Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: 19th Rotational PQS and ASB Discussion

The Giants 19th Rotation PQS analysis plus I'll throw in my thoughts on the Giants at the ASB, as well as that rotation announced by Bochy.

ogc thoughts

The rotation had 3 DOM starts again, winning two of three, the sixth time they have done that in a turn, matching the six times they have had 4 DOM starts, and the first 3 DOMs since the 14th turn (they had three straight 4 DOM turns before this).

The ones with DOMs were Lincecum, Cain and Vogelsong.  Both Bumgarner and Hudson had MIDs, so the rotation avoided a DIS start again for the fourth turn in a row and six of seven and ten of twelve turns.

Despite all that non DIS starts, the team ended up 2-3 in this turn of the rotation, the sixth straight turn where they were under .500 as a team.  The good news, relatively, is that this is the first turn since the 13th turn where the Giants were above .500 for DOM starts, going 2-1 in them, so that's something positive to take out of that.

However, MID games are generally that, good enough to win or bad enough to lose, and while I have no hard numbers to throw out, I think expecting to be around .500 in these games is fair.  We are currently at 11-16, .407 winning percentage.  Just six turns ago, we were at .588, for comparison, 10-7.  But in the last 30 games, the Giants have been 1-9.  That's worse than DIS starts, generally, from my research on the playoffs.  And we are currently at .333, 4-8, in DIS starts, obviously, our starters have not been having too many of them, which is normally very good, and really, still good, the Giants for all that has happened is still 52-43, 9 games over .500 and just a game out.  I think that they should rebound back in the second half if they can continue to throw DOM starts.

ASB Thoughts

On the last day of spring training, if we knew only that we would be 52-43, only a game behind LA for the NL West division title, we would probably be pretty jazzed about it.  But that is the thing with roller coaster rides, you don't really remember where you are at at any point in time, you remember the extreme ups and downs of the ride.  And what a ride it has been.

The Giants are on a 89 game win rate, which should be good enough for a wild card spot and keep them in the hunt for the NL West division title.  That is roughly what ZiPS predict for them (87.4 wins to be exact vs. 89.9 for LAD).   Not that big a difference.

The Dodgers are on a 90 game win rate, so it won't take much extra good for the Giants or extra bad for the Dodgers (or both), for our positions to be swapped.  Most likely, one of these two teams will be the division winner, because the next team is 12 games back, that would take two epic collapses, as well as a surge on their part for that not to happen.

The rotation has been performing well, though not as well overall as in past seasons.  Instead of hanging in the 60% range, they have mostly been in the high 50's.  At this turn, Lincecum leads with 63%, Hudson is at 59%, both Bumgarner and Vogelsong are at 58%, and Cain is at 57% (Petit is at 40% himself).  And 40's is good, 50-60's is great (70+ is elite).

But on the whole, the rotation is as good as it has ever been, because in the past, we had Zito hanging in the 30's and 40's much of the time (or lower), while somebody, whether Cain, Lincecum, or Bumgarner, were elite.  And if you cut out their early troubles, the rotation has been near elite for 12 turns (66% DOM and only 3% DIS).

And even during this horrid period of losing, the pitchers have had good starts per PQS, sabermetrically, they have just been giving up more runs than would be expected given their PQS, either more hits or more homers, or both.  And that seems to be the regression to the mean relative to how well they did earlier, if anything, things have swung too far to the other side, they only have a .642 winning percentage in DOM starts and only .407 in MID starts, both are lower than what I recall from my playoff analyses, and thus we could hope for a swing back in the other direction.

For as bad as the offense has been lately, per my stat on Offensive W/L, they are 52-43 offensively, it has been their pitching that has been underperforming, 48-47.   And that showed up big time over the past month or so, the Giants offense during that time was 16-18 in scoring 4 runs or more, while the pitching was 13-21 in allowing 3 or less runs.  The team's record during that stretch was 12-22, clearly showing that it was the poor pitching over that time period that was the cause of the legen-wait for it-dary June Swoon.

And given how good the DOMs have been, that points the finger at the bullpen as an underperformer as well.  And Romo is definitely the poster child there, just from his blown saves.  We were, as noted, 12-22, and if he had converted those saves against Colorado and the Giants had swept (they had the lead late in the game in each game in the series, if I remember it right, so it was definitely the bullpen's fault), we would have been 15-19 instead, 55-40, and still leading by two games.  There would have been no swoon to scare everyone, it would have been a mildly disappointing June, given how the month started.  For instead of ending up 10-16 for the month, they would have been 13-13 instead.

And looking at LA, they had a hot streak of 13-4 that along with our collapse, brought them back into the race, but they have been 6-6 since, so it is not like it was last season when they went hotter than hot for two months, they have been average the past two weeks.  Puig appears to be their main hitting star, they just have a good lineup up and down.  He's still in the same pattern I noticed last year, one good month, followed by one bad month, alternating like night and day, but unfortunately that means good July and September, so he'll keep the heat on.

