Saturday, December 20, 2014

Your 2015 Giants: Giants Trade for 3B Casey McGeHee

Pavlovic reported that the Giants traded for 3B Casey McGehee ("mc-gee") for two minor leaguers:
Casey McGehee is headed to the Giants in exchange for minor league right-handers Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo. ...  it’s a pretty low-risk move. After rumors earlier in the day that the Giants were giving up Hunter Strickland or Matt Duffy, they ended up shipping out two pitchers who are not top prospects. 
McGehee was a league-average hitter last year by OPS+ (he was at 99) and he dropped off big time in the second half, but he still finished with a .355 OBP last season, he’ll come relatively cheap ($3.5 million in arbitration is the MLB Trade Rumors estimate) and he has a great nickname (Hits McGehee). 
MLBTR also had a good account at their site.  It noted his journey to Japan in 2013 and his second half falter.

ogc thoughts

I would not have been happy if we lost Strickland or Duffy, not happy at all.  I was a little shocked that Flores got shipped, as I liked him, and he has a high K/9 and great K/BB, but I trust the Brian Trust on the Giants to not ship off players who will turn out to be great (average maybe, but not great).  Still, only 22 YO, 9.5 K/9 and 3.50 K/BB in Advanced A ball.  I guess I have some bias, as I noticed him a couple of years ago while checking the minors.

I like McGeHee, partly because he's a local kid (born in Santa Cruz and went to school at Soquel).  If he can hit like he did in 2014, then he's a good addition, but if anything like 2011-2012, then no so good.  How someone can go from hitting 23 HR in 2010, in a full season, to only 4 HR in 2014 in a full season, I'm not sure.   Of course, he could have peaked early, had his prime season when he was 26-27 YO, it does vary, and some studies suggest that physical peak does come early, not around 28-30 as some other studies suggest.

But he has a good contact rate and a good walk rate, so at minimum, with good peripherals like that, I believe that he's a good hitter who can get on base a lot.  That's valuable almost anywhere in the lineup.  And with his high GDP numbers, maybe he should be batting 8th, where the pitcher can sacrifice him to second, and then the top of the lineup can work to get him in.

It was mentioned in the article that McGehee had a big second half falter.  Looking at his stats, it looks like he had a very high LD% all season long, which helped with his resurgence in the first half, but then apparently the line drives and balls weren't falling in for the second half, leading to a BABIP of .306 from July to September, and a batting line of .265/.332/.328/.660.  Unfortunately, we don't know if the second half was simply a regression to the mean from the first half, or a regression to his prior poor performances.

Still, there are still some positives to see here, a risk/reward type of situation.  At worse, he has opposite platoon numbers, with a better average vs. RHP, so perhaps the Giants are seeing a platoon situation here with Arias taking the LHP AB's.   Defensively, he's not all that good at 3B (he hasn't really played enough at 1B or 2B to judge, but he's been average there), so it could be situation where Arias comes in late games for defensive purposes.  If he can hit like he did last season, then that's a bonus.

Perhaps the Giants think they can "fix" him.  I looked into his stats and the difference between him early in his career and now is that back then, he could hit LHP, which only makes sense, he's right-handed.  Perhaps he needs some tweaking of his mechanics so that he can start taking advantage of his righty-lefty advantage once again.  That's risk reward too.

I would have been happier letting Adrianza and Duffy fight to win the starting role at 3B, but I guess now Ehire's on the bench and Duffy will start in AAA.  And if he can hit close to what he did in 2014, then that is good enough production.  And at worse, he only costs around $3.5M (arb yet to be determined), and then Adrianza and/or Duffy get their chances at starting at 3B, much like Adrianza got a chance at 2B in 2014.  And this is a typical Sabean move, get a vet to see if they can get a bounce-back type of year, but if not, then the young guys get their chance.

Now lets see what they do about LF, if anything.  Appears that the shopping is almost done.

32 comments:

  1. I don't know why you think he gets on base a lot. The baseball reference profile showed his OBP was under 300 for 2 out of the past 4 years with the 3rd being in Japan. He had a great 2014 - how much of that is because of the Miami lineup? Being in front of Garret Jones and Hechavarria would make most hitters more walkable due to those 2 being very high strikeout types.
    I don't mind the Giants not joining in the breathless overbidding that has characterized this offseason so far. My hope is that the team fielded will at least not be ridiculously bad, and the Giants will have some payroll room to go after one of the many high end pitcher free agents in the 2015 offseason. If they're able to identify and get playing time for homegrown talent to fill in to some of the holes and potential holes, even better.

