Friday, November 18, 2011

Vogelsong's Song: Will He Sing or the Fat Lady?

A couple of the reasons I used to hit just about every Giants blog way back when are that 1) I like to find solutions to questions, and 2) it's a waste if I find something interesting, good or bad, and don't share it with other Giants fans (that's probably why I've made a career in research).  Back then, the idiot quotient was still relatively low and I didn't have to go through 999 columns of dreck before I get to some interesting and serious Giants discussion, where interesting questions get asked and I would answer.  That's why I used to come in second in polls on MCC when asked who was the most informative poster there (I always came in second to Steve Shelby, which is no shame, he's really good).  So I kind of miss that, but I don't miss getting totally aggravated by all the nonsense I see out there.

Long time reader Allfrank just recently made my day by asking me a question on my blog (Thanks! BTW) about Vogelsong's chances of repeating in 2012.  Or more specifically, he noted that his performance was great then seemed to come back to Earth after the All-Star game, and is worried about whether he can repeat or if the league has caught up with him.

Giants Thoughts
I have addressed this issue previously here by taking another tack, which is what performance does he and the 5th starter, who I presume is Barry Zito, have to collectively do in order to match what we got from the 4th and 5th starters in 2011.

I'll do that again here, as a starting point, and go from there (as I am wont to do :^). As great as Ryan Vogelsong did in 2011, we got a lot of poorer performances from the other starters in the rotation, outside the top 3: Runzler, Dirty, Zito, and Surkamp. They collectively had a 3.91 ERA in 354.1 IP in 63 starts. So the 2012 #4 and #5 starters only need to duplicate that for the Giants to do similarly well in terms of starter's performance relative to 2011.

Looking at Vogelsong, I think we can expect 32 starts from him in 2012.  That leaves 31 for the #5 starter (Zito).  Zito, as badly has he has pitched for us in the minds of Giants fans, has pitched well enough when not injured, physically or mentally (as he was his first two seasons).

Vogelsong averaged 6.25 IP per start, and actually boosted that up later in the season vs. earlier.  That works out to 200 IP in 32 starts, which leaves roughly 160 IP for Zito to achieve in 2012.  Assuming that Zito can at least get a 4.50 ERA, something he has basically achieved in 3 of his 4 healthy seasons, that would mean that Vogelsong would need to achieve a 3.60 ERA in 2012 for the 4/5 starters to achieve a collective 4.00 ERA (close enough to the 3.91 from 2011)

For continuity, I would note that previously I had assumed that Zito could repeat his 2009-2010 performance, and while I still think he can do it, I think most do not share that viewpoint so I decided to tackle the tougher scenario of Zito doing a bit worse, but still within his Giants career performances so far, so I chose his 2007 4.53 ERA, rounded for mathematical simplicity.  That also makes the bar a little higher for Vogelsong, and I thought it would be interesting to see how the possibility for a repeat frays given a worse performance out of Zito, particularly since he didn't pitch much in 2011.

About Zito, I thought it was fortunate that he did work his way back to return to the team in September (unlike Sanchez), I will give him that.  And I was heartened as well that he had a great two starts upon his return from his first DL.  So I still think he can repeat (which only requires Vogelsong to have a 3.90-ish ERA in 2012, which I think he can make in a heart-beat, and Bill James projection has him at 4.09).

So how good did Vogelsong do in 2011, particularly early vs. late?  I think that is good news, mostly.  First half, he had a 2.17 ERA in 16 games, 14 starts, 6.19 IP per start, 6.9 K/9, 2.19 K/BB.  Second half, 3.26 ERA in 14 starts, 6.29 IP per start, 7.0 K/9, 2.38 K/BB.  So, while his ERA went up a lot, that was the more fluky part, as his peripherals actually went up a bit in the second half.

And it even looks better by month.  I don't include April because he only got one start there, but here are his stats from May to Sept:

May  1.78 ERA  2.18 K/BB  6.1 K/9 6 starts
June  2.53 ERA  2.80 K/BB  7.9 K/9 5 starts
July   2.59 ERA  1.14 K/BB  4.6 K/9 5 starts
Aug  3.79 ERA  1.94 K/BB  7.8 K/9 6 starts
Sept  3.03 ERA 3.86 K/BB  7.4 K/9 5 starts

As you can see, he was really lucky with his ERA in July, as his strikeout rate went way down, and, I didn't capture it here, but his walk rate went up high, reciprically, which logically it should if you are not throwing as many strikes.  But then he recovered in August, then adjusted further and had a great September.

