Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Curiously Strong Alchemy of S-squared P-squared

What is it about Scutaro, Sandoval, Posey, Pence batting in a row?

ogc thoughts

I was just thinking the other day, about having Marco Scutaro, one of the most disciplined hitters in the majors - I forgot the stat, but he very very rarely would strike out swinging, just had, like, 6 swings and misses all last season! - followed by Pablo Sandoval, who is one of the most undisciplined hitters in the majors who hasn't seen a pitch out of the zone that he won't swing at, one time or another.  Just imagine the effects on the pitcher.

One moment, you are pounding the zone, worried like heck that you will either walk Scutaro or, more likely, give him a pitch that he can square up well enough to get the ball into play for a hit.  The next moment, you are facing a guy that you can throw a wide one for ball four, only to see Sandoval hit it to the opposite corner for a double.  I would just imagine that the contrast in styles would really stick out and bother the pitcher greatly, going from one extreme to another.

Then, I just realized that Buster Posey and Hunter Pence also provides a similar contrasting styles again, as well.  Posey is a great hitter and he can hurt you with power, but if you don't give him something good to hit, he'll take the walk.  Pence is like Sandoval, totally intuitive hitter who can triple hit a ball by accident and knock pitches out of the zone over the fence.

Disrupting the Pitcher

The whole idea about pitching is disrupting the hitter so that he makes weak contact when he's actually able to hit the pitch you throw.  But what about the reverse?  Is it possible to disrupt the pitcher with hitters having such different hitting styles and abilities/sensibilities?

I've never seen that discussed anywhere and there is really no way to properly test this out, other than in action.  And how would we tell?  Belt is the next hitter, but if he hits better with this combo - which one could say, he did hit better in the second half - is it because of the combo or because he's young and figuring out things?

For example, the other day Fangraphs had an article on Brandon Crawford that suggested that having Scutaro around helped out Brandon with his hitting, and as evidence, they noted that Crawford hit better in the second half than in the first half.  But because I studied his contact rate all last season (Belt's too), I was pretty sure he started getting better before that. 

Lo and behold, while he did hit better in the second half, the month before Scutaro arrived was when Brandon broke out of his hitting funk that he was in the first half of the season, and hit something like 770 OPS, but in the games after Scutaro joined the team, his OPS was slightly over 700 OPS.  If anything, that suggests that Scutaro caused him to regress, and, of course, that's probably not true, Crawford was just up and down for much of last season.  One could argue that Crawford being able to keep his OPS above 700 with Scutaro's help, I suppose, as he was in the low to mid 600's prior to breaking out of his funk but that is all guess work and the sample set of one hitter. 

So there is no real way to test this out that I can think of. 

Still, I'm curious what others think.  The theory is that pitchers have a harder time working and concentrating on making it through the middle of any lineup, that the relief of facing the bottom of the lineup gives them a rest that refreshes them for the top to mid of the lineup the next time around.  The Giants, on top of that, have the two extremes of hitters who do challenge a pitcher, and not only that, have two sets of them, back to back to back to back.  And I'm not sure how Pagan fits into all that, I'm not sure what type of hitter he is, I don't recall.  That's a lot of concentration the pitcher must do, for four straight hitters.

Does that wear out the opposing pitching?  Let's look at what happened last season.  After the Giants added Scutaro and Pence, August 1st, the Giants averaged 5.2 runs per game during the regular season.  In the prior two months, they averaged 4.0 runs per game.  So there was a huge jump in offensive production, but is it all Scutaro and Pence?

Scutaro Regression to the Pence

People like to point out that Scutaro was hitting way over his head during that period with the Giants, and he did, but then they forget that Pence didn't hit his normal average at all, didn't come close (except for RISP).  While Scutaro hit .859 OPS with the Giants, Pence hit .671 OPS.  For their last three seasons, Scutaro hit .761 OPS while Pence hit .825.  To compare, I add the two together and for last three seasons, together they had 1.586 while for SF, they had 1.530.