But there are some negatives for them too.  They lost Beckett to the DL - and who knows if he comes back as scheduled and how he pitches when he returns - and has Maholm starting in his place, plus Colletti said that they are not trading off their farm system to get an ace starter.   In addition, other than June, they have been roughly a .500 team every other month, and if they continue to play at that level, they would end up at roughly 86-87 total wins, which should not be enough to win the NL West Division title.

Looking at their numbers, clearly it was their pitching that boosted them in June.  Kershaw led the way with a 0.82 ERA in 6 starts and Beckett had a 1.09 ERA in 5 starts.  Kershaw has done even better at 0.53 ERA in 2 starts but Beckett had two bad starts before DLing, and Maholm hasn't been good either, nor Haren or Ryu.  Plus some in the bullpen really stunk so far in July.  That's why they are only 6-6 in July, and Pythag says 5.4-6.6 is their true record, so they have been a little lucky this month.

Thus, it should be a close race between the two teams, I think, barring any big trades for either team, as both are pretty good, though it will be tougher for the Giants since they will have 7 more road games than home, with 30 at home and 37 on the road, while LA has 1 more road games, 32 at home and 33 on the road, so really, only 4 more road games than LA.  Though oddly enough, the Dodgers have been much better on the road than at home, basically .500 at home, most of their wins on the road.  If their road regresses (and it should, the pitching was just as good on the road as home, where they always is excellent, suggesting a road regression for their pitching), that would push them closer to .500.

And given how we got Pence for Schierholtz and prospects, we don't need to have a blockbuster type of trade to upgrade ourselves.   2B is an obvious upgrade (and any trade there probably involves giving up Panik and/or Adrianza, I would think, to open up 25 and 40-man spots, as well as give back a player with potential to take over at 2B for the other team).  A not as obvious upgrade could involve trading Sandoval and a young 2B-capable player for, say, a starting 2B and 3B combo of players.  And gaining a closer type reliever to take Gutierrez's spot (or even Machi) could be another deal that Sabean could do (and has done before in terms of pick ups).

Looking at the Giants,  I see a lot of players under performing, particularly Posey and Panda.  And Blanco too, but that's only important because Pagan isn't around and not sure when he's back.  And while Crawford is better than previous seasons, I think his hitting earlier is more indicative of his skill level than where he is now.

And, of course, 2B isn't great and Scutaro hasn't done much so far (not sure what he can do), but Adrianza since June 1 has hit well in limited duty, particularly since he was on the DL, but he's starting to show why the Giants have kept him around, he hasn't struck out much while walking a lot, and there is massive regression in store due to high BABIP, but the key thing is the good contact rate and walk/K ratio he has been showing.  Meanwhile, he's been very good defensively at 2B, producing at a roughly 2 win level there defensively, so if he can even hit replacement level as a starter, he would be a solid starter at 2B, producing 2 WAR.

And while Panik's overall numbers probably don't inspire anyone, I see a lot to like looking at his game stats.  He has not struck that much either, while getting a lot of walks relatively, much like Adrianza.  His BABIP hasn't been good, so his numbers are not as shiny, but he had a nice streak there recently that gives me hope that he can figure things out here at this level.  His fielding has not been the best, however, so that is a negative right now, particularly relative to Adrianza, but SSS rules in fielding stats, amplifying both bad and good fielding (for example, early in the season, Pence was very positive defensively, yet now he's basically back to average).    Most of the scouting news on him is that he's average fielding, so that's what I would expect given enough opportunity for him to show off what he can do.

Given the glimpses of goodness that both has exhibited, I would not think that they would trade for a 2B, just to give the two opportunities to start, though with Scutaro around, either Panik or Adrianza will see less starts.  But I would not be shocked by such a trade, as Panik can still go down to the minors and the Giants are battling for the division title.  Prado is a name that would be good, as he could play 2B this season and maybe shift to 3B should we lose Sandoval, but I don't see them trading with the NL West, particularly with no GM.

Given our issues in the latter part of the game, though Romo has stabilized, that is where I expect an upgrade in the bullpen.  As nicely as Gutierrez and Machi has done, if Sabean can pull the trigger on bringing a closer-level guy here (like Huston Street, for example, though again, NL West in-division very unlikely), I think that will happen.  I think it will cost us a mid-level prospect, like Kickham or Blach, or someone higher who has disappointed the Giants too much, but he's done this a number of times before, so this is what I really expect to happen.

There has been talk by Sabean about getting a starting pitcher, but I just don't see any upgrade over Vogelsong without gutting our farm system, and that is assuming that any team would want a big bundle of our, so far,  disappointing minor leaguers.

In any case, I think the Giants are good as is for battling for the division title, but it wouldn't hurt to add a closer-type to the bullpen, both to boost the team as well as maybe be a replacement for Romo/Casilla in 2015.  I can also see the team getting a 2B if neither Adrianza or Panik seizes the opportunity handed them to become the starter.   The team has been rightfully a winner so far this season, it was the roller coaster which shook off many fans, but I think the numbers support where they are and perhaps could be slightly under, particularly Posey and Sandoval, and thus they should be around 90 wins which should be good enough for getting some sort of extra games action, whether wildcard or playoffs, historically this has been.  And it would not surprise me if they get to 95 wins either, they have shown the potential to go on wild up streaks this season and in the past.

