Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Giants Reportedly Trade for Carlos Beltran

The rumored news is that the Giants have traded for Carlos Beltran, sending Zack Wheeler to the Mets.  Out of his $6M remaining on the contract, the Giants will get a reported $4M from the Mets and pay the remaining $2M.  Because Beltran is a 10-5 player, he gets 24 hours to reflect on the trade, but reportedly will approve it, according to a report by Tim Brown of Yahoo.
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

P.P.: Almost Without a Hiccup: A Catching Tale

Post Posey, how have the Giants done?  Not so bad so far.
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Friday, July 15, 2011

Giant News: Hector Sanchez is coming up; Crick signs

Just had to write about Hector Sanchez being called up (ExtraBaggs rumor on twitter).  Crazy Crabbers has a nice rundown of his stats at his blog.  I've already opined there that I don't think it was for his offense, since he's doing OK, not great in AAA.  From what I've read, his defense is pretty good at catcher, so that could be the major factor there.  Or could it?

Here is my speculation:  what if the Giants are grooming him to be the catcher of the future (meaning 2012-13)?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hey Neukom! My Giants Business Plan: The Phoenix Strategy of Rebuilding (tm)

I have not written to this series in a while (see here for TOC), but a commenter got me thinking of it again (which drove me to create the TOC) and I thought of another addition to the plan, since a number of commenters seem to think they know how to rebuild a team: the right way to rebuild.

Phoenix Rebuilding Strategy (tm)

The best way to rebuild a team (but not necessarily the best way to run a baseball team) would be to tear down the team once it is clear that reaching the World Series is a likely impossibility, when you have to trade away talent in order to get the payroll into shape. Much like how the A's have been run since Charlie O. Finley, heck, all the way back to Connie Mack, the best way to rebuild is to trade away all the players of value to get prospects back who can be good in a few years or less (the Marlins would make Connie and Charlie O. proud)

Lose Big, Draft High

Meanwhile, as I noted about the draft, the best draft picks in terms of efficient gathering up talent for your re-building team is to ensure that your team is among the Top 5 picks overall, or better yet, the one with the top pick overall. So your team has to stink, pretty much on purpose, and get you those top picks. That apparently is the strategy that they Rays did for all these years, building up a lot of talent in their farm system that is paying off now, and the Marlins have been basically following that strategy during its short life in the majors.

That is the apparent strategy that Bobby Cox used when he was GM of the Braves, before he picked up the pieces he thought he could win with, at which point he took over as manager.  It was examining his tactics, tied to my memories of the A's (Connie and Charlie) that led me to this strategy.

By playing mostly the remaining farm prospects you have, who might develop but maybe not, to see if they can do the job, while not picking up free agents to boost up the team, other than a vet or two or three who could mentor one or more of your top prospects, you ensure having a team that is not that good and sure to struggle and lose a lot of games, earning a top draft pick overall, year in year out.

Those are the best picks to have, they can cut your rebuilding time in half or even a quarter if the talent is there. That is because the top 5 picks have the highest chance of delivering you a good starting player by far, roughly 45%. Once you fall down to the 10th, you are talking about half that, or about 23%; once you fall down to the late teens, that is roughly 15%, and if you are competing for the playoffs (i.e. picks 21-30 overall, generally, except when some team fails to sign a first round pick the season before), it is roughly 10%, or half again that of the 10th pick overall. Assuming all the following picks (2nd round and beyond) are roughly equal (because at that point the probability of finding a good player is so small with any of those picks), the main difference between any team's chances of finding a good player is your first round pick, and you can cut your rebuilding time in half (in terms of finding a star player) by being a losing team, and by three-quarters by being one of the worse teams in the majors.

Spackle With Vets When Rebuilding is Nearly Done

Then as your top prospects start coming up and sprinkling your major leaguer roster, you sign key veteran free agents to fill spots where you don't have any good prospect coming up, in order to not block them should they grow and develop, plus pass on their veteran savvy to their young charges.  The Giants have done this, first with Matt Morris mentoring Cainer, then later when Randy Johnson mentored Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez.  They also did that with Bengie Molina mentoring Buster Posey.

