Friday, January 24, 2014

2014 Giants: Projected Wins With Steamer

Fangraphs provides a number of projections for players on their website and one of them is Steamer, which they then use to populate a depth chart for each team, then calculate the projected wins for them.  If you look at that depth chart website, and sort by the total, the Giants are roughly in the middle of the majors in wins, with 36.6 WAR.  Their methodology assumes 48 WAR base for all teams as replacement level, so that works out to 84.6 Wins for the Giants in 2014 per the Steamer projections.

ogc thoughts

I've collected a number of projections and Steamer's results in the lowest runs scored per the lineup calculator, so this is not too surprising.  Oddly enough, the WAR numbers for the offense don't look too much out of place, so I guess offense is assumed to be very down in the majors per their projections.  But I was not happy with the pitching and that is where I went in and dug around on the numbers.  First the starters:
  • Bumgarner:  they had 3.4 but he's easily 3.8
  • Cain:  they had 1.9, assuming he's declined, but he should be back to prior goodness, I think, so 4.0
  • Lincecum:  they had 1.9 but I think 2.0 is realistic even given how he was the last two seasons, but a minor quibble, but since I did the work...
  • Hudson:  they had 1.5, assuming he's declined, but I think he should be back to prior goodness, 2.3
Then the bulllpen, oy, not sure what drove their thinking there:
  • Romo:  0.7 but looking at past performance, should be 1.1
  • Casilla:  -0.4 but looking at past performance, should be 0.0
  • Affedlt:  -0.1 but looking at past performance, should be 0.3
  • Lopez:  0.1, and I don't understand how they got that, must be his age, but should be 0.6 based on past
Between the two, starters and relievers, that should add another 5.5 wins, leaving the Giants at 90.1 wins projection for 2014.  I'm good with that projection, I think the Giants should be able to do at least that, barring any catastrophic injury to someone key.  I think we have enough pitching prospects to cover the bullpen and probably one starter, plus Petit should pitch a lot more innings as a reliever if the starters are healthy.

And I think the upside for Sandoval (offense and defense, he was rated great on defense in 2011 when he was fit), Belt, and Crawford should cover any problems with the offense that might pop up, like losing someone to injury or a regression on Pence's part.  Plus, Morse is only projected for 0.9 WAR in total, but if he hits like he did before, that should increase.  And, Bochy plans on taking him out the last three innings for defensive purposes, which would help Blanco boost his WAR via defense (projected at only 0.5 WAR in LF) and reduce Morse's really bad defensive numbers by a third.

Now will 90 wins get them into the playoffs?  Usually, based on the recent past for NL teams, and probably now that there's the extra wildcard team added in.  The Reds got in with 90 wins in 2013 and the Cards got in with 88 in 2012.  And in 2011, had they had the extra, 89 wins get the next team into the wildcard game.

Of course, just getting in as a wild card makes things harder, as the team has to blow off their ace in that game.  But if the pitchers perform the way I expect, the Giants should have at least three aces to chose from for that wildcard game, then can rest him for game 3 of the divisional playoffs.

On top of that, except for LA, none of the NL West was over .500 in 2013, and nobody acquired anybody that huge that I can remember, to boost them up, though Steamer projects the Dodgers at 89.6 wins, Rockies at 86.3 wins, and D-backs at 85.3 wins, which are all above Steamer's projected wins but below my adjusted projected wins.

Of course, their fans might see upside on their rosters too.  Looking at their numbers, first off, no way Puig hits that well, he was a roughly .800 for good portions of the season after his hot start, .861 seems way too high.  Basically he had one hot month, then from July 3, a good .272/.363/.453/815 but nowhere near .861 OPS projection.  And Steamer has A-Gon at .844, something he has not sniffed for two seasons now, I'm amazed that they boosted up his projection to something he has not seen since 2011.  And frankly, I don't understand how AJ Ellis is worth 3.3 WAR with a .704 OPS and hardly any defensive value.   Makes it seem like they are undervaluing Posey.