Now, I know that they hit in different positions and all that, but as a rough comparison, as much as Scutaro hit above his head, Pence hit below, so that together they were actually short of what they would have produced based on their last three seasons.  In other words, it appears likely that their contributions to the lineup - as a combo - should be the same in 2013 as it was in the last part of 2012, maybe even improved, but assuming some regression on Scutaro's part while Pence returns to career norms, probably around the same production.

So far this season (including today's game), they have averaged 4.6 runs per game (that with the luck of getting Kershaw in the first start of the season and getting shutout).   Too early to really say anything other than what it is.  They actually averaged 5.0 runs per game in their first home stand, then averaged 5.1 runs per game in this road trip (only 2.3 runs per game in pitcher's park Dodger Stadium, though 4.0 runs outside of Kershaw).  I would also note that right now, Posey isn't contributing anything from the 4-hole, so it's amazing they are scoring so much with him struggling.  And he seems to do that, both in 2010 and 2012, struggle early, then catches on fire by June/July and murder the opposing pitching for the rest of the season (and he struggled early in 2011, but we know that he didn't get to finish the season...).

Ain't Missing Melky

A lot of people also liked to point out that the Giants were now lacking Melky's great production before his suspension, and questioned how good they would be in the playoffs and now this season.  As noted, even with Melky around, the Giants only averaged 4.0 runs per game in June/July and essentially after he was gone (I'm excusing the game played day of his suspension), they average 4.9 runs per game, almost an extra run more. 

What people forgot is that the Giants got horrible production from second base for much of the season.  While Theriot was good after he got healthy, he played a lot while injured and the others who played 2B also sucked at hitting.  Overall, Giants secondbasemen hit only .288/.327/.343/.670, and that includes Scutaro hitting .387/.399/.497/.896 playing 2B.  The next best 2B hitter was Theriot with .269/.318/.317/.635 and Burriss was the only other to get extensive play there and hit .218/.283/.218/.502.  The boost by getting Scutaro made up for the production of Melky lost.

Meanwhile, while Pence didn't hit as well as advertised (though I would note he hit in a normal career level when it most counted, with RISP), even at .670 OPS, he was heads and shoulders above Theriot and Burriss' offensive contributions (if we assume Scutaro replaced Melky's contribution).  So replacing Melky/2B with Pence/Scutaro resulted in a big upgrade in the offense, though I would say, not to a nearly one run difference.

That brings us back to the Belt/Crawford discussion, as both of them hit much better in the latter stages of the season than they did early when both of them were struggling to figure things out.  Just by first half, second half comparison, Belt hit .254/.358/.418/.776 in the first half, Crawford .240/.287/.335/.621, and in the second half, Belt hit .293/.362/.423/.785 while Crawford hit .260/.327/.370/.697.  So both did hit better, but not much better.

And, of course, Posey was out of his mind in the second half, as he hit .385/.456/.646/1.102 with 14 HR in 257 AB, a very Bondsian batting line that only missing all the walks (though still good, 37 walks vs. 46 strikeouts).  And Pagan bumped up production as well, hitting .292/.346/.476/.822.

Sandoval wasn't all that great in the second half, but he was still recovering from his injury then.  Let's take a look at the period that we've been looking at, the last two months of the year (and he actually missed a portion of late July and early August due to his hamstring injury playing 1B):  .259/.328/.383/.711.  Not really so good, let's just look at his September then:  .286/.364/.448/.812.  Not Pablo-esque but still good production to make the offensive fires hotter and more powerful. 

So in the second half, they got good production from Posey, Scutaro, Pagan, Belt, plus Pence hit well with RISP, that's half the lineup producing well, plus Crawford was improved too and 2B wasn't an offensive hole like it was earlier and Sandoval was much improved in September, down the stretch.  

All that adds up to a much improved offense post-Melky, and thus why it should continue this year, asssuming some gains on the part of the young players (Belt, Crawford) and vets (Pence, Sandoval) balancing out drops for older guys (Scutaro, Pagan) and for a probably career high season (Posey's .957 OPS is hard for anyone to repeat, period) that will regress some.  And there might be a gain with the platoon of Blanco and Torres in LF, getting the best of both worlds, mostly over Blanco's poor hitting in the second half.