Of course, as per the business plan, the draft focus is on the pitching staff and on having a defensively superior lineup that is offensively adequate enough to allow the pitching staff to win at least 90 games and position the team to make the playoffs. And once you get into the playoffs, your team will be positioned to maximize their chances of winning because of the superior pitching staff, superior closer, and good fielding defense (plus a bit of team speed for a cherry on top but not necessary), while being supported by a steady stream of prospects coming up over the next 4-6 seasons from when your team was re-building (and thus still losing).

A couple of good hits while competing for the playoffs (by drafting prospects that should have been drafted earlier but dropped due to some reason and/or finding a starter via international free agency, like Braves picking up Andruw Jones) will help keep the good times rolling longer than expected.

Monday, July 11, 2011

2011 Giants at Traditional Midway Point

The All-Star game usually is the marking point of the mid-way point of the season, though typically it is way past the exact half-way point of 81 games:  it is usually around 90 games that have been played by teams by the break.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Cy Zito: So Far So Good

When Barry Zito returned to action, it was noted in an article that one of the big changes he has made was to drop the slider out of his repertoire because that had to be thrown from a different slot than his other pitches, which affected his command for his other pitches, and that this slider was added after his Cy Young season, and, it was implied, was partly to blame for his decline from that great season.  Suggesting, of course, that we will see a new Barry the rest of this season.  So far, so good, though as noted before, he had a similar great stretch to start 2010 and everything declined from there.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Nate is Getting Great

Nate Schierholtz has been a fan favorite for a number of years now.  He's also been one of my favorites too, I recall when he was first drafted (many considered him an overdraft of massive proportions) and when he came in and started hitting for power immediately and captured the imagination of Giants prospect hounds all over.

What I've noticed over his career, as he moved from one level to the next is that there is a period of transition that Nate has to get through before he can do well and advance to the next level.  The way it looked to me was that Nate would feel his way towards success hitting in the new level.  He would apparently purposefully swing to make good contact first, that is, he would hit for average but not for power initially.  Then, once he got comfortable, then he was able to adjust his swing so that he could then tap into his prodigious power.

So, though his numbers didn't always look great, because of this pattern, he's always been one of my top position prospects, even as others looked to Fred Lewis and John Bowker, I was always in Nate's corner.

Another pattern that unfortunately has marked his career is that he would have a great period of hitting, like right now, then go totally cold, usually because of some injury that he was hiding and soon afterward, he would be DLed.  Then he would return too fast and return unproductive, and eventually had to sit again until his next chance.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

How I Helped the Giants Win Their 2010 World Championship

Baseball is a sport that attracts obsessives like me.  Whether it be wearing lucky items of clothing (like a red thong), eating boiled chicken for a meal before every game you play (Wade Boggs did that), or avoiding touching the foul lines as you go on and off the field, there are many customs and superstitions that players and fans follow in order to win.

Here is my short story about how I helped the Giants win their 2010 World Championship.

It's All in THAT T-Shirt

Over the years, I would notice whenever the Giants would win when I wear a particular article of clothing.  Whether it be a particular set of clothing I wore to work or play, I would notice what wins and try to wear that piece of clothing as often as possible.  I know it does not work, but I do so anyway.

I never found any piece of clothing that was that successful, so I would rotate through all my clothes and not wear anything in particular, except for my t-shirts that had Hall of Famers on them (Mays and McCovey), which, while not excessively successful, I felt that they won more often than not.

Last season, as with most seasons, I could not find THAT lucky piece of clothing that would lead to Giants wins. Until, that is, around mid-season, when I found out that this give-away t-shirt that the Giants gave away to Spanish speaking fans (my sister happen to have gotten one and gave it to me) worked like a charm.  The team would usually win when I wore it.