So instead of the steep fall that his performance gave an impression of, he actually had more of a U-curve, falling from his great early season success to the nadir in July/August until he returned back even better in September.  Looking at his game peformances, he had a 3 starts of 4 bump from July 8th to July 29th, where he found it hard to throw strikes, then another 3 start bump from August 19th to 30th. 

And, actually, looking further, he actually was starting to wobble by his June 28th start, where while he had 6 strikeouts, it was his first start with 4 walks since his second start of the season (that was his 12th start).  Prior to that start, he had 1 start out of 11 with 4 walks, but starting with that start, he had 3 consecutive starts with 4 walks and 6 starts out of 17 with 4 or more.  So one could point to that 3 start sequence as the nadir as well.

And that makes sense.  For the prior 5 seasons, he averaged only 75.1 IP per season in the minors.  His body was not ready for a full major league season and so his body hit the wall.  And, wow, don't you just love it when it works out perfectly, he went past the 75.1 IP mark in that July 28th start, as he had 72.2 IP prior to that. 

So once that happened, Ryan had to figure out how to adjust to his new situation with his body.  He was pretty much up and down for the rest of the season.  But the good news is that he ended on a pretty good up in September with a 3.86 K/BB, which is great for any pitcher.

Now this is where I go to Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster's Pitchers Toolkit.  Pitchers with good command (K/BB) tend to do the best, though as we all know, ERA goes all over the place, generally, within a one season context.  Unfortunately, it has not come out with their 2012 version with updated stats, but in 2010, which is a clear down year in terms of ERAs, pitchers with K/BB from 2.1 to 2.5 collectively had a 3.95 ERA.  From 2.6 to 3.0, a 3.71 ERA.  And 3.1 and above, a 3.25 ERA. 

Looking at Vogie's starts, basically, after a wobbly 2 starts as he got acclimated to the majors, he had a great 9 start sequence, followed by 12 starts of ups and downs where he battled to get control of his pitches, then a 5 start sequence in September where he was back on track.  It is actually amazing how similar the 9 starts and 5 starts are in terms of peripherals:

9 starts:   58.1 IP - 2.0 BB/9 - 6.8 K/9 - 3.4 K/BB - 0.3 HR/9 - .269 BABIP - 1.23 ERA
12 starts: 74.1 IP - 4.2 BB/9 - 6.7 K/9 - 1.6 K/BB - 1.0 HR/9 - .295 BABIP - 3.39 ERA
5 starts:   32.2 IP - 1.9 BB/9 - 7.4 K/9 - 3.9 K/BB - 0.8 HR/9 - .304 BABIP - 3.03 ERA
14 starts: 91.0 IP - 2.0 BB/9 - 7.0 K/9 - 3.6 K/BB - 0.5 HR/9 (adding together the times when he was on track)

Now that clarifies more why he did so well initially.  Not only was his BABIP abnormally low, so was his HR/9, which like his BABIP, bounced back up after that great start. 

Now back to Shandler.  They also analyzed how often a pitcher within a range either has an ERA under 3.50 or above 4.50:

K/BB
2.1-2.5:  19% under 3.50; 35% over 4.50
2.6-3.0:  26%; 25%
3.1+:      53%; 5%

Now add in K/9 (or Dominance in Shandler's parlance; don't know why he used different ranges) and see the difference in ERA:

K/BB   <5.6 K/9  >5.6 K/9
2.0-2.4   4.32      4.08
2.5-2.9   4.21      3.88
3.0-3.9   4.04      3.46
4.0+       4.12      2.96

As I've been trying to make clear here on my blog, the strikeout provides a lot of great benefits to preventing runs that don't always show up as a direct link, but this one I think makes it very clear.  From Baseball Forecaster:  "This helps to highlight the limited upside potential of soft-tossers with pinpoint control.  The extra dominance makes a huge difference."  As well as the K/BB, I would additionally note. 

