Friday, January 27, 2012

Filling out the Roster: Giants Sign Henley and The Riot

The Giants in the past two days have signed two more players, Clay Hensley and Ryan "The Riot" Theriot, both to non-guaranteed major league contracts (Baggs: both will go on the 40-man once they pass their physicals, says that there are two openings; obviously, non-guaranteed means they can be DFAed for much less than their contracts; Schulman added that Fontenot's contract is also non-guaranteed, meaning if he's odd man out, he can be let go too without paying the full contract).

So these are basically "pay to play" contracts, if they can perform well enough in spring training to win a job, they get paid for 2012.  And Clay basically needs to show Bochy that he's still close to the same guy who did so well for him in SD and not the guy who did not do well in Florida last season.

Clay Hensley (Hank) is a former Giants farm hand who was traded to the Padres for Matt Herges, probably one of the few trades that has ended up with the Giants net losing, though Herges was very helpful in his time with the Giants when they needed relief help, so there is that.  Bochy loved using him in SD too, he did very well for them.

The right-hander reliever will apparently battle for the final spot in the bullpen that was opened by the trade of Ramirez (and Torres) for Angel Pagan.  He will get $750K for 2012 if he makes the team, plus $300K in incentives and awards (mostly probably based on games pitched in).  It was noted that Mota still hasn't officially signed "pending contract language", so perhaps that is an additional factor for doing this signing, not just the opening of Ramirez.  Mota, once signed, will probably be on a minor league contract so that he won't take up a spot on the 40 man yet and it does still seems like it is a fait accompli and not something that may or may not happen.

Ryan Theriot (Baggs, Hank) won a World Series ring with the Cards last season, which makes up for the one he could have gotten had he been traded to the Giants instead of Mike Fontenot in 2010.  Forgot what got in the way of that one, other than I think the Cubs got more from the D-gers for Theriot than the Giants gave up to get Fontenot, DeWitt is not someone the Giants could have matched, I don't think.

A right-handed hitter who hits better against LHP, but doesn't mash them, makes him a perfect platoon partner with Fontenot, who is an old buddy of his from their Chicago Cubs days, though that is a little surprising as they were essentially competing for the same starting role.  But their ties were forged, from what I understand, in college for LSU so those friendship ties have lasted a long time.  If he makes the team, he gets $1.25M with $750K in potential bonuses, probably mostly based on playing time in terms of PA.

Schulman:
Theriot’s deal is pending a physical and not guaranteed, which means the Giants could cut Theriot by March 18 and pay him $208,333, or $312,500 between March 18 and the start of the season.
For those worrying (crying) more Schulman about The Riot deal:
So here’s the upshot, as it was explained to me. Crawford, entering his second year in the bigs, is going into camp as the starting shortstop, as the Giants said he would. Fontenot, Theriot and Emmanuel Burriss provide the depth in the middle infield and will compete in spring training for reserve roles. Thus, Fontenot and Theriot, old friends from their LSU days and former keystone mates with the Cubs, likely will compete for the same job.
Schulman has been hot lately with his inside info lately, Baggerly had been better in seasons' past, but I would rate them about equal this off-season, at worse.

Giants Thoughts

It is like I thought, Crawford is the incumbent starting shortstop, with Theriot and Fontenot as the probable backups, and not as many feared, that Theriot is here to take the job away.   Barring a huge meltdown on Crawford's part, as long as he's flashing the leather and still taking walks while avoiding strikeouts, the Giants should be relatively patient with him and make him the starter.  He would have to cede the job for Theriot/Fontenot to take over.  More on that later.

