Monday, January 24, 2011

Your 2011 Giants: Madison Bumgarner

Because of all the talk about the Giants having a fluke season, I thought I would tackle some of the key figures in that talk.  One of them is Madison Bumgarner.  Now one might think that he would not be someone that would be considered a fluke, but it is not every prospect who can deliver a 3.00 ERA in his first season and not be considered a fluke to some extent, even one as highly touted as Bumgarner.

One key thing that some people are overlooking, in that regard, is that Bumgarner does not need to duplicate his ERA of 2010 for there to be an improvement of the 2011 Giants over the 2010 Giants.  In 2010, he pitched the majority of the starts in the #5 slot, but Todd Wellemeyer and Joe Martinez did too.  Together, the three of them combined had a collective 4.01 ERA with a 1.38 WHIP and 2.07 K/BB.  And, FYI, that was a huge improvement over the collective 4.61 ERA with 1.36 WHIP and 2.03 K/BB in 2009 with Randy Johnson, Brad Penny, Joe Martinez, and Ryan "The Big" Sadowski in that #5 slot, which helped the team greatly in adding wins.

So the key to 2011, in terms of the #5 slot is for Bumgarner to be better than the 4.01 ERA delivered in 2010.  Based on the major projections I have found, it looks very probable, and perhaps a great improvement:

Projection - ERA - WHIP - K/BB
Forecaster - 3.47 - 1.25 - 2.82
Bill James - 3.54 - 1.29 - 2.69
Dan's ZiPS - 3.93 - 1.32 - 2.10

Personally, I have liked Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster's projections, as they take age and only AA/AAA stats into consideration for projections.  They noted in their comments:  there is "4 things they like in young SP:  Elite CTL & Command; still emerging DOM; GB bias; and no signs of 2nd half fade:  sign them up."  That means elite walk rate (or CTL), elite K/BB (or Command), emerging strikeout rate (or DOM), and groundball bias.

And their MLE's for Bumgarner shows his AA stats in 2009 resulting in a 2.32 ERA and his AAA stats in 2010 resulting in a 3.09 ERA, both right in line with his 3.00 ERA in 2010 in the majors.  That would suggest that his skill level is in the 3.00 ERA and below range, based on two years of performances so far, numbers which are skewed to be worse because his mechanics were out of whack so long that his fastball velocity was much reduced and he wasn't able to strike out as many as he normally would, in late 2009 and early 2010.

Baseball Forecaster also has a table showing what the average ERA is for pitchers in a certain Command range (i.e. K/BB).  At 3.31 last season, Bumgarner is in the best segment, 3.1 and over, and the average ERA for this group has consistently been good.  From 2005-2009, average ERA range was 3.35 to 3.49.  In 2010, it was 3.25.  Even given the projections above, with average 2.54, that puts him roughly in the high 3 ERA range, which will be at minimum a slight improvement over 2010's collective.

And this is especially so for those pitchers with K-rate of over 5.5 K/9, which Bumgarner should easily do.  In another table, it shows that for pitchers with 3.1 and over, 53% of them had an ERA below 3.50, while only 5% had above 4.50 ERA.  Even at the K/BB projected, they collectively have an ERA below 4 half the time.

So yes, while it might be folly to expect 3.00 ERA from Bumgarner, at least until he proves he can do it again, that is not the point:  the point is whether he's an improvement over the 2010 #5 starter.  And as noted above for the composite #5 starter for 2010, he looks probable for beating 4.01 ERA, and perhaps easily.  Quoting Baseball Forecaster:  "Pitchers who maintain a command of more than 2.5 have a high probability of long-term success."  And if he can maintain a K/BB of over 3 plus get a lot of groundballs, he will be up there with Lincecum and other greats in terms of success as a starting pitcher.  Expecting something in the mid-3 ERA looks very doable and would be great to get, and given his MLE performances in 2009-10, it is not outrageous to hope that he will be able to duplicate his 3.00 ERA:  just don't count on it and all will be fine.

Now, another concern is regarding the number of innings he pitched in 2010.  He threw roughly 73 more IP in 2010 than he did in 2008 and 2009, and the current theory about making leaps like that with young (under 25 YO) pitchers is that you don't jump more than 25-30 IP per season.  (Krukow often mentions this in broadcasts and some SI writer - still mad at them for Bonds vendetta - made his name with his theory, writing about this every year).  Doing that risks injuring the pitcher, particularly young pitchers, and particularly one as young as Bumgarner.

