Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wish List for Off-Seaon Before 2014 Season: Belt Getting Signed to a Long-Term Contract

One of the things I would like to see in the off-season is for the Giants to sign Belt to a long term deal, much like they did with Sandoval, Posey, Bumgarner in recent years, and Cain and Lowry long ago.

And why not?  He has been a good hitter for us, even though he had been hindering himself with bad mechanics, so one could say that the Giants over the past three seasons have been trying to "tame" a wild horse (giraffe?) with his benchings, which drew the ire of a part of the Belt fanbase.  And which he didn't go through much of in 2013 season anyway, he was the clear starter, I just think that some Belt fans just get a little over protective of him.

I've been expecting him to bust out sooner than later, and I think 2014 could be the year he does it, given that he finally changed his batting grip and had such great success with it.  So I think it is imperative for the Giants to work on signing him up long term, the sooner the better, but at least before the 2014 season.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Your 2014 Giants: Lincecum Resigned to 2 years, $35M contract

This two year, $35M deal has been reported by Baggarly, Schulman and Pavlovic.  A no-trade clause was mentioned, but no other details have come out yet.

ogc thoughts

Wow, that is a lot more money than I thought it would be.  Even with the QO, that's $21M over that.  I thought - wrongly, clearly - that the negotiations would revolve around the QO.

Based on his actual performance, his BB-Ref WAR numbers were negative in 2012-13, but based sabermetically, his Fangraph WAR numbers were middling, 1.6 WAR last season, almost average.  What the sabermetics can't capture is what Giants fans saw the past couple of seasons, when Lincecum would get blown up with runners on, giving up a key hit here, there, seemingly almost everywhere.  That basically has put Lincecum around replacement level the past two seasons.

If WAR is valued at $6M per for the two seasons, that works out to roughly 6 WAR, or 3 WAR per season he needs to earn.  You have to use Fangraph's WAR numbers to even have a chance of earning back that contract.  Their Steamer estimate forecasts 2.1 WAR for 2014, but that's always based on what happened in the past and most probably includes his 2011 season, which appears to be in the distant past right now, based on what he has done in 2012-13. 

Clearly, the Giants think that Lincecum is on the cusp of a big breakthrough in terms of what he can produce.  And maybe he is.  He would have to pitch as well as he did in 2010 for the Giants to get extra value from his contract, which was a 3.43 ERA (3.7 WAR per BB-Ref), which is not far from his 4.37 ERA in 2013 (well, at least imaginable, as I'll get into next). 

He had a 3.82 ERA in his last 12 starts, ignoring that blow-up in his first start after his no-hitter, where either the 148 pitches thrown in that no-hitter or the 9 days of rest or both are possible causes of the blow up.  And excluding that one really bad start, he had a 3.56 ERA over his last 20 starts, covering every start from June to Sept (except for that one blow-up).  And that was his worse start of the season with extenuating circumstances, so dropping it as an outlier can be justified.  That basically puts us at this contract in terms of value produced.

And he did stellar in terms of PQS in those 12 starts, 8 DOM starts, only 1 DIS start, for a 67% DOM and 8% DIS, both very good, though still only 3.82 ERA. And for the 20 starts, that's 12 DOM, 2 DIS for 60% DOM and 10% DIS, both still great, for a 3.56 ERA over that period.  Again, that makes the contract look at least in the ballpark of what he can produce.  Basically, the Giants are betting that his slow start in 2012 and 2013 can be eliminated and that he can pitch at a relatively high level for all of 2014 and 2015.  And if he can do that, he's a great #3 starter for us, and a #2 or even #1 for other teams.

Now this makes things more clearer in terms of what the Giants might be thinking. 

Furthermore, his salary also is in the ballpark if we consider him a great reliever (which is not a long stretch given how well he pitched in 2012's playoffs as a reliever).  Rafael Soriano is the highest paid reliever at $14M per season, signed in early 2013.  At 10% inflation that's roughly $15.5M in 2014 and $17M in 2015, and Lincecum is being paid, on average, $17.5M the next two seasons.  And Mariano Rivera was being paid $15M per season in previous seasons, so top relievers in the majors will get roughly what Lincecum is getting in 2014-15, on an inflation adjusted basis. 

And he does not have to close to earn that, if he took on the super-reliever role that I had outlined before, he could easily earn that much WAR.  Romo earned 2.0 WAR with his great pitching in 2012.  By utilizing Lincecum in long relief by taking out starters before things get out of hand, like what happened in the 2012 playoffs, plus dropping him into set-up situations where he pitches 2+ innings, he could pitch that well and close out the game, and all those extra innings at great ERA would easily earn 3.0 WAR.

OK, the contract makes a lot more sense now that I've looked at the actual marketplace and performance boundaries that he might perform.   He basically performed at the necessary level to earn his contract if he can just avoid the slow start.  And one could blame both poor conditioning for his bad start in 2012 and the short off-season for his bad start in 2013, though we won't know until we get into the season.  And if necessary, he could be our super-reliever, used in a wide variety of situations, akin to how the best relievers were used in the 1970's, piling up more innings than regular relievers and being used in key situations more often, or even closer if the team needs him to move into role if something should happen to Romo and nobody steps up.

But still, it is a huge overpay for what he has done in the past two season, more than could have been reasonably expected on the marketplace had he actually tried free agency.  And it relies on him returning to a good semblance of what he was before, at least his 2010-11 version of himself. 