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    1. As the MLBTR article notes, it was his BABIP that was the big difference, not his walk rate, per your comment, that had a huge effect on his OBP. He was at 8.2% to 8.5% Walk% in 2011-2012, versus 9.7% Walk% in 2014, which is a good increase but the main difference is his BABIP.

      His BABIP in 2014 was .335. His career BABIP is .297, and his BABIP in 2011-2012 was .249 and .248.

      He has a good contact style that generally leads to higher BA, and that with walks will lead to OBP. If you don't believe it, that's fine, but this is my thinking.

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  2. I do not even know if he will be marginally better than I imagined a young Duffy would be at third. We also have a few potential power hitting third basemen but they may not be major league ready now, if ever. My worry for the giants lineup is the relative lack of power this year's team (2015) seems to have. So far with Morse and the Panda gone, there has been no new faces to make up for their lost home run blasts. I still think a Morse to first platooned with Ishi, and a Belt to left would have been a viable in house solution, unless Belt absolutely refuses to play left. He has the tools to be a good outfielder. It seems as if we are once again replacing Jeff Kent with Alfonso. At the time the move did not seem that bad, but the guy, once he got to the giants, lost it. While a reportedly older Kent continued to play at a high level. In this case, the Panda was younger than McGehee, although much more expensive. Those hats would have made up for some of those costs.

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    1. I don't know if he's marginally better than Duffy either. I view this as classic Sabean risk mitigation.

      Because nobody knows if Duffy is marginally better than McGeHee. You and I may think Duffy is better, but we frankly know less than what the Giants know, who have experts judging how good he might be. I view prospects as a curve, where a select few are to the right of the curve who make it, and the vast majority to the left who never make it. Herndon and Gladden beat that notion in me that a good looking rookie is necessarily all that.

      McGeHee is no where close to what Alfonso was. Alfonso was an elite player for a number of years. McGeHee only had those two seasons, and really more like a season and a half. And really, more like a season, looking into his game stats for 2010, after May 20th, he hit .272/.317/.429/.746. That's why he's only getting $3.5M in a season whereas Alfonso got the big contract that he got.

      I wouldn't have minded what you suggested of Morse platooning with Posey at 1B. Especially at the price that he eventually signed for. But the fact is that Morse is just as unreliable a power source as McGeHee because of his injury history. He delivered power for two months, and was mostly gone the rest of the season, through poor performance then injury. I will grant that he did supply needed power at the end, but that was because this time he was able to get healed up in time for the playoffs. Maybe next time he won't, we don't know.

      And you know it's a Posey-Morse-Ishi platoon at first, and really, as good as Morse is, he don't really need a platoon, he really needs something to keep him healthy.

      I don't think Belt has a problem with LF. Or that big, the Giants plan was to move him to LF if they signed Abreu and they were reportedly very close.

      The problem with losing Kent was that we only had Bonds for the middle of the lineup at that point. We still have Posey (our new Bonds), Pence and Belt there to supply the power.

      And, you seem to lay all our problems on losing Kent, yet in the season after we lost Kent, we won more games than we ever did when we had Kent in the lineup.

      Alfonso was a huge gamble, many saw his decline coming, but the problem then was that with Bonds around, the strategic was to load up for battle for the trophy, no matter what, and so the Giants signed the best 3B on the market and offer enough that he comes to your team (kind of like what Boston did this season with Sandoval).

      I wish people would stop talking about those hats. I doubt that that many hats were ever sold to pay for much of Sandoval's $15M in 2013-2014 while he was around. Let's say they made $10 per hat, just to cover a million, 100,000 of them would need to be sold each year, after six seasons, that's 600,000 hats that need to be sold, just to cover $1M per season.

      And as much as they like to brag about 4M in attendance (or whatever the number), many of them were season ticket holders who are repeat goers, you got maybe (with people sharing season tickets), 100, 000 regular attenders and another 100,000 to 300,000 who make it for a game or a few more. Only so many hats that can be sold to them, and many of them complained about how fat he was when he was here, so they are not part of the crowd buying hats.

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    2. Here is the big picture I see.

      McGeHee is a risk. Will he hit like he did in 2014, or like 2011-2012? Given his good contact rate and BB/K ratio, that suggests that he's a good hitter, like the type the Giants have been taking risks with the past number of years, Blanco, Arias, Stewart, Panik, Duffy. If he delivers great.

      Even if he delivers, even last year, not much of a hitter against LHP, despite him being RHH. Bochy typically will give starting job, but if he continues to bat horribly against LHP, Arias and Adrianza will start to get LHP starts by the start of May.