One factor mitigating that is that Bumgarner changed his between starts habit in 2010 vs. 2008-9.  When he was brought up to the majors in late 2009, he was asked about his reduced velocity and he blamed it on the number of pitches he was throwing in-between starts compared with what the MLB pitchers were throwing.  He "marvelled" at how little pitchers threw in between starts in the majors.

I queried Eric Surkamp, one of the Giants top pitching prospects, on how many pitches he thew in-between, and he tweeted that he threw 40 pitches in the bullpen session in-between starts, which I would gauge as what most pitchers do.

To marvel, I would guess that Bumgarner might have been throwing up to 80-100 pitches in the bullpen - basically as much as he would during the game.  Given that he had 25 starts in 2009, he threw anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 extra pitches in 2009 that he would not have done in 2010 because he threw less in between starts.  At roughly 100 pitches per game, that is roughly 10-15 games, and at 6.2 IP/game, that is roughly an extra 60-90 IP that was not accounted for in 2009 in terms of his workload, the underbelly of the iceberg.

So that 73 extra IP in 2010 now looks like roughly the same workload as he did in 2010.  Of course, the Giants probably did not push him out to 100 pitches in every start in 2009, so that reduces the 60-90 IP estimate down a bit, but even at 90 pitches, that's 250 pitches, 2.5 games,  or roughly 15 IP.  That still looks well within range (25-30 IP) for Bumgarner between 2009 and 2010.  I would also note that the Giants navigated Cain, Lincecum, and Sanchez through big jumps in IP and so far they have been healthy and productive, without any signs of warning that perhaps they were rushed too fast.  Perhaps the Giants know something the SI writer doesn't (which I find to be most likely).

Lastly, I would add, from a historical perspective, that I have noticed that prospects who grew up on farms appeared to be what I've heard called "country strong" and were horses as starters.  Walter Johnson, Bob Feller, Gaylord Perry, among others, had long productive careers and struck out a lot of batters.  Bumgarner comes from a farming background and loves farming so much that he bought a farm near his family.  I believe players like this are a different breed apart, that they have a greater strength, built naturally from working on the farm, doing their regular chores.  As a sign of that, Bumgarner during his World Series victory, had his pitches in the 91-93 MPH range, and he humped it up to 94 MPH against Josh Hamilton for four pitches.  If he was having problems with the extra innings, his arm and results were not showing it.

Overall, yeah, it might be a fluke that Bumgarner had a 3.00 ERA, but he is a very good pitcher and very good pitchers will have years where they put it all together and get their ERA that low.  He also might be a great pitcher, but we won't figure that out for sure until he pitches a few more seasons.  Meanwhile, the projections and other measures say that Bumgarner should be expected somewhere in the mid-3 ERA range, which is still very good for a starting pitcher.  And as a Giants fan, you can't ask for more than that from Bumgarner.

Whether there are physical problems, only time will tell, even guys with "perfect" mechanics (like Cub's Mark Prior) end up with problems while fat guys like David Wells pitches well into his 40's.  But while it is a warning sign that he pitched so many more innings than he ever did before as a professional, 1) the Giants have navigated these rocks OK with Cain, Lincecum, and Sanchez so far, 2) he comes from a farming background where chores build up their physique to handle a lot of work, and 3) his work routine in 2008 and 2009 probably prepared him to pitch that many extra innings in 2010.

If his body was having any problems with that extra work, one would think it would have already manifested itself during his World Series start.  Look at Sanchez, it was his third year as a starter and he petered out in the playoffs.  Bumgarner, however, effortlessly threw in the low 90's and was able to hump it up to 94 MPH for at least one batter.  Still, it is something to look out for, but I'm not too worried about it, I'm more concerned about other things, such as Kung Fu Panda returning (though he didn't have that physique in that photo he has on his new website, though not up right now) and Posey not tiring late in the 2011 season after full season of catching (he played a lot of 1B in 2010).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Torres, Torres, Torres: Signed!