For the Rockies, somehow their pitching is rated much better than the Giants.  And while they downsized our top relievers, somehow Hawkins himself will produce more WAR than Romo/Affeldt/Lopez/Casilla, and Brothers will produce the same as Hawkins, 1.1 WAR each.  And their rotation is supposedly better as well, even though Anderson has pitched barely 150 IP in the last three seasons, but they project him at 91 IP and 1.7 WAR.  And somehow their pitchers at low 4's ERA or FIP is worth 2.5 to 2.9 WAR, while the Giants pitchers, projected at mid to high 3's are worth 1.5 to 1.9 WAR.

The D-backs bullpen is also somehow better than the Giants  as well as their rotation.  Again, not sure how they got their guys in the positive while our bullpen is totally downgraded relative to what they have not only done in 2014, but  had done for a number of years now.

Ugh, just found out something odd.  The depth chart has Buster at 6.3 WAR but his profile has him at 7.1!  But the next players on the Giants list were within 0.1 or 0.2 of their depth chart figure.  So be aware of this, and this is probably happening for the other teams too, but the differences seems to be random, so they should balance out for the most part.  And I think the 6.3 seems realistic given that he probably playing 1B not as much as listed, I don't expect to see Belt sit that often, maybe 10 games tops.  Overall, looking at the other teams, the WAR seemed reasonable except for the ones I pointed out above.

In any case, I think the Giants should win at least 90 games in 2014, and easily.  This Steamer projection says that probably they won't reach that, but I pointed out my problems with their projections, and that would bring them up to 90 wins.  And no matter how the other NL West teams do, generally, winning 90 games gets you a spot in the playoffs, and with our pitching, that can carry us deep, as shown in 2010 and 2012.

They just need to stay away from injuries, which sunk 2011 (Posey) and 2013 (Pagan, Vogie, Scutaro, Crawford, Sandoval, Affeldt being the main problems).  And as they showed in April/May (until Pagan injury) and September 2013, when they were mostly healthy, they can win:  they were a collective 43-33 over those periods, a .566 winning percentage, or 91.7 wins in a 162 season.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Perhaps Why Sabean Pointed Out Improving the Bullpen

There was an interesting article on Beyond the Box Score on "New Way to Allocate Runs Allowed".  What I want to point out is the main table with all qualified starters listed with a calculation of assignment of earned runs using the bases for the runners that they left on when the reliever came in.  In ERA, they get a full credit for the run if the reliever lets the runner score.  In this method, he would only get partial credit for this, for example, half run credit if he left a runner on second and that runner scores via relief, two bases responsibility each.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

2014 Arbitration Cases: 3 Down, 2 to Go

As reported by the various local reporters, the Giants were able to avoid arbitration with three of the five players eligible for arbitration.  They reportedly signed Gregor Blanco for $2.525M, Tony Abreu for $745K and Yusmeiro Petit for $845K.  Blanco reportedly twittered that he was thankful that the Giants kept him around for another year and hope that it is not the last.  He has one more year of arbitration.  Also, Petit's deal includes performance incentives.

The two who have not signed are Brandon Belt and Joaquin Arias.  MLBTradeRumors estimated that Belt would get $2.4M and Arias would get $1.2M.  Baggarly estimated $2-3M.  Belt is a super-two, and thus will have four arbitration years.  Haft reported that Belt filed for $3.6M while the Giants countered with $2.05M.  Meanwhile, Arias asked for $1.5M and the Giants offered $1.1M.

ogc thoughts

Not too surprised most were signed.  The Giants have an excellent record of signing players without having to meet with the arbitrator (only AJP did, but that was Colletti's fault for offering too low).  Their M.O. is usually meeting the player half-way between the two figures, so that means that Arias turned down $1.3M and Belt roughly $2.8M.

Was surprised that Arias did not sign.  Particularly since I felt that he had a bit of a down year.  Maybe he signs for $1.4M.

Belt, wow, he's asking for a lot, particularly for a Super Two.  TradeRumors usually takes into account past wins and circumstances.  Not sure where this will go.  Perhaps like Lincecum, $2.0M for 2014 and $3.5M for 2015, using the two figures as the guidance for the contract.  I'm still hoping the Giants sign Belt long-term this spring training, cover his four arbitration years and maybe get 1-2 of his free agent years, much like Bumgarner.