So, if Vogie can continue pitching like he did for half the season, with a K/BB comfortably over 3.0, and continue to strike out a lot (and 5.6 K/9 is not that high a threshold), historically (or at least for Shandler's set of data), pitchers like that averaged a 3.46 ERA and 53% of the time had an ERA under 3.50, while only 5% of the time going above 4.50, though I would note that this means that 42% of the time the pitcher was between 3.50 and 4.50 ERA.

Using PQS, he had a 61% DOM last season vs. only 7% DIS.  So even when he was struggling, he had enough control to avoid Disaster starts, which is the bane of any pitcher's ERA.  Mediocre pitchers can survive in the majors by avoiding Disaster starts as those start really kills the ERA.  And he ended the last month, September, with a flourish, 4 DOM starts out of 5, no DIS start, which is another sign that his earlier success is more indicative of his future than his middle, not as good, part of the season.

And from my studying of PQS, good pitchers have DOM% over 40%, the best have over 50%, and the elite have over 70% (FYI, Cain had 76%, Lincecum 73%, and Bumgarner 70% in 2011).  So Vogelsong was in rareified company in 2011.

I don't have the stats for 2011 season yet, but from my following of this, I know that 61% is pretty rare.  Heck, I think I can demonstrate this with data from the 2010 book, here are pitchers current for 2010 season who had 60%+ DOM% with at least 28 starts and 9%- DIS% sometime in the past five seasons:  Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley, Matt Cain, Chris Carpenter, John Danks, Ryan Dempster, Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Aaron Harang, Dan Haren, Felix Hernandez, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Johnson, Scott Kazmir, John Lackey, Cliff Lee, Jon Lester, Colby Lewis, Tim Lincecum, Derek Lowe, Dice Matsuzaka, Gil Meche, Brett Myers, Roy Oswalt, Jake Peavy, David Price, C.C. Sabathia, Ervin Santana, Johan Santana, Ben Sheets, James Shields, Javier Lopez, Justin Verlander, Edinson Volquez, Adam Wainwright, Jered Weaver, Todd Wellemeyer, Randy Wolf.  (OK, that was harder to compile than I thought...)

As you can see, there are a lot of good pitchers in there, interspersed with a few random names that were flukes (like Wellemeyer).  But the vast majority, while they may not have repeatedly done as well as this, were generally good from season to season. 

There was a table matching up DOM% with DIS% and pitchers with over 60% DOM and under 10% DIS averaged an ERA of 3.09 (and this was back in 2003, when the offensive era reigned).  Even at over 50% DOM, the ERA was 3.47, while keeping DIS% under 10%.  For DIS% between 10-20% but DOM% over 60%, the ERA was 3.71.  FYI, they call this qERA, or ERA based solely on PQS.

So, will Vogelsong repeat?  My premise all along is that he can't repeat, that is just homerism talking, most pitchers do not come out of nowhere and do that well.  So I've focused more on what the Giants need from him in 2012 in order to repeat the great 2011 season (which is much like 2009 and 2010 for that matter, in terms of the pitching staff dominance) and now tackled analyzing his season in this post.

While he clearly had a down period in the middle of the season, I think it is very plausible that he just hit the wall and lost a lot of his control, because he had not gone that deep into a season in a long while.  While a big jump in IP like that is troubling for a much younger pitcher, at his age, he had done it before, so I think it is just a matter of him conditioning himself during this off-season to handle a longer season in 2012.  And the way he came back, as shown by his PQS, heck, looking at his season, his PQS was actually pretty good in August too, I guess a bad game here and there brought the month down a lot.  It is a great sign to me about his future that he came back to early season form that last month, perhaps even better.

I know people say I cherry-pick data, but it is not like I pick willy-nilly.  There are clear reasons for opting to select only certain data over others, or to at least point out differences that contextually explains things, like his lack of conditioning, then his period of dominance at the end of the season, that demonstrates that after he hit his bad spot, he righted himself, somehow, whether by "adjusting" as some people will say he did, after the league "adjusted" to him.  It is a matter of understanding the context within which you make that decision to take out data that does not represent reality, in your opinion. 