The final player eligible for arbitration, Andres Torres, signed for either $2.1M or $2.2M, I have seen both figures.  The sfgiants.com website article by Half reported $2.1M and, while I can't find it online,  I read in the San Jose Mercury that he signed for $2.2M plus $100K in incentives.  The Chronicle reports only $2.2M.  Who knows, maybe it is $2.1M with $100K in incentives, which could account for both reports.  $2.2M is the mid-point between the salaries that the Giants  and Torres submitted to the arbitration board.

Now it is time for the Giants to handle all the pre-arb players, like Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner.  While they have the right to impose any salary that they want, as the Brewers found out when they did that with Prince Fielder, just doing that without some negotiation and agreement with the player and his reps could lead to a poisoned relationship. Obviously, Posey is the tougher one since he won the Rookie of the Year award, but Bumgarner pitched a great shutout in the World Series.  Lincecum, though, after his Cy Young season got $650,000, according to Baseball-Forecaster.com, so I would say that is the ceiling.

And hopefully the Giants can work on a long term deal with one or two of their young arbitration players to get more salary certainty.

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.

Supp's On and Other Arbitrary Moves

Jeff Suppan has signed with the Giants to try to make the 25-man roster (report by Schulman).  If he makes the roster, he gets $1M contract and probably some incentives based on IP.  He also can opt to leave the team should he not make the MLB team out of spring training.

He is the Giant's leading 6th starter alternative now, and, assuming he passes the audience, if you read between the lines in all the press about his acquisition, looks like he can make the 25-man roster out of spring as the long man out of the pen.  He is also insurance if, god forbid, any of the starting pitchers are out for any reason.  That makes some sense given prior statements by the Giants, and general overall concern over the work put on the arms of the starters in 2010 because of the playoffs and World Series.  They might go to Suppan sooner when the game gets out of hand, to reduce the IP load on starters, plus conceivably could start the season with both Bumgarner and Suppan in the bullpen, since the 5th starter isn't needed until in late April, typically, or start Suppan in the rotation initially with Bumgarner in the bullpen, to both ease the workload on the rest of the starters.  Or they can really go out there and have 6 starters initially, as I had suggested the Giants do in late 2010 in order to ease the load on the starters plus keep them regularly starting every 6th day.

Dan Runzler now is the second alternative, probably will be placed in AAA to get his inning in there as a starter. That is preferred because, frankly, he was pretty wild as a reliever, though he did at least strike out enough to make that viable.  Often, for relievers who are too wild, the Giants in the past have put them into a starter role in order to give them more IP in which to figure out what their problem is, as well as extra work on figuring out another pitch to use, that might help their repertoire.  Also, starters have to pitch more slowly and thoughtfully than relievers do, and sometimes slowing things up like that helps the pitcher.  Plus, some pitchers need to take off some of the heat off their pitches in order to improve their control, and making them a starter helps to do that.

Arbitration Avoidance

The Giants continued their practice of avoiding arbitration by signing Santiago Casilla (as was rumored to have been basically done the other day of the other announcements for Ross, Sanchez, and Ramirez) to a $1.3M contract and Javier Lopez to a $2.375M contract (where do they get these numbers?).  Now they have Andres Torres left to sign ($1.8M offer/$2.6M asking) and reportedly (by Chronicle and probably others) he is very close to signing as well.  The Giants apparently wanted to focus on one year deals with everyone in order to get them signed before arbitration, but as I noted the other day, I hope they start on a long term contract with Jonathan Sanchez.

I would also hope for longer deals with Lincecum and Cain as well, but it would be my guess, based on prior preferences, Lincecum's agents will want to wait for a great 2011 to press for more money, and Cain took a big step in 2010, and probably could get more money by showing that was not a fluke in 2011.  I am more hopeful for a Cain signing since he loves being a Giant and has planted roots here in SF.

I wouldn't mind deals for Posey and Sandoval, but I would think the Giants would want to see another year out of Posey first and Sandoval's agents will want to be paid for 2009 production, not 2010 production, and there is still the matter of his weighty problems.  I also wouldn't mind a deal for Romo, just to get salary certainty for the coming years, but I am OK with waiting too, relievers are harder to value.  Lastly, Brian Wilson's deal is over this season, and I think 2012 is his last arbitration year, so maybe another 2 year deal, one contracted year, one option year.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

2011 Arbitration Day: Signings and Other Thoughts

There have been various tweets announcing the Giants signings today to avoid arbitration:
  • Cody Ross:  $6.3M (last year of arb)
  • Jonathan Sanchez:  $4.8M (second year)
  • Ramon Ramirez:  $1.65M (last year)
There are also three other to settle:  Andres Torres, Javier Lopez, and Santiago Casilla.  They had already signed Mike Fontenot earlier and released Chris Ray. 

