the quick.  There is no Bill Walsh miracle draft of finding 6-7 starters for the next year team from your latest draft.  Baseball is totally different in that not only does it take years for draftees to graduate to the majors, very few of them do.  And when you are winning, fewer still because the odds of finding a good player when you are winning is roughly one quarter that of when you are one of the worse team in the majors.

So when confronted with scarce resources, he did what one has to, have a strategy to manage that.  Most teams don't, but the Giants focused on pitching, pitching, and more pitching, then once they got that going, been focusing on hitting, hitting, and more hitting, though keeping some pitching in the pipeline as well.  I think that is a sound strategy and one that he has executed well.

Complaints that there were not that many homegrown talents, but as I noted, our main producers in the pitching staff was predominantly homegrown:  Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner, Wilson, Romo.  And really, these people don't even know that most teams don't even have that many homegrown players on their 25-man roster, the Giants are probably one of the teams with the most homegrown players (signed and developed):  last season they had basically 10, including Posey, Sandoval, Schierholtz, Ishikawa, Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner, Wilson, Romo.  And Belt, Crawford, Brown, Neal, and Panik look to be joining sooner or later.

Complaints about the offense, but as I showed in my business plan, when you have a great defense - pitching and fielding combined - you don't need to have even an average offense, even a lousy offense would be able to win with this pitching and fielding.

Offense Just Needs To Be Enough

At 38-29, the Giants just need to go 48-47 over the rest of the season to end up at 86-76.  That would have been enough to win the NL West last season if you took Adrian Gonzalez out of the SD lineup.  And none of the NL West teams have improved, in my estimation, from what they were in 2010, if anything, there are a lot of regression, whether due to trades (Manny, A-Gon) or over-performances (CarGon, Ubaldo; Duke, Owings, Roberts), which will bring down their record in 2011.  Plus, I think the Giants can do even better over the next 95 games.

The defense - pitching and fielding - has been yielding 3.55 runs allowed per game this season. And they should be able to continue at near this rate for the rest of the season, despite Vogelsong's over-performance, as they were at 3.60 RA last season.

Using the Fangraphs rest of season projections for the probable starting lineup, I get that the lineup would average 3.97 runs scored per game.  That works out to a .547 winning percentage, meaning the Giants would end up 52-43, for a final record of 90-72.  Even if the team regressed to 3.60, that still leaves the Giants at 89-90 wins.

And that assumes that Sandoval is only a .297/.350/.478/.838 hitter, as projected.  He is currently hitting .310/.375/.517/.892 and if he continues doing that, it should add one more win, pushing us to 91-71.  And if he hits closer to his .330/.387/.556/.943 of 2009, that would add another win, pushing us to 92-70.

What people forget is that projections just blindly apply stats, and includes what Panda did in 2010 as being representative of his talent level, when he clearly suffered offensively whenever something happened in his life, whether finalizing his divorce or dealing with the fact that his mother almost perished in the San Bruno pipeline blast.  I would bet that he will end the season closer to his current batting line than the projected batting line.

That also assumes we only get putrid offense from the catching and shortstop positions (Whiteside and Crawford).  The catching, well, it is what it is, until the Giants do something about it, whether via a trade or promoting Hector Sanchez, who they suddenly promoted to AAA recently, even though he wasn't doing that particularly well in San Jose, and which I speculate is in preparation for bringing him up to the majors at some point (of course, if he don't hit that well, then experiment over).  Crawford, however, has shown some ability to hit better than forecasted (.224/.290/.341/.631) in his small samples of hitting so far.  If he can keep his average around .700 OPS, that would add another win as well.

Now, with the good, there is the bad, which is what if Ryan Vogelsong suddenly turned back into the pumpkin that he was previously and not the shiny carriage he has been this season for us.  Given his success so far, I have to think that while he won't continue as well, he looks like he'll be a darn good enough #5 starter for us.  But if not, having Zito return to where he was the past two seasons would help towards the #5 spot not cratering for us, like it has for other teams that lost a good starting pitcher.

Giants Look Good for NL West Crown

All in all, I think the Giants are in good shape for repeating as NL West Division champs.  Their pitching is great as usual.  Their defense improved with Schierholtz in RF, Ross in LF, Crawford at SS, and slimmer Sandoval at 3B.  Even if the offense does not turn on, a .500 record for the rest of the season should keep us aloft enough to win the division at 86 wins, as none of the other NL West teams, as I had projected pre-season, are doing it, and the D-backs are doing it with over-performances so far, and I think Collmenter's blow-up yesterday is just the beginning of them sliding back to the rest of the other teams in the division standings.

And once the Giants are in the playoffs, their pitching is going to be good enough to keep us in games long enough to win a good number.  We might not repeat as World Series Champs - as I noted in a post pre-season, most champs don't repeat, not just from history, but from just understanding how the playoff system works via probability - but we should be able to give it a good run again, particularly if Sandoval can return to his 2009 form, as I think our offense will be that much better with him in there, taking the pressure off Huff, Ross, and others.

Go Giants!

2 comments:

  1. I must say I agree. It's nice to see an optimistic outlook. It seems like so many people are focused on all of the things done wrong in SF. Hello, we are the defending champions people!

    Obviously, it's hard to stay optimistic when you lose players like Posey and Sanchez, but this team just has a different level. They are playing like they've been there before. They did it all of last season as well, and it makes me proud to be a Giants fan.

    I would love to see just a little bit of offensive help come in at the deadline, and we have the prospects to land at least a decent outfield or middle-infield contributor, in my opinion (depending on who's available of course). For now, though, we must win with the guys we've got.

    If you'd have told me we'd be 10 games over .500 at this point, with half of our opening day position players hurt, I'd have called you crazy. But this team is crazy! Nothing surprises me anymore. Again, love the positive thoughts. Let's not settle for just another division title. How about another WS championship!

    Keep up the great work.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Looks like the Giants may have found lightning in a bottle again with Bill Hall. Seems Hensley found a flaw in his swing that's already been corrected. Whiteside is 6 for 16 over his last 5 games with a couple of walks. Maybe the Giants have found a little offense in unexpected places again?

    ReplyDelete

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