Barring some big injury or huge decrease in ability to hit or field, I think they will beat out Burriss for the two MI spots, as he has not really shown much in recent trials in the majors, and if he does lose, we would have to DFA him.  But I would bet we would likely retain him, much like Ishikawa, because he would probably be cut at the end of spring training, at which point other teams would have their 25-man pretty much set and I doubt any team would risk losing that 25th man in order to take a flier on Burriss.  I assume the Giants will try to retain him after he passes through waivers, but the Nats might want to sign him since he's a local guy, they might like the history of that.  Not sure on the rules, but I think that is the right sequence of potential events.  I have to think if the Nats come calling, he will give them a shot and take a fresh start with them.
Schulman:  Theriot (.271/.321/.342 with St. Louis last year) is not going to set the world on fire with his bat, but that’s not why the Giants wanted him. They want to ensure they have a proper alternative to Crawford against left-handed pitching. And, I’m sure, have another shortstop option, period, if Crawford has a really bad spring and the brass feels he should go to Triple-A.
That is one of the things I like about how Sabean has been constructing the roster in the past few years, how he practices risk mitigation in his roster construction.  He generally tries to have a viable backup should plans do not work out the way that they envisioned (and nobody's plans go perfectly).  Unless Brandon Crawford totally sucks in spring training (much like Brian Wilson did his first spring training when he had the job in his pocket to lose and he just didn't do well), he most likely will be the full-time starter.  Bochy will give him a chance to show what he can do against both LHP and RHP.

But should he falter, I can see Bochy basically moving to a platoon situation by mid-to-late May.  Plus, in any case, in key batting situations late in the game, Bochy could substitute for Crawford with Theriot if a LHP is inserted to face Crawford.  I think the Giants will test Crawford periodically still against LHP, depending on the situation, partly because his defense is THAT good, partly because Theriot is THAT bad defensively, partly because Theriot does have problems with certain LHP.

Another reason for keeping Theriot and Fontenot is that they make good platoon buddies, Theriot hits well against LHP, Fontenot hits well against RHP, plus Fontenot was very good defensively at SS last season.  And that works for either SS, should Crawford flame out for any reason, or 2B, should any body part of Freddy Sanchez flame out for any reason.

Lastly, another good reason to keep Theriot is that Burriss has not shown much ability in the majors in recent years.  No walks, no power, his only ability is to avoid the strikeout and that does give him a better batting average, but not enough to make up for few walks and few extra-base hits.  He apparently is the hitter who drove Carney Lansford away, as he reportedly have strong arms, strong forearms, that with improve batting technique, he could start driving balls with authority.  However, he has refused to change, preferring to stick with the "slap the pitch" technique that he was taught to take advantage of his speed.

Burriss is basically around the same stage as Andres Torres was a few years back.  Andres stubbornly stuck to the slap until he realized that unless he changed, he'll never stick in the majors.  That's when he sought out someone to teach him to swing the bat like Pujols.  Basically, he was taught the principles that Ted Williams taught in his book, the Science of Hitting, and you saw what happened in 2009 and 2010 with his change.

Too bad Torres never tried to inspire Burriss to try his way, I think the transformation could be just a stark, and that Burriss could be a starter if he ever learned to hit properly and truly take advantage of his speed, because he has show a good eye all his career, it is just his lack of power that kills his chances of making the majors regularly.  As he probably could bat near .300 each year, and with even a modicum of power, would make a good starting option at 2B.

That changes the dynamics of the bench as well.  One spot is taken by the reserve catcher, Stewart or Hanchez.  Two spots are probably TheRiot and Fontenot.  Schierholtz has the fourth spot, assuming Belt wins the position in spring training.   That would mean that Brett Pill and Burriss would be battling for the last spot on the roster.  And given that Theriot provides some speed, Pill most probably gets that last spot as the only power off the bench (though Schierholtz provides some as well).

Looking at Hensley's stats, I realize that I had a more positive view of his career than warranted.  He did have a nice season starting for the 'Dres in 2006, but he didn't do well at all in 2007, moved to the bullpen in 2008, where he didn't do well either, but that might be because he had some sort of injury (he had injury reports for a strained right shoulder for 68 games in 2009, strained left neck muscle for 20 games in 2010), didn't pitch at all in the majors in 2009, but then did great for Florida in 2010 (perhaps he didn't make the mental transition, Todd Worrell when he was with the Giants said that he didn't start doing well as a reliever until he gave up thoughts of being a starter and accepted being a reliever), before having a bad year in 2011.