      Meanwhile, they get to see Duffy perform in Sacto, starting at 3B (I assume Duvall will move to 1B for 2015, probably his last chance to prove something to Giants before he gets shipped to AL team in trade). We don't really know whether he can handle 3B, some SS can't handle the transition. I'll admit it was an assumption and risk that I was willing to take on, with the idea that Adrianza would be a nice backup/depth, and at worse, we trade for someone mid-season. Maybe he continues to show what he showed in 2014, or maybe 2014 was a fluke and he struggles in AAA, as some of our hitting prospects have done before. Players like him generally have to pass through the gauntlet of the whole minor's ladder to prove good enough to get a shot at the majors.

      McGeHee gives us another parachute we can deploy and hopefully do well at 3B. Sandoval wasn't really that great for us last season, overall. He was good for nearly 5 months, and that was great, but even his hitting couldn't do anything for us once the injuries and down performances hit in the middle of the season. And we won early in the season when he was hitting for crap for us trying to take walks. So it was not like we magically score runs since he's in there.

      McGeHee had .712 OPS in 2014, Sandoval .739. Is that .027 OPS worth an extra $16M extra? And you saw what Sabean thought of Headley. And there's the real alternatives of free agent 3B.

      So the only real alternative is trade, and to get someone equivalent of a Sandoval, which seems to be your goal, I'm not even sure that trading Crick and the rest of our Top 5 would be enough to do a deal. Any such deal would probably need to be centered on Panik as the key trading piece. Are you willing to go there?

      I'm not, I like Panik, I think that he and Belt will add the offense to the lineup that is missing from Sandoval and Morse, And it sounds like they are still trying to find a LF, though I would be happier with Belt moved there and Ishi/Posey sharing 1B. Heck, McGeHee has played some first, at an average defensive level, so some games could go to him with Adrianza or Arias starting at 3B, Bochy does like to mix things up sometimes.

      So I'm good with McGeHee. Of course I would rather get a good hitting guy, everybody wants goodness at every starting position. Most teams don't have good hitters at every position, so I can live with less at 3B this season, because we are pretty set in the middle of the lineup, though one more guy (in LF or 1B) would be really nice. As long as we have nice hitters up and down, I think that limits the need to get sluggers for so many positions in the lineup. As Bochy likes to say, keep the line moving. I think what we currently have can do that.

      Though it won't hurt to get more. More is generally better, but it don't mean you don't have good now.

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  3. Time will certainly tell.
    While I'm thrilled that the Giants were able to win the World Series in 2014 - the fact remains that they had about 1.5 great months, then were really awful, then closed somewhat decently. The next level of detail is that the Giants were basically even against all other divisions with most (10) of their over-500 performance coming against the NL East, and that's even with losing 4 of 6 to the Nationals. Even in their own division - they were only 4 games over despite the presence of Arizona and Colorado.
    Sure, a full season of Belt will help. However, beyond that and praying Pagan has an injury free season, there really isn't a lot of offensive improvement to be seen.
    If this were the 2010 Giants, this wouldn't matter. However, the 2015 Giants won't even be similar in capability at the 2012 Giants - the projection systems are all very, very down on the Giants' rotation (i.e. 28th out of all MLB teams) which is pretty bad. If Cain comes back well, that may rise to 24-ish, but seems hardly overwhelming.
    My point is simply that the Giants in 2014 extraordinarily outperformed due to their injuries; the possibility that a slightly better team will simply perform to its capabilities and wind up with a worse record is quite high.

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    1. Yes, it certainly will.

      The fact also remains that the team had a great 2+ months (43-21 on June 8th), then all the injuries started to take their toll, plus Romo had the hiccups of all hiccups as a reliever (that was three games we led and we ended up getting swept), leading to making NL division records almost meaningless, much like it was in 2013, because injuries affected their performance against the teams they happened to play against while they were struggling.

      Offensive improvement will come from Belt playing more often, Panik playing a full season at 2B (OPS of .618 collectively in 2014), Pagan playing CF more (back has been a major physical problem and surgery appears to have healed that). Plus, the challenge is not about sustaining the offense that they had before, but keeping it at a level where the team can win games. They were 5th in the NL in runs scored. They were also 6th in NL in runs allowed per game.

      They can sustain a drop of offense with the improvement that Peavy should deliver in 2015 over Vogie in 2014, plus Cain should be here all season better than Cain/Petit/Peavy 2014, and Lincecum hopefully should be better than Lincecum 2014, now that his father is helping, and lastly Bumgarner should be better, he started off the season poorly, unlike 2013 where he was dominant from start to end. And I think the bullpen should be improved with Kontos or Strickland taking over for Gutierrez in 2015.