I will bet that both will sign before the scheduled arbitrator meeting. Arias should sign pretty soon, they should not be that far apart.  Belt will probably be a last minute thing given the difference.  Hopefully that springboards into an extension sooner than later.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Study: Prospect's Age in Context of League - SALLY

One of the things I believe in is age in context to the league the prospect is playing in.  Like many of my truisms, I learned it from Shandler's Baseball Forecaster Annual, though he says nothing explicitly to that point in his toolbox, but it is a clear underpinning because his team when calculating MLE for AA and AAA players (they feel that any level lower, the prospects still have to much to learn to properly adjust to the majors), they modify the MLE according to age, meaning if they are old versus the league, their MLE is lowered, and if younger, raised.  And I have felt that I've absorbed this from all the Leader Lists for all the minors leagues that the Giants have teams in that I've looked at over the years.  It just makes total sense to me.

But like some things that makes total sense to you, there are others who disagree, and it is their right to do so.  In particular, prospects who are older than the league seem to get some prospect hounds hearts a-pounding, when all I'm doing is trying to inject some sense of realism into the discussion, else the discussion degenerates into a talk about what we are going to do with our Mega-Millions lottery winnings.  So they have the right to think that, but so do I have a right to my opinion.  So who is right?

And that's where data comes in, to try to provide an answer.  That was my first step to becoming a defender of Sabean over the years, I was like others, complaining about his drafting skills, but unlike others, I pulled the draft data and found that finding a good player, who is a starter and one likely to reach and become a wealthy free agent, is one of the hardest things to do, worse than trying to hit a baseball for a base hit, if you have a draft pick after the Top 5 picks or so, on average.  Then, as the saying goes, it gets a lot worse from there.

So in this study, I'm going to look at the South Atlantic League (or SALLY to aficionados) over a period of years (2000-2005) to see what the data says about that, whether much older or much younger than the league.  I pulled the Top 100 leaders in OPS and K/BB for each season, then sorted them by age to group them.  Baseball-Reference.com kindly bolds the ones that have made the majors, then I separated out the ones that I recognized as a good player.

I was hoping to also show quality by breaking out the good major leaguers by eyeballing them.  Unfortunately, my eyeballs aren't up to what they were before, so I'm delaying that portion of my study until I have time to go through all the major leaguers and put them into two categories, good major leaguer or other.  This post will just cover the percentage of these top prospects making the majors.

What I wanted to do was put in a qualitative view by separating out the ones who actually were productive, and not just contributors.  For example, I don't count Gregor Blanco as a recognized good player.  He has been clearly been valuable, but has not really made a name for himself in the league yet.  Plus some of these data points might still go up some if anyone breaks out late, but generally, the success rate is so low already in terms of just making the majors, that it won't really won't make that much difference, in my opinion, had I finished up that part of the study.  But I decided to be more precise in my categorization.

However, I still think that showing just the percentage of these leaders who made the majors, broken up by age, shows good information for prospect hounds to consider when they are looking at prospects in the minors.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

New Hall of Famers: Maddux, Smoltz, and The Big Hurt Voted In

The three sure-thing first time vote Hall of Famers got in on their first try:  Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank "the Big Hurt" Thomas.  Maddux only missed by 16 votes of a unanimous vote.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

LA LA Lagging for 25 Years

LA LA Laughable

ogc thoughts

I was vacationing in the LA area and while wandering all over the Magic Kingdom's two parks, I got to noticing that a lot of Giants fans were representing our colors.  There were around 6-8 wearing Giants clothing of some sort.  There were also just as many 49er fans as well, including a Kaepernick uni (Go Niners!).  There was even a pair of Angels fans (so maybe they should count as one).  I also saw a Padres cap.

Two Dodgers fans walking around.

Now, I do realize that Disneyland has more visitors from outside, but still, they sell their season passes too to locals, and they were on school vacation too.  Plus, I went on the weekend, so more locals could have shown up too, as people can do things in the weekend.  In addition, I am counting the people I saw while doing down Downtown Disney, as well as roaming around Koreatown, looking for my daughter's K-pop music store, as well as driving down the lovely I-5 freeway (though mostly just moseying along, a few feet at a time).

Two Dodgers fans.