Still, a part of me believes that he can do it again, I guess that is the homer part of me.  Though most of me question it greatly, based on what he has done the past two years.  This is where the Giants scouts need to earn their money and properly assess where Lincecum is, both physically and mentally, and whether he is ready to make that leap to the next phase of his career, where velocity is not the plus it was before.   Plus, I think there is a good chance that he returns to some semblance of stardom, and I would rather bet on him, than, say, Halladay, who is among the free agents.  And I'm happy to have him back rather than seeing him in a, say, Dodger Blue uni. 

Plus, two years is not that much, both Zito and Rowand are off the books now, and if we are going to overpay someone and get subpar performance, I would rather do it with Lincecum than, say, one of the underwhelming free agents available.   Particularly since we could conceivably get that value back in 2015 by having him be a super-reliever.  I don't see any of the free agents capable of shifting over to relieving great for us.

And that is another reason to overbid for Lincecum rather than dip the toes into the free agent market for a player in the same salary range.  There is no compelling free agent out there, each one has their particular wart or three, just like Lincecum. So why not pay a little more for Lincecum, he at least has the reliever option and he does appear to be close to doing well over a full season, particularly since he's now studying batters with Posey before games, which he seems to have started doing mid-season at some point.  All that mitigates the risk of signing him to such a large contract, though it does not obviate it.   It is clearly a big risk, a big bet.  Only time will tell if Sabean (and the owners) made the right decision or not.

And this is a typical Sabean move, overpay a bit (I thought that two years at $14M per was the max, at the moment, plus bonuses to push the second year to the $20-22M range if he started well in 2014, which would bring him to the $35M range too, I guess) in order to have your birds in the hand, so that you can bid for other players without being leveraged in the negotiations by the other side.  Had he not signed Pence and Lincecum, the team would have been in a more desperate position, particularly if they had lost Pence, and the agents for the free agents will negotiate harder against Sabean, as he would have been viewed as needing to get replacements.  Now they can work on getting Lopez signed (probably 2 years, $6M per), and then focus on their main off-season purchase, a middle rotation starter to help fill out the starting rotation, leaving Vogelsong, Gaudin, Petit, and others to fight for the last starting spot. 

And I'm still not sure what is happening with Vogelsong.  There was no open commitment to bringing him back for use, only a commit to not screw with him by DFAing him and then renegotiating a deal.  Either they think he's worth that option, or they just get rid of him (though perhaps with minor league invite as a loophole on that).

So a big overpay, but I'm happy he's still a Giant, and here's where the Giants scouts and coaches need to earn their pay.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Examination of the Sillyball Era Theory

Never let it be said that I don't re-examine my stances time to time.  That is what led me to appreciate what Sabean does for the Giants, when I studied how darn hard it is to find a good player via the draft.  That is what led me to change my mind about whether Bochy was the manager to lead us to a World Championship.  I am willing to change my mind if presented with new data that changes my mind.

I got into a "discussion" about my stance that Eric Walker's theory of the Sillyball era is correct.  You can read the full theory here at his website, as well as the studies he has found which examined the composition of the ball.  Seeing the complaints about it, I realized that while Walker's analysis made sense to me - and still do - there are some who don't see what I saw.

Walker's finding that got me believing him is this:  starting roughly in the 1993-94 timespan, baseball suddenly started scoring more runs than it did in the 15 year period before.  And not just a little, in 1994, it went beyond the max of before and stayed there for the next 15 or so years.  Basically, the offense suddenly started scoring, on average, 12% more runs than they did before on average.

Walker also examined a number of angles on how that could happen and came to the conclusion that the only explanation that makes sense is that the baseball changed in the 1993-94 time period, that is, it got juiced, leading to the offensive era that most people call the steroid era.  Hence why Walker calls it the "sillyball" era.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

2013 Giants: September PQS and Final Stats

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of September 2013 and final stats, PQS as defined in Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster annual book and they published the details here (unfortunately, they removed the article; this link gets you at least to the PQS definition, read down to middle for details). 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 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).

Friday, October 11, 2013

2013 Season: Oakland Playoff Defeat Post-Mortem, PQS Style

As you all know, I like to use PQS to analyze pitching and team success in the playoffs.  As I've shown - and I know, not surprisingly - pitchers who throw quality starts give their teams a great chance to win, typically 75--80% of the time when the other team don't throw a quality start, and that happens a majority of the time.  And thus I've advocated for building up a rotation of high DOM% starters (and ideally low DIS%, but typically if you are high DOM% that results in low DIS%) as a way to be more successful in the playoffs.  So I thought I would look into the Tigers-A's series now (I've been normally doing all the playoff series after the playoffs are all over and the new World Champion is crowned, but I'm going through this series in depth here, whereas I just went through the numbers before).

Thursday, October 10, 2013

2013 Giants Fan Playoff Rooting Priorities

This is way late but just for historical purposes, this is the way I would have ranked the teams, top to bottom, for Giants fans rooting interest since unfortunately we did not make it in.
  1. Cleveland Indians
  2. Detroit Tigers
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates
  4. Tampa Bay Rays
  5. Cincinnati Reds
  6. Boston Red Sox
  7. Atlanta Braves
  8. St. Louis Cards
  9. Oakland A's
  10. LA Dodgers

Monday, October 07, 2013

Your 2013 Giants: Official Off-Season Press Conference

The Giants at the end of every season has an end of season press conference to go over.  Baggarly kindly provided a transcript of it, which I pasted below and added my comments.  I was finally able to spend concentrated time on it this weekend, as I took a mini-vacation break, as my daughter had a fall break.

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