      Projection systems were all down on the Giants in 2014 as well, said our bullpen wasn't worth much in particular, yet we don't win the trophy without the bullpen being stupendous. It is projected based on an injured Cain who hasn't been the same since his Perfecto, on Peavy's poor stats in Boston, so yeah, I would expect projections to not be too good. That's why for me projection systems are the starting point, then you adjust for things we can reasonably expect to happen, like Cain being better with chips out and ankle fixed, Peavy pitching better in SF than before, perhaps Lincecum improving with Dad's help, Bumgarner having another season like 2013, good start to finish, he was a true ace that season, on par with Kershaw.

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    2. The Giants' overall offensive numbers were disproportionately compiled in that Pre-June period - and that was with a very hot Belt (more than he ever has been previously), a very hot Morse for 1 month, and a generally clicking offense on all levels.
      Again, while I'd be thrilled if this happens again, what we saw in April and May of 2014 was the Giants not playing against the top starter in most of their series - including missing Kershaw due to his early season injury.
      In 2015, this isn't going to happen. Teams are going to orient against the Giants which they did little of in 2014. While Arizona and Colorado aren't going to be much better, they certainly aren't going to be much worse in 2015 than 2014. The Dodgers - barring another Kershaw injury - are not going to be worse and will likely be better. San Diego will unquestionably be better.
      Net-net - the NL West is going to be tougher than last year.
      My view is that the injuries definitely hurt the Giants, but you're underplaying just how perfect everything was for the Giants in April and May.

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  4. OGC, I think the change in HR rate has to do with two things. One of them is playing in Milwaukee, where the park is near or at the top for homers. The other is that McGehee (the h in his last name isn't capitalized) has changed his game through his experience in Japan (2013), so that he now aims to use the whole field. Look at a spray chart of his 2014 season to see how evenly his fly balls are distributed to all fields. That approach cuts down on home runs, but leaves him with a decent ISO through other extra-base hits. He now is a guy who, as he and Bochy independently said, moves the line along, in keeping with the current offensive strategy of the Giants.

    As to the team's strength, McGehee last year had 2 fWAR, and Sandoval 3. Surely if Belt and Pagan can stay healthy, and Panik can keep performing well, the Giants can make up more than 1 WAR among them. Besides, if they sign a LF to platoon with Blanco and replace Hanchez with Susac, they will add still more offensive strength. Naturally this supposes a healthy season, but then, so do all projections. As to the Giants' rotation be better than only two other MLB teams, that's plain incredible. Bumgarner and a healthy Cain would start for any team in MLB, and Hudson and Peavy are a strong #3 and #4.

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    1. Remarkable prescience on the part of those projection systems, to be able to rank rotations prior to those rotations' being established! The contract with Peavy was only just agreed on, and though Petit and Lincecum look like rivals for #5, both Evans and Sabean have said that there might possibly be another rotation adjustment. I imagine that other teams find themselves as fluid or more so in settling on a rotation.

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    2. Bumgarner being a #1, albeit not "That Dodger" kind of #1, does not make up for the rest of the rotation.
      Put another way: do you really see the Giants rotation being stronger in any way than the Dodgers? All things being equal, and despite that I love what he has done for the Giants, Bumgarner < Kershaw. Cain < Greinke. Hudson < Ryu. Peavy/Vogelson/Lincecum are not notably going to be better than McCarthy and Anderson, and likely won't be as good.
      If 2013 Cain returns, then definitely the 28 rank will be far too low, but the overall rotation is still not going to be anywhere what the Giants had in 2012 or 2010.

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    3. my mistake above: McGehee had a poor ISO, not a decent one, in 2014; he had a sturdy OBP and OK wRC+, but that's not the same thing. Steamer figures an average ISO from him in 2015, but of course with a new team around him and a new park, that estimate may well be off by a good bit.

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    4. Thanks for the correction on his name, I hate when I make mistakes like that, much appreciated.

      True, Milwaukee's park is conducive to homers. But that don't explain the huge drop in HR hit his last season in Mil. Plus, the last couple of seasons, he has hit more homers on the road than home.

      Thanks for mentioning his spray pattern. Forgot to check that, that's something I was intuiting, that he was hitting differently, but had no evidence to back up that thought. Some players are transformed when playing in Japan, going more for line drives than homers.

      Looks like you caught his poor ISO, yeah, it is low enough to be unplayable if his BA or walk rate goes down any, so he will need to sustain that high BABIP to keep a starting job. Not sure why Bochy would want that batting 4th, though.

      People worry too much about how we compare with the Dodgers. Yes, their rotation looks pretty good, but while people assume the worse about the Giants, they assume the best of the Dodgers. Personally, I'll bet Peavy/Lincecum will prove to be better than McCarthy/Anderson, just on a performance level, but anyone expecting a full season out of both of them will be disappointed.