And I don't see the down period as one of adjustment.  He was still striking out batters at almost the same rate but he just was walking double what he was before, and that to me is on him, it is within his control there.  If the hitters really adjusted, they would have not struck out as much as they did in that period of a lot of walking, the strikeout rate should have took as big a hit as his walk rate, just in the opposite direction.  That to me meant that this was something within his control, not the batter's control.  And he just physically couldn't do it anymore, for a while, then was able to get himself back into good enough shape to end with a flourish good enough that it matched his peripherals that he had earlier in the season.

That to me bodes well for the 2012 season, whether for repeating himself or just simply ensuring the Giants pitching staff repeats what they did in 2011.  I think there are very good odds that he will pitch well enough so that he and Zito can help the starting rotation repeat what they did in 2011.  Given how well he pitched, plus how well I think Zito can pitch, but even if Zito falters, I think Vogelsong can do enough to counter that, plus I think there is huge potential for Bumgarner to join Cain and Lincecum as a serious contender for Cy Young Award, as his K/BB was regularly extraordinary, he just is young and would let mistakes compound into disaster starts, his DIS% was 15% in 2011, if he gets it under 10%, he'll easily be in the 2's in ERA, and that would ease the need for Vogelsong to be great versus merely being good in 2012.

I also think that there are good odds, just not as good, that he repeats what he did in 2011.  While he was very lucky early on, in terms of BABIP and HR/9 (ideally I would use HR/FB here but that stat is not available), his peripherals were very good in any case, and he was able to repeat that late in the season, suggesting that he had some sort of physical condition (like lack of stamina) that prevented him from pitching like he could.   Unlike Dirty, who once he hit his wall, his ERA soared, Vogelsong is a pitcher, not a thrower, and was able to dance away from trouble even when he didn't have his best control, keeping his ERA still low during that period, as well as avoiding disaster starts, which Dirty couldn't do after he hit the wall.  Not only that, he soon recovered and was able to deliver a lot of DOM starts at the end of the season, also unlike Dirty.

Of course, unlike what most sabers say (I really hate when people use projections as reality), there are no absolutes here, only probabilities and chances.  I think there is a very good chance that he will pitch well in 2012.  I don't think that he can repeat his 2011, but that is generally just true for anybody doing it for the first time, particularly with his history.  However, I think that there are enough signs and indications that I would not be surprised if he repeats being a very good pitcher in 2012 and contribute to the Giants again being one of the Top 2-3 teams in the majors in the least runs allowed per game. 

But ace-like performance again?  At his age and history, I'll just be happy with a good performance again, we just need a reliable pitcher who can go out and give us 32 relatively good starts, because that is where the Giants have a huge advantage over other teams, our 4/5 starters can usually kick the butts of the other teams, even their top starters.  We can discuss ace-like performance next off-season if he can repeat it in 2012.

11 comments:

  1. OGC - you and AllFrank just hit on a very pertinent topic - the Giants just put Villalona on the 40-man!

    From Baggs Twitter:
    Giants VP Bobby Evans expects no hangups w/ Villalona's visa. He's at club's Dominican camp getting back in shape. The swing is still there.
    Evans: "There’s still a lot we have to learn about him on and off the field. He knows he has a long process ... and he has a lot to prove."

    I am intrigued. Now I'm going to re-read you post.

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  2. uh yeah, in my excitement I saw Vogelsong and thought about Mr. Angel. I think AllFrank posted the question in the Villalona piece though.

    Still pertinent! The G's also dfa'd Ford and Joaqin (2nd time for him), added Culberson, Kieschnick, Graham, Otero and Correa.

    I have strong opinions on Zito. And I think its a very important decision to make. Looking forward to some back and forth on that. Have a great weekend.

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  3. Beat me to the punch. The intrepid Hank Schulman scooped the news about Villalona as well as about 40-man roster moves: http://blog.sfgate.com/giants/2011/11/18/san-francisco-giants-add-angel-villalona-to-40-man-designate-outfielder-darren-ford/

    To recap, the Giants added Tyler Graham, Roger Kieschnick, Charlie Culberson, Dan Otero, and Hector Correa, whom the Giants got in a trade with the Phillies for Jack Taschner. And, of course, Angel Villalona.