Giants Thoughts

Ross got around what I thought he would, based on most commentary I saw when Giants picked him up.  Most noted that Ross would earn $6M in arbitration and if you tack on salary inflation, that is roughly what he got.  That also fit into arbitration theory, which states that Y1 arbs get 40% of value, Y2 arbs get 60%, and Y3 arbs get 80%, and he roughly got the same value as in 2010 with bump up from 60% to 80% plus some salary inflation.

Sanchez got less than I thought.  With his good 2010, I thought that might tilt his salary higher, into at least $6-8M range, based on a $10-12M value range for what he can do.  He still got a great raise (he made $2.1M last season) though. 

Hopefully this is just to get him signed and avoid arbitration, and now they can build this into a multi-year deal going into his free agent season(s).  But I would guess that Dirty's agent will not want to settle for what he got now, he would rather have Sanchez have another great season similar to 2010 (low 3's ERA in particular) and get a really big raise in Y3 arbs plus maybe into free agent years.

I'm hoping the Giants at least broach the subject with Sanchez and be willing to push the money higher to get a multi-year signed.  I think he should be able to repeat a similar season, and if we got him signed for, say, another year plus option after the 2011 season, we should be able to trade him for a big package of prospects similar to the A's Haren deal, maybe with Royals or Pirates, they both have a lot of young and good prospects.

Ramirez got what arb theory suggests from Y2 to Y3, I think, roughly 43% raise, with 33.3% from move from Y2 to Y3 and salary inflation covering the rest.

Remaining Arbitration Cases

Three more down, only three more to go.  Hank Schulman tweets AP report on arb bids/offers:
  • Andres Torres:  $1.8M/$2.6M
  • Javier Lopez:  $2.0M/$2.875M
  • Santiago Casilla:  $1.0M/$1.65M
I assumed the hangup with Andres Torres is that his agent wants to be signed as a proven starter but that the Giants want to still sign him below because while he performed well, he's only really been a starter for less than a season, which could result in some regression, potentially.  The numbers are roughly right assuming that, but they are pretty close, so maybe they will sign for the mid-point, the Giants typically have been able to do that in the past.  Only AJ Pierzynski has gone to arbitration in the Sabean era, as far as I can remember, though Lincecum was within minutes of going into arbitration before his agent decided that it was better to strike a deal.  So around $2.25M or so.

For Lopez, his side is basically asking for the same base value as he got in 2009 (but with higher Y3 multiplier), while the Giants are pricing in the risk that 2009's performance puts into the equation.  At $2M, the Giants are already giving him a 50% raise, which is pretty good.  I think they will also meet in the middle, as well, maybe $2.5M.

Not sure what Santiago Casilla's problem is other than the old fashion difference in opinion on what he is worth.  He probably wants a salary like a proven set-up reliever who is now in arb, while the Giants has more of a wait and see attitude given that was his first season of good performance, and not even a full season.  He probably got the league minimum or so in 2010, slightly more than $400K, and the Giants more than doubled it in their offer. Hopefully they can split the difference, but my guess is that the Giants are going to hold to their guns if Casilla's side is sticking close to that request of $1.6M.  I expect another meet in the middle at $1.35M.

But as I noted, the Giants in the Sabean era has avoided arbitration with all but AJ, so I expect signings to happen before the cases get put in front of arbitration.  As was reported (by Hank Schulman I believe), the Giants are focusing on one year deals with everyone.  That makes sense for both sides, particularly the players in these cases, as they hope that their players can perform well again and get a bigger raise next season, particularly for those going free agents. 

As I noted above, I hope the Giants can sign Sanchez to a multi-year deal, which would set up a Haren-type bidding for Sanchez's services after the 2011 season.  A big stash of young, good prospects right around there would be a perfect time for an injection of talent into the farm system given that the Giants hope to be pennant contenders for the near future and thus would not be getting good draft picks in terms of probability of getting a good player.  Those players would then be maturing in the 2013-2016 timeframe, when we start losing guys to free agency, particularly Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez (I expect Cain to stick around for most of his career). 