However, in 2011, his bad season was due solely to his poor stats as a starter, as the Marlins pushed him back into the rotation.  He had a 6.21 ERA as a starter, but a pretty good 3.51 ERA as a reliever, with 20 K's in 25.2 IP (7.0 K/9) and K/BB of 1.67, which is not great, just OK, and he held hitters down to a .226/.331/.333/.645 batting line as a reliever.  Schulman also noted some arm problems, so that contributed to his down season most probably, as well.  And he had a great 2.16 ERA in 2010 in 68 games, finishing 23 games and saving 7 games.  He kept his walks down and had a great strikeout rate, resulting in a great 2.66 K/BB (good closers have K/BB > 2.4 according to Shandler).

And with a career .279 BABIP and with one season out of 6 (but not all full seasons) of BABIP under .300, that suggest that he is possibly capable of keeping his BABIP down, which mitigates the issue about too many walks and resulting low K/BB.   Bringing up his BABIP to .300 results in 0.56 more H/9, which if you then drop his career BB/9 to 3.44 for a 1.85 K/BB, which is close to being the good 2.0 we want to see from pitchers and much better than the 1.57 mark he has for his career.  And a walk is worth less than the extra hits that would have been given up, which would edge that ratio up even higher.

So it looks like he has accepted the reliever role, but because the Marlins did not use him properly in 2011, many teams passed on checking him out, so the Giants could pick him up on the cheap.  He is also in his second year of arbitration, had the Marlins kept him, so that is another reason for them to drop him.  Should the Giants keep him past this season, he would be arbitration eligible for 2013 before becoming a free agent for the 2014 season.  He will be 32 for the 2012 season and won't reach free agency until he is 34, assuming he can hold a job for the next two seasons (which should not be hard if he pitches like he did as a reliever in 2010 and 2011).

I like the move.  As nicely as Mota has performed for us, he wasn't that good when he pitched for us plus he's very old now, so Hensley could end up replacing Ramirez, while a prospect replaces Mota, taking the long spot.  Heath Hembree was great last season in AA, so he potentially could win a spot in the bullpen.  In addition, Dan Otero has done very well in the minors with one projection saying he could deliver an ERA below 3 in 2012, which would be great.

So most likely Hensley, Mota, Hembree, and Otero are battling for two spots in the rotation, barring any injury to Romo.  Dan Runzler is probably in the mix for one of the two open spots as well, else I would guess that he would go back to AAA and start in order to be an option for the Giants should they need to replace any starter, due to the sparcity of MLB capable starting pitching in AAA.

Both moves were good moves, filling areas of potential weakness for the Giants in terms of depth in 2012, with two major league vets who should win a job in spring training by doing as well as they had done in prior seasons.  They probably cost two minor leaguers a chance at the majors, Burriss most probably, but maybe Pill instead, and one of the right-handers I listed above as battling for a job.  It was much more likely the Giants would have filled Ramirez's position internally had they not signed Hensley.  Good risk mitigation moves on the part of Sabean, on the cheap too, and it keeps the Giants under the $130M cap figure.  I don't envision any other move than a starting pitcher getting a minor league invite to battle for a spot.

I'm not sure if he is still available, but the D-backs non-tendered Micah Owings and he appears to be a free agent.  And while he has been a so-so pitcher, he has been a pretty good hitter.  At 29 YO for the 2012 season, he might be ready to accept a reliever role, heck, he might have already accepted it, as he was mostly a reliever last season and did well in that role.

Furthermore, he has also been OK as a reliever, 4.40 ERA in two home hitter's parks in AZ and Cincy, so he's probably close to 4 overall otherwise.  And he was good relieving last season.  Maybe bring him in as competition with Mota for the long-relief spot, and if he wins it, he also becomes our #1 option in case we need a MLB arm for the rotation, plus he would become a great pinch-hitter option for us off the bench, much like Brooks Kieschnick (Giants prospect Roger Kieschnick's uncle).  That is a much better option than having Mota.  Who knows, maybe he can be competition for the #5 starting spot with Zito as well.