      One of the lessons I drew from the 2009-2012 period is that the Giants rotation were top 3 in the majors even though there was usually one starter who wasn't that good and another starter who was average (Zito, numerous 5th starters). With Bumgarner, Cain, Hudson, Peavy, Lincecum, we have one of the more rock solid rotation top to bottom that we have had. We might not compare at the top to LA, but I like what we have overall vs. the Bridegrooms, who need to stockpile SP because they know that they can't rely on their starters to make it through a season without a DL or two.

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    5. Oh, and by both of them, I meant McCarthy/Anderson. They have like, what, one full season played between them? Where a season is 32+ starts. My memories bad, but I can imagine that Anderson even has a full season if you added up his last 2-3 seasons. And I just read that McCarthy just had his first full season ever, in 2014, having been a regular DL member in previous seasons.

      To say that LA has a better rotation when they have McCarthy and Anderson is not logical because they will have to cycle through a bunch of AAAA starters to replace the starts that they will miss, and they will. I mean, even the projection systems will predict that, since you like to use projections as your guide.

      And for me, projections are just a part of the puzzle. If projections where all that, then there would be no need to play any season. And when the projection systems said that the Giants had one of the worse bullpen in the majors, projected, in 2014, I knew that they were way off.

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    6. The problems Anderson has had with durability are well documented - I'm not so familiar with McCarthy to have an informed opinion.
      However, the Dodgers aren't in the position where they need McCarthy and Anderson to be 30+ start pitchers - they are several more under contract with the Dodgers and they have clearly shown the willingness to spend to get more.

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    7. As I noted, McCarthy has not been able to complete a full season until 2014. Some media outlets attribute that to improved off-season preparation and better physical fitness and training. But the way I view it, pitcher's are a much more highly fragile baseball player (per TINSTAAPP), and a pitcher with a history of not making it through a season without missing a number of starts is not likely to suddenly get permanently healthy as the reaches his 30's. He only has two seasons above 135 IP, 2011 and 2014, that's missing at least 12 starts in a season.

      And you seem to think the Dodgers can magically pull up pitchers of similar quality out of a hat. In 2014, they had to give 25 starts to guys not in their top 5, Jamey Wright, Kevin Correia, Roberto Hernandez, Paul Maholm, Carlos Fries, to name some of the more commonly used ones. They can pull starters, yes, but the quality went way down, and certainly nothing to compare with the Giants, even Lincecum was better than most of their motley crew. And they don't have Beckett around anymore, McCarthy would be hard pressed to match the 20 starts and 2.88 ERA he compiled. And as great as Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu are, they all had career bests in 2014, and regression would say that it would be foolhardy to expect the three of them to collectively all match what they had done in 2014.

      Spending is one thing, but generally teams don't give up good pitchers with big contracts, they give up struggling pitchers with big contracts that aren't worth the money being paid them.

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  5. I said simply that to rank the Giants' rotation 28th, or with Cain 24th, as you originally estimated, is not credible; and to rank rotations before they gel makes no sense. No sense, that is, except to give sports reporters and their ilk something to say during the doldrums of the offseason. The rotation ought to be much better, with a healthy Cain and a full year of Peavy, than it was in the World Champion season of 2014. The rest of the lineup, in terms of run production, ought to be about the same, I'm guessing, and I indicated why. Again, there are multiple ifs in this estmate; but I don't see how that can be avoided with pretty much any team months before play begins.

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    1. I hope Peavy does better - but let's not forget: he did REALLY badly before coming back to the NL.
      And while certainly the projection systems tend to be pessimistic - this applies to all teams thus there is no way you can say the Giants are being discriminated against.
      One particular reason the projection systems are down on the Giants is because their rotation is pretty old. No matter how you slice it - age matters - and the Giants have the 2nd oldest rotation in all of baseball.
      My own view is that Cain's performance in 2015 - especially early on - is very much an unknown. On the plus side, he will not have had so many inning pitched in the past year. On the minus side - he is recovering from a major surgery, and will have been "out of touch" with major league pitching for a long time.
      I don't doubt he will get this touch back, but the possibility that he will require some time to do so should not be discounted.
      Equally, surgery isn't automatic. There is a very non-zero risk that Cain will not come back with the same characteristics he had prior to the surgery. A significant velocity loss due to structural change or conditioning would absolutely affect likely output.
      Again, I hope not and wish the best for Cain and the Giants.
      This isn't the same as being panglossian about everything going well though.
      Equally I am far less certain about how well Lincecum performs win 2015 - father or no. The track record with his father was when he was still a fireballer - what makes anyone think that the father will be able to coach Timmie in a completely different style?
      In a real sense, Timmie's performances when younger was trading off control for speed - it is exactly this lack of control which is hurting him now. To think that the elder Lincecum can change his spots, years later, seems wishful thinking.