I called it my Gigantes t-shirt and while I didn't particularly care for the design (and my wife detested it), once I noticed that the Giants would win when I wore it, it started slowly but over time I would save it for what I thought were key games and more often than not, the Giants would win.  I would say the win rate was around 80-90%.  Eventually, I found another t-shirt that I had that also had Gigante on it (my sister got me an Orlando Cepeda signed t-shirt) and started wearing that in my rotation and that didn't change anything, the Giants were winning with both t-shirts.

Now, my wife likes clean clothing, plus in the South Bay, where it is very hot during the summer, it is hard not to sweat up a storm, so I would wear it once and pray that my wife does the laundry soon, so that I could wear it again.  I let her into the secret during the playoffs and she lovingly accommodated me as much as possible so that I would have my shirts to wear.  I don't recall losing one game during the playoffs while wearing those t-shirts (plus HOF shirts when not available).  And that is how I contributed to the Giants winning their first Championship in SF.

Epilogue

Unfortunately, Gigante doesn't work anymore, at least not like it did last season, so it is in semi-retirement.

But by May, I figured out a new "winning" t-shirt:  my Giants World Championship t-shirt with a picture of the actual ring design on the cover.  That recent win streak?  My wife is now allowing the re-wear of clothing if it didn't get too dirty, so I was re-wearing the t-shirt and then my wife happened to do the laundry that day, so I had it for the following two games.  It has been winning about 80-90% of the games on the day I wear it, and I will continue wearing it until it don't "work" anymore.

What are your superstitions that you do to support your team?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

2011 Giants: June PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of June 2011, PQS as defined in Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster annual book and they published the details here. I wrote on this first in 2006 and have compiled their stats on a regular basis, so I'm continuing it this season for continuity and historical comparison (there is the "PQS" label that you can click to see the old posts on this). Regular readers can skip to the next orange titled section.

This is the Quality Start with a sabermetric DIPS twist, and it gets really easy to calculate once you get used to it. I don't think it's the end all or be all, but then nothing really is that. It is, as I like to say, another piece of the puzzle. A dominating start is scored a 4 or 5 and a disaster start is scored a 0 or 1. DOM% is the percentage of starts that are dominating, DIS% is the percentage of starts that are disasters (any start under 5.0 IP is automatically a 0, or disaster).

What's Good and What's Not

From my observations, a DOM at or above the 40% mark is indicative of good pitching; above 50% is great; above 70% is elite. A low DIS is also indicative of good pitching, just look at the table in the link above showing DOM% and DIS% on the axes.

Basically, you want to see a pitcher's DOM% to be over 40% and ideally over 50%, and you want their DIS to be under 20% and ideally under 10%. For example, Johan Santana has a 76% DOM and 3% DIS in 2006 (2.77 ERA), whereas Orlando Hernandez had a 52% DOM and 28% DIS (4.66 ERA), and Adam Eaton had a 31% DOM and 31% DIS (5.12 ERA). Read the link, as I noted, there's a nice chart there showing the combination of high DOM% and low DIS%, and there you can see particularly how s low DIS% is so important to a low ERA.

If you had to chose a high DOM% or a low DIS%, pitchers tend to have a lower ERA when you have a low DIS% vs. a high DOM% (obviously if you combine both, you have a much better chance of having an elite pitcher).  But I think when the DOM% is high enough, you win more by choosing a high DOM% over a low DIS%, as there are more high quality games pitched overall.

I wholeheartedly recommend buying Baseball Forecaster and learning more about their methods of analyzing baseball. It has been greatly illuminating for me, and if you want to get a taste for it without paying full price, they used to sell their old editions of their annuals on their website for half price or less (plus shipping); but that was before he sold the company off, and I haven't checked recently.