The D-backs apparently non-tendered him in order to not pay him $1M in arbitration.  How cheap of the team, particularly since he did well for them last season.  Much unlike the Arizona of the past:  when a player lost to the team in arbitration, they ripped up the contract and signed him to more money.  The non-tender just to save maybe $250-500K won't sit well with him nor any buddies he may have on the team, it is like a slap in the face given what he did for them in helping them win the pennant last season.  Even any vets have to be perturbed by this strange move.  Hopefully it will place a seed of dissension and unrest in their clubhouse and lead to lesser performances in 2012 for them under Gibson.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lincecum Signs: Two Years, $40.5M

Tim Lincecum has signed a two year, $40.5M contract with a limited no-trade clause (Baggarly).  $18M for 2012, $22M for 2013, $500K bonus (I still wonder what the accounting benefit to the Giants or Lincecum or both is, for having a bonus versus salary; does that go straight to Lincecum, avoiding the agent fee?)  The Giants had offered $40M and Lincecum's side asked for $44M, so the final contract figure ended up basically just over the Giants offer, which was very close to the arbitration submissions by the two sides ($17M and $21.5M).

The Giants reportedly had offered 5 years, $100M, but Lincecum's side turned that down, which I understand, because that basically values each year like the two year deal, at $20M AAV.  He is probably looking to get CC type money in his free agent years.  Lincecum had said in an interview late in the 2011 season that he preferred shorter deals because there's less pressure involved, but then when his agent asked for an 8 year contract, that statement just rings false.

Baggarly and Schulman followed up on the news with more focused posts.

Baggarly focused more on Lincecum's agent (and the Giants) saying that this deal does not preclude a longer term deal later.  He astutely notes that with the arbitration clock ticking, the impetus now is to get a deal done that stops that clock within that timespan, and the two sides were more in sync on a two year contract, and thus they got that done first.  He noted the example of Wilson signing to avoid arbitration, then signing a longer deal in the spring.  Lastly, he said that the payroll ended up a little less than the $130M announced cap.

Schulman had a nice post covering a lot of different things, I recommend checking it out for all the details, the link is above.  He noted two critical points:  1) that this does not mean that Lincecum does not want to be here long-term, and 2) Lincecum is taking the risk by accepting the two year deal instead of the five year.

Schulman also noted some interesting things about Cain:
If reports are true, Matt Cain is taking the opposite tack. He’s willing to accept a below-market, long-term deal in exchange for that security and stability. I’m told no deal is imminent with Cain.
Giants Thoughts

I like the deal but wish Lincecum had took the five year deal, though I understand why he didn't, the Giants probably should have offered something in the $110-120M range to get that deal done.  I like knowing that we have him for a long time, so this is disappointing in that it is only two years.

But the Baggarly post about Lincecum's agent's comments that this does not preclude a longer deal signed later was heartening, as that suggests that they and the Giants are planning on continuing to discuss the parameters of a longer term deal somewhere down the line, that the interest is there on both sides.

I was disappointed that there was no deal imminent with Cain, but also understand since the Giants were probably focused on all the arbitration deals.  Now perhaps they will work more diligently on it.  I didn't really think that a deal would be done until spring training anyway, I think both of his long-term deals were announced in spring training before, so why would this one be different.

So I'm happy but not ecstatically happy, but that's OK too, a $100M+ contract is just a lot of risk to take on.  If Lincecum is OK with 2 year contracts going forward, I'll be OK with that too.  But I would be just as happy to have Cain signed to a 5 year, $80-90M deal as well.  He's a Hoss.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Giants 2012 Arbitration Cases: Dust Clearing

Thought I would run down the Giants arbitration cases, using MLB Trade Rumor's estimates as guidelines (but not absolutes) and reports on recent signings.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

PQS in the Playoffs (second in series)

I published the first in the series last month here.  The PQS stats there looked OK, but not too conclusive with just two year's worth of data.  I'm covering 2009 and 2008 in this post.

2009

In 2009, the team with the higher PQS wins won 4 of the 5 times (with two ties).  The team with the higher PQS average won 5 of 5 series (two ties).  Higher DOM does appear to correlate with winning series in 2009.

In games where the pitcher was expected to win, the higher DOM pitcher's team had a 13-3 record (.813 win percentage).  There were 14 ties.  Where pitchers had a DOM start, their teams went 18-10 (.650 win pct), but there were 8 games where both pitchers had a DOM start, so removing those games leaves the games where one pitcher had a DOM and the other didn't, and those teams with the DOM went 10-2 (.867).