    However, this forced the Giants to drop two players from the 40-man, Waldis Joaquin, who had been famously dropped previously, got picked up by the White Sox, declined to report and declared himself a free agent (apparently in the rules), and then rejoined the Giants on a minor league deal, and the Darrun Ford Experience, whose dash will forever be appreciated by Giants fans all over. If they should be released at the end of the 10 days, then the Giants have interest in bringing them back.

    A big name left off that list of additions is Nick Noonan, who is now exposed to the Rule 5 draft. He has not shown enough to be drafted, but I still have hopes for him so I hope nobody grabs him.

    Lastly, the shocking thing is that there is no space on the 40 man now, so any free agent signing will be followed by someone being voted off the 40-man roster.

    Of course, should they sign a catcher, Eli Whiteside would be the one to go, and heck, at this point, he's probably first to go no matter which free agent is signed, MI, SS, OF.

    About Angel, other news is that the visa has not been restored to him, so the speculation is that this move might help in getting him that visa.

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  4. Oh, and I should have noted Thanks, Shankbone, for the comments and for the info.

    I figured that his swing is still there, I don't think that will go away, he would just need some time facing live pitching for a while to get back up to pro standards.

    What I really wanted to know, and am disappointed that there was no news on that, was what type of shape Villalona was in, that's really what I want to know. Maybe Pablo can introduce Angel to his fitness training organization, they seemed to have done a great job with the Panda.

    What I'm hoping is that Angel can move back to 3B and legitimately play there. Even while the Giants played him at 1B, that was with the understanding that 1B was so that he could concentrate on his hitting. Still, he took fielding practice all the time at 3B, at least he said that in interviews, and wanted to go back there at some point.

    Now, I know I just wrote how good Pablo is there defensively, but he's eventually going to grow out of that position, and maybe by that time Angel is ready to take over 3B.

    FYI, Villalona was rated as a plus fielder at 3B way back when he was first signed, so if he is in shape, he might return back to his original position going forward.

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  5. OGC,

    It's really interesting to look over Fangraphs pitch selection chart on Vogey and how it's changed over the years. Basically he threw a slider early in his career that he's now ditched for a cutter. Yes, he had the cutter before joining the Giants so we can't necessarily credit Rags for that, although Rags might have encouraged him to throw it more.

    Anyway, he threw the fastball the least often of his career, but threw it more effectively. They did not differentiate between the 2 seamer and 4 seamer. I think he throws both. The FB was a strongly positive pitch for him. The cutter was mildly negative, the changeup was essentially neutral and the curveball was a slight plus pitch.

    Basically, if he can maintain velocity and command of the fastballs and continue to get the curveball over for strikes, he should be able to continue his success albeit probably not a sub 3 ERA. If Rags can help him refine the cutter and changeup, he could even improve as a pitcher!

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  6. Hey OGC - very nice write up on Vogelsong. He was one of the best contributors and stories of last year. While I don't think expecting all-star and a Cy Young vote or two is a fair expectation, I think he'll definitely fit in where you slotted him.

    Vogelsong reminds me a lot of Mike Krukow. He has an intense game face (that Krukow has commented on a few times), he shows immense concentration with better than average but not awesome stuff, and manages the game well. I think this is a big difference between VSG and the guy he replaced. Intensity, an unwillingness to give in to hitters, and some mental toughness if things aren't going his way.

    You didn't put any home/away info in your post. I thought it was interesting he had a 3.57 ERA on the road (going 6-1 overall) and a 2.15 ERA at home (going 7-6). Such is life as a Giants pitcher, especially at PacBell this year. His K/BB ratio was better at home (2.60 V 1.97) and he gave up 6 HRS versus 9 on the road, 17/13 appearances (I think 16/12 for 28 overall starts)

    Looking at his game log, he had a remarkable year. There was his 2nd start on the road versus the Mets (I watched this one - he wasn't focused, gave up 5 runs in 4 in a game the Giants eventually won). That was the game everybody was expecting from him. But then he put up 3 straight no ER starts, followed by 3 1 run starts, and people started to believe. Weathered that rough August as you described (heart breaking losses to all the teams we should have beat: Pit, Houston twice and the Cubs) and then rebounded well.