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    2. For Peavy, I trust PQS. His PQS was good even while his stats were bad in 2013, and sometimes that happens in baseball. He was bad with Boston before joining SF, but he was great pitching at home for Boston, but suffered from bad luck BABIP on the road, helping to lead to a bad road performance.

      I would also posit that the Giants pitching gurus corrected something with Peavy, because when he first came over, his PQS wasn't so great, he was actually having a bad season, unlike previously, but then once he started clicking with the Giants, he was back to his dominant PQS self from prior seasons, like in 2012.

      Why I trust PQS is because while luck affects the hits and homers you give up, luck (particularly the home umpire you get) is not so much a factor in getting strikes nor in avoiding walks, either you have that talent or you don't. And you don't have multiple seasons of 70%+ DOM as Peavy was doing without some baseball skills.

      Regaining Cain, I concede most of the points made, except that I disagree with your calling it major surgery. Removing chips from the elbow is not major surgery, that's where you and I differ, and recovering from that should be much simpler than actual major surgery, like TJS or all those wrist surgeries, like DeRosa and Lowry, got. With today's modern medicine using small cuts and sticking a thin tube in, surgery today is much less invasive and full recovery more likely as well as quicker.

      I agree that Cain would have been out of touch, but that is what spring training is for, all pitchers have been out of touch with their mechanics. But then at some point, muscle memory will kick in and take over. For all these reasons, I think Cain should be back enough not to worry about his spot, and most probably back to prior goodness, with a chance of being even better because his range of motion would not be as constricted, as it was, by the elbow chips.

      Again, there was no structural change, chips were removed, the muscles and bones and everything else is unchanged other than now they are not being restricted by the pain caused by the chips.

      It is not automatic, any surgery is serious in that infection could cause damage and things can go suddenly bad (see Bonds or the late comedian, Joan Rivers). But Cain is past the danger zone for all those obstacles and his recovery is reported to be on track still. I'll worry more if there is news in spring training.

      Lincecum had a 3.65 ERA struggling last season. I would expect him to get better with his father helping to keep him on track mechanically. I don't think that's wishful thinking, I think that is logical. His father knows his mechanics, been teaching him for years, he's not going to forget it now.

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    3. Peavy's performance might be some fix from the Giants pitching staff, but a far more likely primary cause is the change to the NL plus pitching in AT & T vs. Fenway/AL parks.
      Jury's still out in my book.
      Cain - it is a good point that the surgery isn't super major. I still don't think it can be dismissed either, otherwise it would have been something fixed earlier. Be that as it may, I believe we both wish the best for Matt Cain and hope he'll come back and do well.
      The good news is that he's pretty young still, so there's relatively little danger from the age factor.
      Lastly, Lincecum. You clearly think there is some magic with Lincecum's father - but the point where we disagree is that Lincecum's style and motion - that which made him so successful the first few years he came up - are exactly the same as he has now. The only difference is that Lincecum can't throw 95 anymore. My view is that someone who couldn't get Lincecum to throw less hard in favor of more control to start with, is hardly the person to train Lincecum to do exactly the opposite of his multi-year style now.
      And I'd note that my view isn't even that Lincecum can't throw strikes. Anecdotally, I remember a lot of calls which went against Lincecum (both announced on radio and saw in person/TV) which were very likely strikes if Posey's glove were in position (i.e. Lincecum totally missed the target but was in/near the strike zone). This is clearly a control issue.
      Be that as it may, I do wish the best for him - I simply don't think the problems are fixed so simply. There are also other issues: one of the reasons why some of the old, soft throwers do decently well is documented that it is due to defense.
      Lincecum's motion is so violent that he is quite a poor defender even beyond the base stealing issues.
      None of these are going to be fixed that easily - and not stealing outs and/or giving extra outs is what gets average/below average pitchers in trouble.
      Cy Young Lincecum could get away with that because he'd simply not allow that many baserunners and could strike out most people if necessary.
      2015 Lincecum isn't going to be able to do that.

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    4. Well, what you say then isn't logical. You say that you don't expect Peavy to repeat, but now you are saying that it was because he's pitching in the NL and AT&T that he did so well for SF in 2014. Well, that's exactly where he'll be pitching in 2015, so you can't have it both ways.

      Also, you (as did I, frankly) clearly never looked at his Fenway numbers in 2013-14. I'll take a mid 3 ERA from him any day and every season.

      As I noted, surgery is not something you just do. Complications is a major risk, that is why Cain and the Giants chose not to do the surgery earlier, no reason to risk complications if Cain is able to pitch effectively in spite of the chips. That ended in 2014, he couldn't pitch anymore, and that made the risk of complications less of a worry than the end of his major league career. And really, surgery today is relatively safe, but still, you never know either. So you don't want to Just Do It, as the Nike motto says, but you take all the risks into consideration and then make your best judgement.