There was good but not great pitching with 47% DOM and 25% DIS starts overall.  Pitching was pretty good, as indicated by the 47% DOM, but not great (DOM over 50%) or elite (DOM over 70%).  In addition, there was a fair amount of bad pitching with 25% DIS (under 20% is good, under 10% great, under 5% elite).

2008

In 2008, the DOM's had it.  The team with the most PQS wins, as well as best average PQS score, won all seven series.  The expected team to win went 19-1 and teams where their pitcher had a DOM start went 20-7, or 14-1 when you remove all games where both starters had a DOM start.  Teams where their starters had a DIS start went 3-18, or 1-16 when you remove all games where both starters had a DIS start.

2008-2011

The results appear very conclusive already.  So I might not even continue going back to older series.  Over the four seasons of playoffs, the expected team to win went 67-15, the team having a DOM start went 81-37, and 56-12 when you take out the ties.  Teams with DIS starts had a 25-57 record, 11-43 without ties.

As I have been writing about for a number of years now, to maximize your team's chances of winning in the playoffs, you want to have a rotation of starters who have high DOM percentages  The Giants have that with Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, and Vogelsong.  And Sanchez was good too.

As the 2011 Phillies showed, you can get DOM starts from all your starters in a series and still lose the series to a lesser team.  Getting DOM starts is no guarantee.  But as the results of the past four seasons studied here shows, it is better than the alternative (DIS starts in particular).

One valid reaction to this is "so what, what's new about getting good starts means you win a lot?"  First, this is the first study I know of that studied PQS advantage in the playoffs.  Of course, it's better, but by what degree.  And that is the second thing, it quantifies the advantage of getting a DOM start and the disadvantage of a DIS start.  Teams with a DOM start went 81-37, those with DIS went 25-57, and more crucially, 11-43 when against better pitching.


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Wednesday, January 04, 2012

A's Fire Sale Exposes Beane's Incompetence

A recent column by Monte Poole of the San Jose Mercury (sorry, no link, they only provide a 7 day window of access to their articles) boldly proclaiming that the A's "Fire sale exposes baseball's talk about integrity as fraudulent."  I have an alternative, more accurate view:  it exposes Billy Beane's mismanagement of the talent on the A's and A's ownership's pocketing of over $100M in EBITDA in the past six seasons.

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Sunday, January 01, 2012

PQS in the Playoffs (first in a series)

I've been trying to think of a way to analytically examine the playoffs using PQS.  I first tried looking at a pitcher's PQS for the season and then looking at what they did in the playoffs, and realized that the randomness of PQS would not yield anything in short series like the MLB's playoffs.  Then I hit upon what I think is a good way of examining the power of PQS in the playoffs, and I got that from the game of chess.

In chess, when players play each other for their championship, they either win, lose, or stalemate, which is a tie for those not into chess.  And points are awarded (much like hockey too, I just realized) thusly:  +1 for a win, +0.5 for a stalemate, and 0 for a loss.  I will do that for each playoff series and see how each series ends in terms of who won vs. who won on PQS, and cover all the playoff series in a season.

It is pretty simple.  There are three types of starts:  DOM, DIS or other, which never got a name but I'm going to call it MID.  And DOM beats MID and MID beats DIS, and if they are the same, then it is a draw, a stalemate.  The rationale here is that each type of start is mostly random, thus leading to a draw, a coin-flip on who wins, but it is pretty clear that the majority of the time, the relationships of DOM > MID > DIS will hold.  Summing up the points per the matrix, each team will get what I will call their PQS Score, with the idea of looking to see if teams that have the winning PQS Score typically wins, and once I get enough data, I can do a correlation between winning a series and winning the PQS Score.

Here is the table:



I have no idea what I will find, though obviously, I hope to find that PQS does rule in the playoffs as I've been postulating for a while.  What I hope to see is that teams with the better PQS score, per my matrix above, What I am more hoping is that it will be interesting in some way.

I don't have the time to dig through every series first and then write on it, so this is intended to be a series of posts, depending on time, inclination, and what I find.  I am covering 2011 and 2010 in this post.

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