Giants Starters' PQS for 2011 Season

Madison Bumgarner- (63% DOM, 19% DIS; 10:3/16): 0, 2, 3, 0, 5, 5, 5, 5, 3, 4, 5, 5, 4, 4, 0, 5

Matt Cain- (82% DOM, 6% DIS; 14:1/17):  4, 4, 3, 0, 5, 3, 4, 5, 5, 4, 4, 4, 5, 4, 5, 5, 5

Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (76% DOM, 12% DIS; 13:2/17):  4, 5, 3, 5, 4, 5, 5, 5, 0, 4, 4, 4, 3, 0, 4, 5, 5

Jonathan Sanchez - (53% DOM, 13% DIS; 8:2/15):  3, 4, 4, 3, 3, 4, 3, 5, 5, 5, 5, 2, 3, 4, 0, 0

Ryan Vogelsong - (75% DOM, 17% DIS; 9:2/12):  4, 0, 4, 4, 5, 4, 2, 5, 4, 5, 4, 1

Barry Zito - (33% DOM, 33% DIS; 1:1/3): 5, 1, X, 3

X = start Zito was injured in and had to leave the game. I don't include these in my analysis.

Giants season overall - 68% DOM, 15% DIS out of 81 games counted (55:12/81)
Giants Month of March/April - 56% DOM, 20% DIS out of 25 games counted (14:5/25)
Giants Month of May - 79% DOM, 7% DIS out of 28 games counted (22:2/28)
Giants Month of June - 68% DOM, 18% DIS out of 28 games counted (19:5/28)

June ended up averaging what the Giants did previously, essentially.  Again, a 68% DOM, 15% DIS pitcher is a one of the best pitchers in the league, and the Giants are doing that collectively as a rotation.  They did not do as great as they did in May, but luckily the offense reverted closer to their prior performance expectations, so they ended up with an even better month, 17-11, than May.

The staff was led by Cain in June, as he was perfect:  6 DOM starts out of 6.  Lincecum, Vogelsong, and Bumgarner each had 4 DOM starts.  Sanchez, showing that something was wrong with him, after 7 DOM starts and 0 DIS starts in 10 starts to start the season, he only had 1 DOM and 2 DIS starts in 5 starts in June, before he finally admitted something was wrong and was DLed.  Zito at that point came back off the DL and had a nice start, he was only an additional strikeout or one less walk away from a DOM start; personally, I would give him a DOM start for that one, as he is statistically proven to be a pitcher with the ability to keep his BABIP down below the mean of .300, so if shifting one of his walks over to hits still keeps his hits equal to or less than his IP, I think that would be fair, because such pitchers tend to walk more and strikeout less relatively.

Amazingly, Vogelsong has still not been a weak link so far in this super-rotation.  His 75% DOM/17% DIS would rank among the best in the majors, yet he is rightfully a back of rotation guy in the Giants rotation.  Of course, as I noted last month, it is doubtful that a journeyman pitcher like Vogelsong will continue to pitch like this for a whole season, but even if he were to fall back to mediocrity, where he is simply OK, this rotation would still be great.  If the pitching staff can continue this for the season, even if the offense don't get much better other than Pablo Sandoval returning to the lineup (which he did in June and has been hot for a couple of weeks now), I don't see any reason why the Giants cannot reach the 90+ wins necessary to get into the playoffs.

June 2011 Comments

To quote myself from last month:  "Wow, to think the Giants starting pitchers could improve on last year's performance. Amazing!"  That was with Dirty's very poor month and Zito's return, and Lincecum's mini-June-swoon.  Unfortunately, July could be the worse month of the season, for a number of reasons.

First, Lincecum's June swoon might be extending to July, though an unverified rumor by a commenter in Extra Baggs noted that might be because the Giants players were out late gambling in Detroit, including The Kid.  Honestly, wouldn't surprise me, although many other commenters think that person was a troll.  He has shown lack of judgement before.  In addition, he did not fly ahead as the first starter of the homestand normally does at the end of the trip, which would have given him extra time to adjust back to our time zone, as Detroit is three time zones away.

As before, we will have to wait and see, but frankly, that first July start appears to be more a case of the BABIP gods giving to the hitters, rather than taking away; for Timmy, he's not like Cain or Zito, his BABIP is around the mean.  Plus, he had 3 DOM starts at the end of June, so perhaps we should cut him a break, he's going to have non-DOM starts occasionally, and it wasn't like he had a disaster start.  Still, maybe it is the start of another bad skein, so you never know.  Appears that my thought that he might have a below 2 ERA is not going to happen.