      Then how do you explain how he had a 3.65 ERA into August? You seem to act like he can't pitch. Nobody can fake a 3.65 ERA over a large portion of a major league season without some good amount of talent, and as bad as 2012-2014 has been for Lincecum, if you examine the details of each season, there were large portions of each season where he pitched like a good pitcher, his problem has that he has been unable to avoid that bump in the road that explodes his ERA.

      I understand your points, but you need to explain how he can compile a 3.65 ERA deep into the season if he can't pitch with diminished velocity.

      Delete
    5. First, need to fix a point I made. He pitched well to the save game, which was on July 22nd, which is not August, but still, to my point, pretty deep into the season, roughly 60-65% of the way through the season.

      Also, finished reading your comment about Lincecum.

      I'm not saying that his father will help him with his control. He's never had good control (as you also noted). Lincecum's talent has been his stuff. That's why with his diminished velocity, he still gets a lot of strikeouts.

      At the point where his season went south, the save game, he had a 65% DOM, which is very good and close to elite level of pitching (his 20% DIS was OK too). That means a lot of strikeouts and a lot of strikeout relative to walks. That means a pitcher with a lot of talent during those 20 starts, almost elite talent.

      Bad mechanics is the only reason I can think of to explain his day and night performances pivoting on his save game.

      What I'm saying is that his father can keep him going well when he's going good, and help him get back to his good mechanics when he's going bad. No SP is going to have a 65% DOM in 20 starts unless he's very talented.

      DIsaster starts are the bain of ERAs, and they randomly hit, sometimes blasting ERAs sky high. He had 5 in the 6 starts after his save. This is why I prefer to analyze data down to lower levels, yes, it's SSS, but when you tie changes in trends with events that happen to the player, then you can make better estimates of what is going to happen relative to the brute force, treat everyone the same approach that projection systems take. Hopefully his father can stop the streak at 1-3 bad starts before he returns to prior goodness.

      Speaking of which, the Giants projections recently came out: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/2015-zips-projections-san-francisco-giants/

      I'll quote the author: "Both hitters and pitchers are ranked by projected zWAR — which is to say, WAR values as calculated by Dan Szymborski, whose surname is spelled with a z. WAR values might differ slightly from those which appear in full release of ZiPS. Finally, Szymborski will advise anyone against — and might karate chop anyone guilty of — merely adding up WAR totals on depth chart to produce projected team WAR."

      So don't let him catch you comparing teams by total WAR, or he'll come over and chop you one. :^)

      And that's one reason I don't like using projections for players unfiltered: not only are they trying to project production, they are also trying to project playing time. I see people using ZiPS, without adjusting the production line to reflect more realistic playing time, like if we know that someone will be starting when he was a reserve before, which leads to a low usage projection, or vice-versa, someone who was a starter before, but you know will be a reserve. Or if he had suffered injuries that should not be projected to continue (like Posey getting run over), leading to lowered projections because the system is averaging based on the past. When I use them, I try to make them more realistic, based on what I know should happen, like Dirty starting, but because he was a reliever before, many projection systems had him relieving games, and throwing much less IP.

      Szym's a pretty funny guy on Twitter, I recommend following him to anyone who likes data mixed with fun.

      Delete
  6. One more factoid:
    http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/54131/yasiel-puig-and-baseballs-bad-baserunners
    McGehee was the worst base running in all of baseball in 2014, and it was hitting into double plays. Ouch.
    Admittedly the number isn't gigantic, but then again - if there is a team which gets hurt by double plays, it is the Giants. Fortunately, Pablo's baserunning was probably not great either.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! Every last factoid helps. :^)

      Given his poor SB history, does not surprise me that he's one of the worse base runners nor that he hits into a lot of DPs. That's going to be problematic if he's hitting behind Posey in the lineup, not so bad if he's hitting behind Pence or Belt, both of whom are good baserunners and got a little speed.

      But yeah, Pablo is a bad DP hitter as well, so probably not so much of a downgrade in that department.

      Hopefully Bochy don't follow through and bat him 4th sometimes, and keeps him down in the lineup, 6/7/8.