Go Giants!

2 comments:

  1. Interesting points. I'd go back to 2010, and the addition of Pat the Bat to the lineup. 3 true outcome type, he brought power and patience in spades, and really turned the lineup on a dime. Not sure if that spots up stat wise, but that was my eyeball impression of it.

    I have the "takes a village" approach - gimme your hackers, gimme your contact hitters, gimme your 3 true outcomes and if you're lucky - gimme a bonafide stud in Posey. I think Panda is a very unique hitter. Yes he is a hacker, but he can square up anything at anytime, which as Justin Velander knows, can be a very frustrating experience (per your points). Posey won the hardball times "Yoga Berra award" 2 out of 3 years, losing to Juan Pierre which I thought was a cop out. Don't know if they did it last year or not.

    F/G Sarris' had a nice article about hackers, re-evaluating it. Hackers are always disdained by saber types, but they have their uses. I have no problem with hackers in the 6 spot for example (Juan Uribe). Especially as you have a patient guy in Belt who works deep counts, Pence is a very nice change of pace.

    This is similar to bullpens where its a good idea to show different speeds, different arm angles, that type of stuff. Diversity in action!

    Also, nice win by Big Time Timmy Jim. Bout time that guy shows up!

    But it was kind of shocking how much one player addition, Pat the Bat and Shawshank Scutaro in the 2010 and 2012 years, maybe that's not all of it, but it IS part of it, shocking how much that changed the landscape.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, typing while excited and tired is a bad thing. Sandoval won the Yogi Berra award, not Posey. Apologies.