Assuming they sign for roughly mid-point as I speculated above, that would be 19 players totalling $114.8M in payroll.  Add 6 more roster spots at $450M average, that is a total payroll of $117.5M (or $115.9M if Rowand's salary only counts for $12M in 2011; dispute over how bonuses are allocated, I would lean towards $115.9M).  That is roughly $15-20M more than the payroll in 2010.  The money the team made in the playoffs probably counts for $10-15M of that increase, so the Giants, on relative terms, isn't raising their payroll that drastically, and probably could handle another $5-10M if there was a player worth getting in that range and a roster spot.  At this point, I would rather they stick with what we got and save it for the future, when we hopefully sign Lincecum, Cain, and other young players to long-term deals.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Giants hand out 22 invites to 2011 big league camp

The Giants recently announced the 22 non-roster invites to the 2011 big league camp (reported on by Chris Haft).  The players are:

  • Brandon Belt
  • Gary Brown
  • Brandon Crawford
  • Charlie Culberson
  • Casey Daigle
  • Brad Eldred
  • Terry Evans
  • Waldis Joaquin
  • Tommy Joseph
  • Shane Loux
  • Guillermo Mota
  • Nick Noonan
  • Juan Perez
  • Wilmin Rodriguez
  • Felix Romero
  • Hector Sanchez
  • Chris Stewart
  • Jason Stoffel
  • Ryan Verdugo
  • Ryan Vogelsong
  • Jackson Williams
  • Matt Yourkin

I will be most interested in how the Brandon's do, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, plus Gary Brown.  I would also be keenly watching Charlie Culberson as well.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Giants 2011 ZIPS Projections

A number of my brethren Giants bloggers have announced Dan Szymborski release of ZiPS Projections for the 2011 Giants already, but I wanted to follow up on that with the implications of that projection. 

Paapfly.com did one of the steps and took those projections and calculated that the Giants would create 800 runs based on those projections and his estimation of how the 2011 AB's will turn out.  As Paap quoted Szymborski: "ZiPS is more bullish on the Giants offense than it has been in years ..." I myself had been unhappy with projections I had seen in the mid-2000's, as I felt that they were low-balling the Giants players, but I have been happy with recent projections. Szymborski also noted, "Oh yeah, ZiPS loves Brandon Belt and at least in the short term has him as the best 1B prospect in baseball." Comforting as a Giants fan to know.

Giants Projected Wins

Now, what is the implications of that projection - and Paap noted that this was wildly optimistic - when combined with pitching?  If the Giants pitching repeats their 2010 performance, the 2011 Giants would win 102 games based on Pythagorean.  Even if they repeated their 2009 performance, which was a bit worse, the Giants would win 99 games. 

Taking the ZiPS for the pitchers most probaby pitching in staff for 2011 - Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner, Zito, Romo, Wilson, Affeldt, Ramirez, Lopez, Mota (could be Runzler but took higher ERA) - I got a composite 525 ER in 1350 IP.  Prorating to 2010's 1458 IP, I get 568 ER.  Looking at 2009 and 2010, the Giants defense gave up 40 and 37 unearned runs.  Using 40, I get 608 runs allowed as the projection, and that works out to roughly 100 wins, based on 800 runs scored.  That is roughly where the Giants defense was in 2009 (611 runs allowed).

Thus, ZiPS appears to view 2010 as an outlier and 2009 as their true talent level, based on prior performances.  Knowing how these projections work helps an analyst figure out where the projections might be shooting too high or too low.

I can understand why Sanchez is thus set to 3.66; I think he'll be better in 2011.  He had a 3.35 ERA the rest of the 2009 season after being briefly taken out of the rotation to figure out his mechanics, then 3.07 ERA in 2010 season.  I think 3.35 is a better expectation, and that would add one win to the Giants season.