Secondly, Zito has returned to the rotation, replacing Sanchez.  Dirty had been aces to start the season, not perfect, but 70% DOM/0% DIS in 10 starts is great.  Zito rarely puts up anything close to that nowadays, even with his reported reverting to his Cy Young repertoire with no slider, to give his curveball more UMMPH (relatively).  He has been good, but not great, which is actually great to have in the back of the rotation.  That will bring the rotation down overall as well.

Third, we can't expect Cain to have another perfect month in DOM, he was 6 of 6 in June.  Can we?

Lastly, the biggest issue is Vogelsong.  His career performance suggests strongly that this should not be happening.  Still, he had a DOM start to begin July, and has only had the rare hiccup so far in the 2011 season, he's been keeping up with Lincecum, amazingly.  So until he starts regressing, enjoy the ride.  And what a sweet ride it has been!

Offense Rising, Led by a Slimmer Panda

Meanwhile, while the pitching might regress, the hitting is perking up, led by Kung Fu Panda 2.  After roughly two weeks (June 14-25) of finding his way, where he hit 10-45 in 11 games with no extra-base hits (.222/.239/.222/.461; although he did get a hit in 10 of 11 games and thus was one hit away from an 11 game hit streak), he had an extra-base hit and multi-hit game on June 26 and been leading the team offensively since then:  .366/.395/.780/1.175 in 9 games, 8 doubles, 3 homers, 15 game hitting streak (and he has a hit in 19 of the 20 games he's been back), and, even more impressively, he has a 9 game extra-base hitting streak, with at least an extra-base hit in each game.

The Giants have averaged 5.6 runs scored since Panda started hitting the way he can.  Over the season, the Giants team has averaged 3.98 runs scored in games where Sandoval played in, 3.86 runs scored in games where he started.  As impressive as that sounds, especially compared to the Giants overall 3.63 runs scored overall, the Giants have only been 21-21 in games in which Pablo started, meaning that they have been 27-17 when he was either out on the DL or sitting on the bench to start the game.  And they have only been 5-4 since he started hitting for extra-base hits.

Also, unfortunately, the other hitters have been on and off.  Huff and Ross, while having a nice June overall, were up and down.  And Ross might be down going forward, as he tweaked his hamstring again.

Luckily, Schierholtz and Crawford has been hitting well lately, and both Whiteside and Stewart had been hitting well in June.  Tejada has had some good games as well, as well as power that has been returning, with two homers in the past week or so.

Chris Stewart in last 9 games has hit .261/.346/.391/.737, with 3 doubles, which is very nice when added to the his good defense.  As I noted in comments in the blogosphere, I like Stewart's bat, he had kept his strikeout rate low in the minors, while walking a good bit, so suggests that he might eventually be an OK bat in the majors.  Particularly in light of the fact that catchers' offense usually is the last to mature and develop, as they typically are focused on the defensive side of their performance mostly.  At 29 YO, his bat should be perking up sometime soon, if not already.

In any case, if the Giants hope to run a better offense, they need to figure out their leadoff problem.  Torres isn't doing it and Rowand has been, well, Rowand.   If either can get hot like they've done before, that would cure a lot of ills that the offense has been having in terms of scoring regularly and well.  Sandoval can stay hot for a while, but the others will have to start carrying their weight, particularly Aubrey Huff.

According to a post on Baseball Analytics, Huff's problem this season has been him swinging at low pitches in the zone, as he kills pitches high in the zone, like last season and 2008.  His problem in 2009 and 2011 has been entirely due to his swinging at pitches low in the zone.  Maybe if you can pass the word on to Huff, he might start looking like his 2010 self instead of his 2009 self.

Still, since May 27th's game, he has not been striking out crazy, like he was earlier in the season, so perhaps he has already figured that out and just been suffering from bad BABIP luck.  And he has 5 walks in his last 8 games, vs. 3 strikeouts, suggesting poor BABIP luck as his culprit in recent games, as he was hitting well just before that for a couple of weeks.  A hot Huff and Panda would cure a lot of offensive problems, as well.

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