      Delete

Labels

1984 Draft (1) 2007 Draft (14) 2007 Giants (52) 2008 Draft (22) 2008 Giants (53) 2008 season (6) 2009 Draft (18) 2009 Giants (87) 2009 season (24) 2010 Decade (10) 2010 Draft (11) 2010 Giants (137) 2010 NL ROY award (1) 2010 season (19) 2010's (3) 2011 Draft (9) 2011 Giants (84) 2011 season (8) 2012 Draft (11) 2012 Giants (93) 2012 season (11) 2013 Draft (3) 2013 Giants (38) 2013 season (5) 2014 Giants (21) 2014 season (8) 25 man roster (7) 3B (1) 40 Man Roster (4) 6-man rotation (1) 89 Quake (1) 89 World Series (1) A's (6) A-Ball (1) A-Rod (3) AA-Ball (1) Aaron Rowand (25) accomplishments (1) Adalberto Mejia (4) Adam Duvall (1) AFL (4) Alex Hinshaw (3) All-Star Game (1) almost perfect game (1) Amphetamine (2) analysis (3) Andre Torres (14) Andres Torres (2) Andrew Susac (4) Andy Baggerly (2) Andy Sisco (1) Angel Joseph (1) Angel Pagan (10) Angel Villalona (29) Anniversary (1) appendicitis (1) Arbitration (12) Armando Benitez (5) Armando Gallaraga (1) art of failure (1) ATT Park (1) Aubrey Huff (20) Award (4) BABIP (2) Barry Bonds (28) Barry Zito (77) Baseball America (2) Baseball Prospectus (2) Baseball Prospectus Bias Against Giants (3) baseball strategy (5) Baseball Study (12) baserunning (2) batting peripherals (1) batting stance analysis (1) batting title champion (1) Beat LA (6) bench players (1) Bengie Molina (14) Benjamin Snyder (1) Bert Blyleven (1) Beyond the Box Score (1) Bias Against Giants (1) Big 6 (7) Bill Hall (1) Bill James Handbook (2) Bill Neukom (21) Billy Beane (1) Blog Philosophy (2) Bob Howry (2) Bob Mariano (1) Bobby Evans (1) Brad Hennessey (5) Brad Penny (2) Brandon Bednar (1) Brandon Belt (36) Brandon Crawford (17) Brandon Hicks (1) Braves (5) breakout (1) Brett Bochy (2) Brett Pill (9) Brian Anderson (1) Brian Bocock (2) Brian Cooper (1) Brian Horwitz (3) Brian Ragira (2) Brian Sabean (40) Brian Wilson (14) Bruce Bochy (22) Bucky Showalter (1) bulllpen (1) Bullpen (20) Bumgarner (1) Business Plan (13) Buster Posey (90) Byung-Hyun Kim (1) Cained (4) call-ups (1) Cards (8) Career Prospects (3) Carl Hubbell (1) Carlos Beltran (4) Carlos Gomez (1) Carney Lansford (2) Carter Jurica (1) catcher injury (4) catching (1) CC Sabathia (1) censorship (2) CEO (2) Chad Gaudin (5) Charles Culberson (5) Charlie Culberson (3) Chase Johnson (2) Chillax (1) Chris Gloor (1) Chris Heston (2) Chris Lincecum (1) Chris O'Leary (1) Chris Ray (4) Chris Stewart (4) Chris Stratton (8) Christian Arroyo (3) Christmas (1) Christopher Dominguez (3) Christy Mathewson (1) Chuckie Jones (2) Clay Hensley (3) Clayton Blackburn (5) Clayton Tanner (3) Closer (7) closer by committee (3) Coaches (3) Cody Hall (1) Cody Ross (8) Col (1) Comeback Award (1) Commissioner (1) competitiveness (1) Conor Gillaspie (22) contender (1) contract negotiations (1) contract signing (4) Cory Hart (1) Craig Whitaker (2) cuts (1) Cy Young Award (5) D-backs (14) D-gers (31) D-Rocks (3) D-Rox (16) Dallas McPherson (1) Dan Ortmeier (11) Dan Otero (2) Dan Runzler (6) Daniel Slania (2) Darren Ford (1) Dave Roberts (11) David Aardsma (1) David Huff (2) David Loewenstein (1) Decade of the Giants (10) decline (1) Defense (7) Deferred Money (1) deleted comment (1) Derek Law (4) Detroit Tigers (1) DFA (3) DH (2) Dick Tidrow (1) Dirty (1) DL (1) dodgers (2) Donald Snelten (1) Draft (1) Draft Analysis (7) Draft Bonus (7) draft signing (2) Draft Strategy (11) Draft Study (2) Draft Success (2) drafting (1) Dres (16) Edgar Renteria (13) Edwin Escobar (4) Ehire Adrianza (13) Eli Whiteside (4) Elimination