And that got me to thinking about a post I was going to post up, which I'm now incorporating into this post, which was to point out that the Dodgers have now gone 25 years without a World Series championship, which is their longest stretch without one since their franchise start long one that stretched from the 1800's to their first one in 1955 (71 years).  And sadly for their fans there, the team left Brooklyn within two years of accomplishing their first championship.

Perhaps this relatively long stretch of nothing explains the lack of fervor in their fan base publicly.  Sure, they had a nice season in 2013, but after so many years of not winning, the fans will believe it when they see it.  I can certainly understand that feeling, while I have always worn Giants clothing most of my adult life, when possible, I know that I did not see as much orange and black on the public before that glorious 2010 Championship.  The general fan base had a malaise that would need the shock of a championship to make it alive again.

They also had a stretch of 16 years between their 1965 and 1981 titles, meaning that their glory years were really last in the 1960's, with a brief blossoming in the 1980's.  That's two in the last 48 years.

Of course, the Giants had their 56 year stretch, getting into three World Series but losing each time, which was preceded by a 21 year stretch, where they also got into the World Series three times but lost each time. And for myself, I had been a fan for nearly 40 years before our first World Series Championship.  But with the counter reset by our glorious World Series Championships in 2010 and 2012, we are only one season since our last championship.

Whereas the Dodgers have now gone through 25 seasons without tasting that sweet sweet championship champagne!

While the Dodgers have a lot of money buying up a lot of talent, I think the Giants are in good position to stay relevant and playoff worthy for the rest of the decade, no matter what LA does.  The Giants have spent money to keep their best players around.  They have a number of young players who are blossoming and relatively cheap.  They have a huge mass of pitching talent climbing through the farm system, now filling up Richmond's and San Jose's rotation, plus some good ones in Fresno and Augusta as well, mostly starters but also some very interesting and dominating relievers as well.  They should be able to win the 92 games necessary to get into the playoffs each season and win at least 90 games, which would give them a fighting chance, year in, year out, to make the playoffs, barring catastrophic injury to a core player.

The Dodgers lineup is creaking with their age, only Puig is significantly under 30, Kemp is the only other one under 30 (and will soon enough be 30 YO season in 2015).  Their pitching rotation however, is very young, and if they are able to add Tanaka or Price or someone equivalent to their rotation, they could be even better than the Giants.  

But as we saw in 2013, if your players don't have their health, the team will suffer, and the Dodgers have a lot of health question marks in their lineup (for pitching, it is a given), as well as hitters getting into that nexus of their early 30's when things start to break down in the human body.  So they are just as likely, if not more likely, to suffer from player injuries as the Giants would, which I see as one area of concern from the general fan base.

And the Giants formula from 2009 to 2012 was strong starting pitching and we should have it again in 2014.  Bumgarner is just getting better every year.  Cain after his post-Perfecto lull in PQS DOM starts, ended the season with a strong 7 5-PQS starts in 10 starts, something he could not accomplish since the Perfecto.  Hudson is a pitching machine, generating mid-3 ERA seasons whether AL or NL, pre-TJS or post, and there is no reason his ankle injury should affect him in the future, he got a clean bill of health from the Giants doctors and there has been no reports of set backs in his recovery.

That's a great 1-2-3 rotation.  Then Lincecum probably will be a good 4th starter.  Lincecum ended the season with a nice run, which would have been even better if not so many of his inherited runners scoring while in the care of the bullpen, 7 out of 8, when on average 2-3 scores.  Reducing that to 4 of 8 would have reduced his ERA to 3.48 for his second half starts (excusing his poor start after his no-no, given what we saw what happened to Cain after his no-no).  That's the formula we had in 2009-2012, surviving even a poor 5th starter, like we did in some seasons, to be a Top 5 team in RS allowed, with two starters around 3 ERA and two starters around mid-3 ERA, and if Vogelsong can just be average, that would be a big advantage over other teams because they usually have garbage in their 5th spot (if not their 4th spot).  The Giants would not have spent all that money re-signing Lincecum unless they thought he was close to returning to relevance as a starter.

Combine that with strong offense - lineup calculator with projections estimate the offense to be around 4.5 to 4.6 RS per game - and the Giants easily wins 92 games, maybe approach 95 games.  LA will be strong, but so will the Giants.  Bring it on!

Go Giants!

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