I can understand why Bumgarner is projected at 3.93 ERA; I also think he'll be better in 2011.  Any projection system will plug in the numbers from his 2009 season and say that his talent level is much lower, particularly one that values AA and higher performance higher than below AA performance.  As long as he has his fastball (clocked at mid-90's goodness even in the depths of the playoffs, in the pentultimate game of the season for the Giants, game 4 of the World Series), he is going to pitch more like he did in 2008 and 2010, and less like he did in 2009.  He was just a wild bronco that needed a little breaking in, so the Giants let him go, he struggled but didn't hurt himself, then Tidrow rode in like the calvary early in the 2010 season and tweaked him good.  That should add another win to the Giants season, perhaps two or even three if he's as good as he was in 2010 (3.00 ERA)

A More Realistic Projected Wins

Of course, as Paap noted, 800 runs scored is wildly optimistic.  I tried another tactic and plugged the expected opening day lineup - Torres, Franchez, Huff, Posey, Ross, Burrell, Tejada, Sandoval (I expect him to move up once he starts hitting, but then who bats 8th then, so he might stay) - and it came out to roughly 4.5 runs scored per game or roughly 730 runs in the season.  That still works out to what should be a pennant winning 93 wins in the season.

So the floor looks to be in the low 90's but the ceiling, particularly if Torres, Sandoval, Belt, and to a lesser degree, Huff and Burrell, hit as well as could be expected, and/or Sanchez/Bumgarner pitching as well as can be expected, we will be looking at somewhere in the 100 win range for the Giants.  Given these win totals, the Giants look pretty good for making the playoffs, if not winning the NL West Division Title outright.

NL West Pretenders

I thought I would go over the NL West contenders since some are still pretty worried about them. 
  • LA is one particular one that some are afraid of.  LA averaged 4.12 runs scored last season (near the worse in the NL) and replaced Manny and Russell Martin with a bunch of guys who wouldn't be starting in LF for other teams (Reed Johnson, Jay Gibbons) and Rod Barajas.  Meanwhile, they hope that Matt Kemp will return to his prior goodness, ignoring that his stats (much like Russell Martin) has been more on the downside than the upside.  They will be lucky to keep their runs scored over 4.00 in 2011.  Meanwhile, they did improve their pitching, which was already good, with a 4.01 ERA, which resulted in a low 4.27 runs allowed per game, but, as comparison, the Giants pitching had a 3.36 ERA and 3.60 runs allowed, a full 0.65 runs less and 0.67 runs less.  Adding Lilly for a full season and improvements for Kershaw and Billingsly is not going to make up that huge difference.  Thus, that LA probably won't score as much and definitely won't prevent as many runs equals "Don't really need to worry about them, but close enough that they will be contenders with some good performances and threatening if hit their peaks, particularly Kemp."  They will probably be around .500 the way they are constituted right now.
  • COL is the one I think we should be worried.  At 4.75 runs scored per game, they are essentially tied for the second best offense team in the National League (they were 3rd behind Philly's 4.77) but their pitching was pretty good, with a 4.01 ERA and 4.43 runs allowed average.  With that RS and RA, they should have won 86 games, not the 83 that they did win.  With a healthy year from Tulowitski and Car-Gon proving that 2010 was not a fluke (high BABIP, etc), plus additions to their pitching staff, they could easily move into the 90 expected win range. 
  • SD, even with A-Gon, only averaged 4.10 runs per game.  They are kidding if they think that they will be over 4.00 runs scored per game.  They will need Kyle Blanks to hit close to what A-Gon did at 1B, plus play decent defense (A-Gon was great defensively too), to have any chance of the offense repeating.  Meanwhile, they don't really have any players ready to join the lineup and kick butt.  Their pitching was second best in the NL, 3.41 ERA, but their defense was better and they had the lowest runs allowed at 3.59 runs (squeaked past Giants 3.60 runs allowed average).  They lost Garland however and replaced him with Aaron Harang, who hopes to resurrect his career at SD's extreme pitchers park.  He has had two bad seasons in the past three, so he appears to be on his downside at age 33.  And it don't look good, his road numbers were horrible the past three seasons, each getting worse than the last.  So they are hoping that their young pitchers who pitched over their head in the first half of 2010 can do it over a full season in 2011 and that the second half wasn't just the natural regression to the mean talent that most prospect evaluation services had them pegged to be.
  • ARI had the worse runs allowed except for Pittsburgh at 5.16 runs allowed per game.  Meanwhile, they could only manage 4.40 runs scored in a hitter's park.  While their pitching looked much better at season's end with Hudson, Enright, and Saunders joining Kennedy in the rotation, plus added a lot of pitching talent, their offense does not look to get any better, particularly after trading away Mark Reynolds.  They will need to first get to .500 then I'll start putting them on my radar.
Thus, the Giants look pretty good compared to our competitors in terms of how they looked in 2010 and what needs to happen to put them in our company, win-wise.  That, while not guaranteeing the Giants the division title (and that rarely happens in baseball), makes it look pretty good that they will repeat as NL West division winners.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Let Me Take You Down: MLB News Around the Bases

I am going to go through some recent news, mostly ex-Giants related.