game (1) EME (2) Emmanuel Burriss (18) epic season (6) Eric Byrnes (1) Eric Surkamp (6) Eugenio Velez (12) extension (6) fanfest (1) Fielding (3) Fielding Stats (3) first post-season press conference (2) Francisco Peguero (4) Fred Lewis (3) Freddie Lewis (17) Freddie Sanchez (4) Freddy Sanchez (7) Free Agency (3) Free agent possibilities (17) Free agent signing (4) Free agent signings (21) gamer-tude (1) Gary Brown (22) Geno Espinelli (1) George Kontos (3) Ghosts of Giants Drafts (1) Giants blogs (1) Giants Chat (3) Giants Draft (7) Giants Drafts (2) Giants Farm System (29) Giants Franchise record (2) Giants Future (62) Giants GM (4) Giants Greats (2) Giants hitting manual (1) Giants No-Hitter (4) Giants Offense (21) Giants Offseason (21) Giants Strategy (34) GiDar (1) Gino Espinelli (1) glossary (1) good will (1) Graphical Player (1) Gregor Blanco (11) Gregor Moscoso (1) Guillermo Moscoso (2) Guillermo Mota (2) Gustavo Cabrera (3) Hall of Fame (7) Hall of Shame (3) Hank Aaron (5) Happy Holidays (2) Hate mail (1) heart-warming (1) Heath Hembree (6) Hector Correa (1) Hector Sanchez (8) Henry Sosa (8) HGH (1) high expectations (1) high school focus in draft (1) Hitting (15) Hitting Coach (1) hitting mechanics (3) hitting pitchers (2) hitting streak (1) Hitting; (1) Home Run Career Record (7) Home Run Hitting Contest (1) Hunter Pence (18) Hunter Strickland (1) Idea (4) improvement (1) Indictment (1) injury (1) instant replay (2) instructor (1) Interesting Question (1) International Free Agent Pursuits (3) International Signings (5) interview (3) Investment (1) Ivan Ochoa (2) Jack Taschner (4) Jackson Williams (2) Jacob Dunnington (1) Jacob McCasland (1) Jake Dunning (1) Japanese Starters (1) Jarrett Parker (5) Jason Stoffel (1) Javier Lopez (5) JC Gutierrez (2) Jeff Kent (1) Jeff Suppan (1) Jeremy Affeldt (9) Jeremy Shelley (1) Jerome Williams (1) Jesse English (2) Jesse Foppert (1) Jesus Guzman (4) Joaquin Arias (7) Joe Panik (9) Joe Torre (1) Joey Martinez (2) Johan Santana (1) John Bowker (22) Johneshwy Fargas (2) Johnny Bench (1) Johnny Monell (1) Johnny Rucker (1) Jonah Arenado (1) Jonathan Mayo (1) Jonathan Sanchez (48) Jose Canseco (1) Jose Casilla (1) Jose Guillen (3) Jose Mijares (3) Jose Uribe (2) Josh Osich (3) JT Snow (1) Juan Perez (4) Juan Uribe (9) Juggling Monkey (1) Just Say No (1) Kendry Flores (1) Keury Mella (1) Kevin Correia (2) Kevin Frandsen (22) Kevin Pucetas (10) Kung Fu Panda (29) Kyle Crick (10) Larry Baer (2) Larry Ellison (1) Lead-off (2) left-handed (1) Lew Wolff (1) LHP (1) Lineup (17) lineup construction (1) Lineup position (1) Long-Term Contract (21) long-term planning (3) luck (1) Luis Angel Mateo (2) Mac Williamson (5) Madison Bumgarner (107) Mailbox (1) Malcolm Gladwell (1) management change (3) management issues (5) managerial value (2) Manny (1) Marc Kroon (2) Marco Scutaro (10) Mark DeRosa (8) Martin Agosta (6) Marvin Miller (1) Masahiro Tanaka (1) Mason McVay (1) Matsuzaka (1) Matt Cain (107) Matt Downs (2) Matt Graham (1) Matt Holliday (1) Matt Morris (2) Mechanics (4) Media (15) Media Bias (17) Media Trade Idea (3) Medical (1) Mediocy (9) Mediots (3) Melk-Gone (1) Melky Cabrera (14) mental (1) Merkin Valdez (8) Message in a Bottle (1) Michael Main (1) Michael Trout (1) Miguel Cabrera (2) Miguel Tejada (5) Mike Fontenot (3) Mike Kickham (8) Mike Matheny (1) Mike Morse (5) milestone (1) minor league contract (1) minors (10) mismanagement (1) mistakes (2) MLB (2) MLB stupidity (2) MLB Success (6) MLB Trade Rumors (1) MLBAM (1) MLBTR (1) MLE (1) Mock Draft analysis (3) MVP (1) Natanael Javier (1) Nate Schierholtz (45) Nathanael Javier (1) Naysayers (1) Negotiations (1) Nick Noonan (25) Nick Pereira (1) Nick Vander Tuig (2) NL Champions (2) NL West (21) NL West Division Title (15) NL West Future (1) NLCS (15) NLCS MVP (1) NLDS (7) Noah Lowry (14) non-roster invitees (1) non-tenders (1) NPB (1) Oakland A's (4) OBP (1) oddities (1) Offense (3) offensive era (1) Omar Vizquel (3) one-run games (1) Opening Day (4) opening day pitcher (1) opening day roster (3) Optimism (1) Osiris Matos (2) Outfield (1) Ownership (7) Pablo Sandoval (85) Panda (6) Pandoval (1) passing (1) Pat Burrell (15) Pat Misch (5) Payroll (8) Pedro Feliz (12) PEDS (10) Perfect Game (2) perjury trial (1) Personal Reminiscence (2) Pessimism (1) Pete Rose (3) Peter Magowan (2) Phillies (7) Phoenix Theory of Rebuilding (1) Pitch Count (3) pitch value (1) Pitching (14) Pitching Rotation (50) pitching staff (1) plate discipline (1) Play Ball (1) player budget (2) player development (2) playoff (2) playoff hopes (23) playoff roster (1) playoff rotation (3) Playoff Success (18) Playoffs (26) postmortem (1) PQS (53) press conference (1) pressure (2) priorities (1) Projected Record (3) projection (2) promotion (1) prospect (2) prospect analysis (1) Prospect of Note (3) prospect study (1) Prospects (42) questions (1) Rafael Rodriquez (8) Rajai Davis (2) Ralph Barbieri (1) Ramon Ramirez (3) Randy Johnson (9) Randy Messenger (2) Randy Winn (14) Rangers (5) Ranking (4) raspberry (1) Ray Durham (5) re-sign (2) Rebuilding (4) Rebuilding Myths series (1) Reds (5) Relocation Concession (2) Research (2) resource scarcity (1) Retired (3) Retirement (1) return (1) RHP (1) Rich Aurilia (7) Rick Peterson (1) Rickie Weeks (1) Ricky Oropesa (3) right-handed (1) risk mitigation (2) risk profile (1) Rod Beck (1) Roger Kieschnick (13) Ron Shandler (2) Rookie of the Year (1) Roster (4) ROY (2) Rule 5 Draft Pick (3) rumors (9) runs support (1) Russ Ortiz (11) Ryan Garko (2) Ryan Klesko (4) Ryan Rohlinger (2) Ryan Theriot (3) Ryan Vogelsong (52) Ryder Jones (2) Sabean Naysayers (4) Sabermetric Thoughts (5) sabermetrics (3) Salary speculation (3) SALLY (1) San Jose Giants (1) San Jose Relocation (3) Sandy Rosario (1) Santiago Casilla (8) Scott McClain (2) Scott Shuman (1) Scouting (1) Sergio Romo (13) SF Giants (2) Shilo McCall (1) Shooter (1) shutouts (1) Signature Song (1) signing (12) Silly-Ball (3) South Atlantic League (1) South Bay Rights (1) Spring Training (15) standings (1) starting lineup (14) starting pitching (40) STATS (1) Steroids (5) Steve Edlefsen (4) Steve Johnson (3) Steve Okert (1) Sue Burns (1) sunk costs (1) superstition (1) Team Speed (1) Team Support (1) The Giants Way (1) The Hey Series (15) Thomas Joseph (3) Thomas Neal (9) Tigers (4) Tim Alderson (17) Tim Hudson (4) Tim Lincecum (143) Todd Linden (3) Todd Wellemeyer (6) Tommy Joseph (3) top prospect list (4) Trade (9) Trade Analysis (15) Trade Idea (7) Trade PTBNL (2) Trade Rumors (28) trading (1) training staff (2) Training Tool (1) Travis Blackley (1) Travis Ishikawa (39) turning point (1) Ty Blach (2) Tyler Horan (1) Tyler Rogers (1) Tyler Walker (2) umpire mistake (3) Umpires (3) USA Today (1) Voros McCracken (1) Waldis Joaquin (5) walks (1) WAR (1) Warrior Spirit (1) Wendell Fairley (10) What-If Scenario (3) wild card (1) wild card race (1) Will Clark (1) Willie Mac Award (1) Willie Mays (1) Winter League (1) World Series (18) World Series Champions (10) WS Ring Bling (1) Yusmeiro Petit (6) Zack Wheeler (9)