Rotation Order Second Half

{Post Note:  I screwed up the lining up of the starts - for some reason my BB-Ref print out separated out the first three games and I stupidly started counting off with the series after the Marlins - so you can still read what I had originally done, as I don't like modifying my posts after it has gone out, and the updated analysis is posted here.}

Bochy announced that the rotation would be Bumgarner, Hudson, Lincecum, Vogelsong, Cain, barring any unexpected usage of Hudson in the All Star game, but since he sat, this is the order.  Some were surprised by Cain's placement and signaled concerns over that.

I went through the schedule and counted up the starts.  Bumgarner, Hudson, Lincecum get 13 starts each, Vogelsong and Cain get 12 starts.  I would note that Vogelsong, even in his good years, had usually gone off the rails in August, so giving him less starts is good, especially since he's older now.  Hudson, while also old, got some rest earlier with his skipped start and he has two less starts than Bumgarner, though because he went deeper, only 8 less IP and more than anyone but Madison in IP.  But because he's so efficient, he has less pitches thrown other than Cain, who missed even more games.  Which some have suggested is why it is odd that he's 5th in the rotation, is there some health issue we are not aware about.

And that is certainly possible.  But going through the assigned starts, here are the breakdowns for each home and away:

Bumgarner:  5 home, 8 away
Hudson:  6 home, 7 away
Lincecum:  6 home, 7 away
Vogelsong:  4 home, 8 away
Cain:  7 home, 5 away

Bumgarner has been the worse at home, but stellar away, plus he's the ace of the staff, it would be a rebuke to his ace status to replace him up top.  So this is for the best.

Hudson has been good on the road, but also good at home, so that works for him being second.  Plus, moreover, he has earned that status.  So this works for him and reduces the overall number of pitches the rotation throws as a whole.

Lincecum has been better at home, and not as bad as Cain on the road, so he is fine in the third slot but could have been in the last spot as well, and probably better suited based strictly on these numbers.  With his rubber arm, though, and Cain having bone chips in his elbow, it makes sense to ride Lincecum a bit harder than Cain, in terms of starts.

Vogelsong has been better at home than Cain, so he is another who might be better placed in the 5th spot, as he's better at home and worse away relative to Cain and in general.  This is probably the biggest if in the group, the way I see it.

Cain has been good at home, so it is not like pitching him there is a waste.  And despite not starting as many games because of his injuries, I'm sure he could always use extra rest, as the beats suggest.  Particularly if it helps him be fresher in the playoffs, should we make it.

One reason to "demote" him, as the way it has been described in the media, is right now, the Giants are in a dog fight for the division title, as well as for a wild card spot (FYI, they would be tied for the second wild card spot right now), and thus you never know if the Giants need to play an extra game or two just to make the main portion of the playoffs (there are some who do not consider the wildcard games as the playoffs, but to me, if you are playing an extra series (even if only one game) to determine who gets to move on in the playoffs, it is a playoff game.  Placing Cain at the end of the second half rotation basically means that he gets to start the wild card game, else, he's well rested (if we win the division) for the NLDS.   Out of Lincecum, Vogelsong, and Cain, right now, I would still want to go with Cainer in any sudden-death wildcard game.   But still, he could start if he were #4, so why #5 for him?

My best guess as to why Vogelsong and not Cain #4 is that should Bochy needs a starter to pitch in on the last game of the season, the #4 starter would be first in line to do relief duty, if needed, but then be pushed back in the playoff rotation.  Vogie has done relief before, but Cain not so much.  And should the Giants make the playoffs, Vogie is the one who most probably is not starting and getting pushed to the bullpen, though there is a chance still that Lincecum could be that guy, just due to history/experience.  But if he continues pitching as well has he has recently, no way he's not starting in the playoffs.

In addition, comparing who each would face, that is also a clue as to why Cain #5.  Both face the same team 8 of the 12 times in the rotation.  But Cain gets to face LAD at home, while Vogie faces them in LA, and Cain is the one who gets to face ARI and SD one more game, while Vogie gets to face DET on the road, as well as PHI.   Then the only other difference is Vogie pitches on the road against NYM while Cain is on the road against MIL.    That means that the #5 start face divisional foes two extra times, especially a key one like ARI, plus LA at home vs. on the road, as well as being available as the starter if we are in the wild card, else he'll have enough rest to slot anywhere in game 2-3-4 in the NLDS, while the #4 starter is available to pitch in the last game of the season, if necessary.

1 comment:

  1. I screwed up the rotation order analysis (or rather, the order of the alignment of the pitchers to the games pitched, missing the Marlins series in the ordering) so I updated that section in a separate post as I don't like changing my original post from the way it first went out. Here is the updated analysis:

    My deepest apologies for this, I strive to avoid mistakes like this but I guess I'm only human. :^)



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