    I'm sure his years in the wilderness helped him be hungry for success, and I'm sure his time in Japan really helped with his discipline. I think you have to weigh last years stats more heavily than his overall career, and its looking good. While you don't want to pencil him in for an exact repeat, I think he'll do pretty well. Just love his story. He really knuckles down and pitches his heart out. Good stuff.

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  7. So the guy he replaced... Oh boy.

    I guess I should start off by saying I'm not a Zito hater. I was firmly in the "he's a league average starter being paid superstar money" category, and just felt like he could muddle along with some decent starts, some surprisingly good starts, and some horrors. We know now he was a PR signing, unfair expectations from the beginning for a steady but not brilliant pitcher. I can't get too mad about all this anymore. It is what it is.

    Also, he was actually pretty good in the first half of 2010. He showed a lot more intensity than I've ever seen, he actually looked pissed off from time to time. He faded in a really bad way in the middle of the summer and famously bombed game 161, left off the roster, etc, but he contributed to 2010. And I think the wheels have come off partly because of being left off, because...

    Zito is a mental midget. He can't knuckle down on anything, he can't pitch out of jams, and really can't get through the lineup the 3rd time through as well. So even when he's pitching well with location, he's never going to give you more than 5-6 just like our good friend Johnny Sanchez. My buddies and I call him BPBZ - batting practice barry zito, but also a reference to a popular character on the Sopranos, just not an affectionate nickname.

    So while I can appreciate the projection you laid out, I have to say I'm pretty skeptical, because he has lost his already pretty weak velocity. Instead of this 87-88 stuff mixed in, he's throwing 83-85, and it does make a difference. He never really knows where his curve is going, and if he leaves it up its just serving up a beatdown. I guess I see a broken pitcher, one who has no idea where his pitches are going. And if this is the case, why not take that to the logical conclusion, and let him learn a knuckleball or something...

    So I see the Giants doing a PR exercise. They were lucky as hell that VSG emerged last year. Then they put Zito on the slow boat to recovery, touring the Delta or something. But I'll give Zito credit, he never complains. He's a insanely highly paid good soldier. So I think they'll name him the 5th starter, but eventually he'll have to either go to the pen or down to Fresno to learn that knuckler.

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  8. I'm not as worried about it as some people are, because if there's one thing the Giants won't tolerate for long, its bad pitching. So they are buckling up, giving him the nod for his confidence, why not? This could work out. He could meditate, get his arm strength back, find his control of 10 years ago, and be just fine. That would be great. Its possible that the pressure is almost off of him with the contract coming to an end. Maybe he gets his head straight and lets go, and I'm all for that. However, I think the chances are extremely long shot at this point. Most likely he's just a sunk cost, and the G's would be good to move on in the classiest way possible.

    Which maybe letting him clean up from the pen, or a fake injury, or that knuckleball. He deserves that I think, he hasn't been a jerk like Rowand and Tejada. But he also doesn't deserve to take the ball every five days with weak stuff.

    Moving on, I think there is a real positive from all this. The Vogelsong theory! So the Giants are getting quite the rep as pitching whisperers. Throw in the park, Raggs, etc and that is the big strength. With our big 3 hopefully locked up, they can continue to draft power arms and hope to develop them, but they can also double up on their scrap heap redemption projects. What pitcher wouldn't want that? its a great way to balance the cost on our aces contracts as well. So I'm thinking of guys the gints would want: you have ex-farmhands coming off of injury/release: Accardo, Aardsma, Jerome Williams if the Angels non-tender. You have injury concerns like Eric Bedard and bigger injury concerns like Scott Kazmir. One guy I'm fascinated by is Andrew Miller, who the Giants were close to signing last december. I trust the Giants to scout out the best candidates, coach them up the best and have the biggest rate of success with this. DrB mentioned Dontrelle Willis signing with the G's as an example - didn't work out for the G's but it did for us. (Also I'm noticing the reds are really poaching us lately)

    And then my white whale - Sign Paul Maholm and have a kick ass 2/3 starter as your 5th! Yeah, it'd cost 6-8MM and send the Fringe into a lather, but adding to your strengths is not a bad thing. (I know, its too much money with this budget - just a contrarian idea)

    Anyway, I fully expect the Giants to have 2-4 minor league contracts scoped out, I'm quite sure the org has noticed the success with going this route, and so ultimately while I'm not at all confident of Zito, I'm also not that worried about it.