Renteria Gets Respect From Reds:  $3M

World Series MVP hero Edgar Renteria has reported signed with the Reds for the 2011 season for $3M.  He famously opined that the Giants $1M contract offer was a "total disrespect".   I wish him well, except when facing the Giants, of course, and thank him once again for his amazing performance in the World Series.

Still, to get respect, one must earn it too.  I'm willing to overlook his $18M for two seasons of essentially one season's worth of poor, for the most part, ABs where he didn't even hit as well as Neifi Perez, because of his great World Series performance.  But $1M is about all I would be willing to bet on a replay.  In 2009, it was the "asteroid" in his elbow.  In 2010, there were the array of physical maladies that brought him down.  The odds don't look better in 2011.

And $3M is basically what Huff got last season.  He at least had a great 2008 and a poor 2009, so there was some good hope that he might end up somewhere in the middle or higher, because while his 2009 was poor, his batting peripherals were still good and his main problem was a bad BABIP.  Meanwhile, Renteria now has three bad consecutive seasons on his resume.  Playing in Cincy will help with the batting line, but I doubt that will matter if he's on the trainer's table most of the season.

Take care, thanks for the glory, but I'm OK with Edgar moving on at that price.  Now the Giants can look elsewhere with more intent for a backup middle infielder.  And I assume they will continue looking for somebody to sign for under $1M to be their backup depth at starting pitching in AAA. 

Kevin Frandsen Signs with San Diego

Frandsen seeks to pursue his dream in SD.  I once had dreams of him starting at 2B for us, but he wasn't very smart mouthing off to management and pouting when he was sent down.  He had nice stats in the minors but not that good.  The writing was on the wall, so I was happy he ended up with Boston, as I think he is buddies with Dustin Pedroia.

He didn't do much last season playing for two pennant contenders (Red Sox and Angels) nor got much of a chance.  Surprised Marlins didn't latch onto him, but perhaps their opinion of him isn't strong either.  But playing for SD, I can't root for him, sorry.  His support of Fred Lewis' homophobic rants didn't help either.

If he didn't screw up his chances in 2009, he could have been part of the group in 2010 that would have brought a World Championship to SF.  Instead, Pat Burrell came in and represented local Bay Area interests.  Life is funny how it works sometimes.

Alfredo Simon Arrested for Double Murder, Get Support from new Giant

That was a shocker to see, particularly since he played nicely for the Orioles in 2010 and looked ready to finally capitalize on the talents that led the Giants to get him in the first place.  And a double murder, no less.  Then I was shocked to see that new Giant Miguel Tejada is helping Simon out with getting legal representation and so forth. 

Blyleven in Hall of Fame - FINALLY - Alomar Makes it Too

Bert Blyleven is finally in the Hall of Fame:  FINALLY!!!  I thought he was deserving from the beginning and been commenting on this across the internet for a while.  When I was growing up, he had the best curveball around and not only did he strike out a lot of batters, he compiled great stats, great except for his Win-Loss, which apparently a lot of baseball writers though was the final arbiter of how good a pitcher was.  Where were these people when Blyleven was pitching, were they sticking their heads in the sand?  This - along with why in the hell did Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Rickey Henderson, etc. not get voted in unanimously in their first year - are reasons why I have not been happy with the Hall of Fame voting over the years.

The best solution I could think of was to count it against the writers when they don't vote someone in who was clearly deserving.  For example, they could lose their vote if they don't vote and the player gets, say, 95% of the votes.  But then that would cause a lot of CYA votes, so maybe it could be a three strikes type of system.  Another nuance is that some don't vote in the first year, so maybe they won't get a strike if a player is voted in but under, say, 85% of the votes.  Anyway, I can't think of a good system, these are just some of my thoughts that I can spit out now.

Roberto Alomar got in, and frankly, I don't know if he deserves it or not.  The only thing I can recall about him is the spitting incidence and the general feeling from the media that he's a really good overall player, i.e. his defense is great.  I won't begrudge his entry, there have been plenty of players voted in that were marginal for me to greatly care as long as there were those who thought he was pretty good.

Paapfly and I got into a discussion of Jeff Bagwell's Hall of Fame credentials, and what I realized was that he was a really good hitter who I didn't really know much about other than I knew he was good, just not THAT good.  He probably should get in at some point but with so few votes, he probably is going to waiting around like Jim Rice and Bert Blyleven. 

Looking at his career stats, I realized that part of the reason why I am disconnected from Alomar and Bagwell is that a number of their best seasons came in the mid-to-late 90's when I was not really following the game.  After the strike of 1994, particularly after McGwire's comments and the cancelling of the World Series, I pulled my own strike of the game and I probably didn't get really fully re-engaged with the team until 2001 when Bonds set the record.

Part of that was because I was having a life, wooing my wife, marrying, having kids, but a lot of that was due to that strike of 1994.  And I guess I was not the only one, the majors have not had a strike since and they had been apparently using juiced balls to boost offense (and interest) in the majors since that strike ended, according to one famous baseball analyst, Eric Walker, as outlined in his on-line essay analysis, Silly Ball (and where he outlines some of his logic for why steroids and other PEDs could not have been responsible for this significant boost in offense).  In any case, the offense has restored the industry to new heights of robustness.

Now, baseball can work on getting Pete Rose into the Hall of Fame.  Fine, ban him from baseball, ban him from baseball management, ban him from making Hall of Fame as a manager, but the Hall of Fame is a sham until baseball's career hit leader is in there.  He epitomized all that was good about baseball when he was a player:  love for the game, maximizing your talents, playing to win.  It has been long enough now, put him in.

Ex-Giants Galore

The Pirates dropped Joe Martinez, who the Giants traded to get Lopez for the bullpen, in order to sign ex-Giants Kevin Correia to a two year contract.  I was always hoping that Correia would get a chance with the Giants, he would have been a good back of rotation starter for us, as he often pitched pretty well too. 

I wonder why he left the Padres, his childhood team.  Were they not interested?  I can't see that to be true, they will need more pitching than ever after losing Garland and Correia, and they didn't get anyone ready to contribute in the A-Gon trade with Boston, and I wasn't aware of any young stud coming up, Latos was that guy. 

It could be that Correia needed to get away, his beloved younger brother leapt to his death last spring, and maybe being around home just reminds him too much about his younger brother, who he was probably more like a father to because of their tough family circumstance in their childhood (there was a sister in-between).  Good luck to him, I wish him well.

Other News
  • The Giants re-signed Guillermo Moto to another minor league contract, as they had did last year.
  • Waldis Joaquin was released on waivers by the Giants, and the White Sox claimed him, but he then somehow became a free agent and re-signed back with the Giants.
  • Bengie Molina apparently was offered a backup position with the Cards, behind his brother.  That has got to be a comedown for him and a big blow to his pride.  He's probably still hoping a team would sign him to be a starter, but might sign with Cards when spring training beckons.
  • Boof Bonser signed with the New York Mets.  Part of me was hoping the Giants would sign him to be one of our potential call-ups in case of injury or what not happens to one of our starters.  We do not have any depth at all for the major league rotation (though honestly, most teams don't, else the guy would have signed elsewhere and be in the majors, unless, of course, the team still controls him).
  • In another Pirates-ex-Giants news, Brian Burres re-signs with Pittsburgh in a minor league deal which apparently gives him an out should an Asian team be interested in signing him.
  • Eric Hacker, Tony Pena Jr, Dontrelle Willis, Stephen Holm, and, maybe Clay Timpner (doing this from memory) have found new teams after the Giants released them.
  • Lastly, there was a nice interview of Brandon Belt by Mychal Urban for CSN's recent Hot Stove show.  The video should be in the link.  The delay between the two is a bit jarring, FYI, for some reason Belt got Urban's talking with a 1-2 second delay.  Still, it was nice to hear and see our #1 prospect.

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