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  9. Hello Martin. I'm honored you researched my question - and so thoroughly, too. And you really do allay my fears that Vogelsong had one great half season, then started a fall into mediocrity. So your research is very helpful in showing that is not the case, that, rather, he had a first outstanding two months, then fell into a good start - bad start rhythm, but recovered. Actually what is interesting is that he had an abnormally poor August. I am not so concerned about a poor August as 1) yes, I think conditioning can play a big role, but 2) they don't call them the dog days of August for nothing, but 3) his outstanding Septmeber I think shows, at least theoretically (for 2012), that he could be very good, an above average #4 starter, maybe a good no. 2 or 3 starter. Getting back to the series of dominating starts in Septmeber shows 1) mental toughness, 2) likely some improvement in conditionsing, 3) more film work, 4) and most important, the ability to adjust back, to learn from his July and August starts and be able to compete against the new tools hitters were employing.
    I was afraid he would go from a 2.7 ERA to a 3.7 ERA. But with a September ERA + his September and year totalled periferals, I don't think it is unreasonable to expect a 2012 ERA of under 3.5, maybe even below 3.25.
    Anyway, your research helps me see it was not a simple "good" first half and "bad" second half, but was more complex and really showed far more variety, as well as learning - and that great September.
    Allfrank

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  10. Didn't really see anything about Home vs. Road to really say something about how good he will be in 2012, though now you mention it, his 3.57 ERA on the road is an indicator of where he might be in 2012. But again, the doubters would say that he lucked out there too, so I didn't see where I could defend anything there.

    I would also note that 2011 was "weird" for the Giants because AT&T became a pitcher's park again after years of being basically neutral. Not sure why, just that it was in 2011 according to Bill James calculations on that. Particularly for homers and including RHB as well as LHB.

    Yes, apt comparison, Shankbone, he does remind me a lot of Krukow too.

    I agree that his time away in the hinderlands helped to toughen him up mentally. That's another reason to think that he can repeat in 2012.

    I did not think you were a Zito hater, but definitely a non-believer. And that's probably because I only look at his stats, while you actually see him, so I defer to you on that.

    I agree that he maddingly inconsistent. But it takes some guts to come back after a horrific crash where you could have died if not for accelerating at last second, to come back from his first injury and pitch well for a number of games, then work hard, even though it was likely all you would do is mop up games in September, to get back to the team to contribute in anyway.

    I think he will be OK in 2012, but I would not bet on it. I think the Giants will probably invite a Todd Wellemeyer-type to camp to compete with him and Surkamp. And that guy could be the long guy out of the pen as insurance should Zito do crap out as you expect.

    I agree that Miller looks like a possibility for 2012 since they liked him last year and he is free again this year.

    I think Miller might have went to the BoSox because there was a better chance of making that rotation, but hopefully he realizes that the Giants are the Pitch Whisperers of the MLB and that will pay off in the long run for him, than opportunity.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great point about the car crash, and coming back in September. Just as Sanchez crapped out with a terrible attitude, Zito did show up. I respect that a lot. The more I look at the Sanchez situation it just looks like wasted talent. Let him be somebody else's problem. The Giants gave him every chance, and he really came up short. Raggs seems like a thoughtful reasonable guy and a great coach. He looked so exasperated coming out to talk to Johnny Sanchez, every time. Dave Cameron took time off from his usual routine with Giants pitchers and made some good points about Sanchez being much closer to league average than ace, mainly due to keeping the ball way up in the zone, resulting in a lot of K's and BBs (and pitch count!).

    Again, I'd love for Zito to come back to that league average guy he was, I'm really tired of all the heat directed at him. I doubt it, but you gotta play the games. And hey, only 46 Million to go!

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