      Delete
  7. Several notes:
    1) I noted that possible causes for improvement with Peavy include well documented ones like moving to a better park for pitching and moving from the AL to NL. The point is - whatever improvement Peavy experienced, it is far from clear that it is some magic performed by the Giants' pitching coaches vs. the improvement ANY pitcher experiences going through the same changes. So to summarize: Peavy should do better in SF than in Boston simply due to change of venue and league. Peavy did almost historically badly in Boston in 2014, however, thus the extent of the improvement cannot be judged solely on the relatively few games he pitched for the Giants in 2014.
    2) Lincecum's ERA of 3.65 going into August - well, NL team average ERA was 3.66 for the entire NL in 2014. Given that this includes many starts against the Padres (with a no-hitter), I would say that the number quoted above isn't clearly very impressive or indicative.
    The numbers back this statement up: Lincecum had 33 starts, and his line against the Padres: 5-0, 6 games, 0.131 BAA, 1.40 ERA. The Padres in their first 82 games in 2014 also had literally historically bad offense - so it wasn't just Lincecum doing well against them.
    From what I recall - a big factor overall was also that in the games where he didn't get blown out or didn't pitch against the Padres, he was often pulled in the middle innings for getting in a sticky situation in favor of situational relief - and the relievers successfully stranded an inordinately large number of these inherited baserunners. Sort of an anti-Caining.
    As for the projections - whatever Szymborski says, there is a big difference between projecting team performance based on WAR vs. projecting strengths of starting pitching relative to other teams. Using WAR projections to calculate likely team records is an exercise in futility - fully agreed - but I do not see how knowing one team is near top of the pack or bottom of the pack has no value whatsoever.
    I would have no problem with any individual objecting to the methodology behind any given projection system as it is inherently subjective, but so long as the same methodology is applied to all players, then the relative results do have some value in comparing said players.

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    1. About Lincecum, I think at this point, people would take 3.65 ERA from him. And take 2 WAR from him. If you are going to parse out his SD numbers, you have to parse our the NL's SD numbers as well, they have 162 games in there as well.

      True, not as big an influence on the results, but just as true, he's going to pitch against them in 2015 too, and performance is performance, no matter who you do it against, I learned that long ago from frustrations of some seasons where the Giants would beat the better teams but then lose to absolute losers, playing up and down to the level of the competition.

      How he does against SD only matters if he were to leave us. As long as he's with our rotation, he's going to face SD. Of course, if the Giants pick up another SP, I don't know who else would leave the rotation except for him, unless they decide to go with a 6-man rotation to ease the load after their third championship season.

      And if we are going to bullpen support, in either 2012 or 2013, he had an inordinate amount of runners given up, where if the bullpen had only given up the average percentage of the NL, his ERA would have dropped from mid-4's to basically 4, a huge drop, a huge Caining.

      And from my quick look at 2014, out of 7 inherited runners, 2 of them scored, or roughly 30%, which is about the rate I recall it was for the year he was poorly supported by relief, so I see no anti-Caining here in 2014 and your memory was lacking in this case (no worries, my memory hasn't been exactly the best lately myself...).

      OK, I'll admit I am not fully sold on any particular projection system. Particularly since they are based on projections on raw performance data and not adjusted on a game by game basis for starting pitchers (based on what I've seen happen to pitcher's ERA due to disaster starts and randomness in BABIP). I'll be convinced by your assertion about comparable talents if I see a study that shows, after the fact, that a team with a good rotation ended up among the top when all is said and done. For example, for all the talk about LA's vaunted starting rotation and bullpen, in 2014, they were only 8th in the NL in Runs Allowed.

      Here's where I have a problem with projections. The systems projected that the Giants had one of the worse bullpens in the majors in 2014. They don't win 2014 Championship without Affeldt, Casilla, Lopez, and Romo. How's that for projecting value?

      Delete
  8. Here is the history of Peavy's PQS since 2009:

    2009: 75% DOM/ 6% DIS
    2010: 63% DOM/13% DIS
    2011: 67% DOM/17% DIS
    2012: 78% DOM/ 0% DIS
    2013: 69% DOM/ 8% DIS ChiSox
    80% DOM/10% DIS BoSox
    2014: 50% DOM/10% DIS BoSox
    67% DOM/ 8% DIS SF

    His career FIP is basically what his ERA is, but if you look at his seasonal stats, he swings wildly from pitching way above his FIP to pitching way below his FIP. Looking at his career numbers, his pitching with the Giants, per PQS, is most similar to what he was doing before, whereas his problems with Boston earlier in 2014 is unlike what he had done before.

    I'll agree that he's not going to pitch as well in performance as he did for us in roughly a third of a season. Hard to maintain a 2.17 ERA without the best stuff. But based on his DOM/DIS performances over the past six years, the anomaly has been his half a season with Boston in 2014, and his performance in SF reverts to how well he was doing before.

    So I think the Giants helped him in some way and that the contract is fine. It is not like they can suddenly help him get more velocity and strike out more guys. Perhaps it's like he said in his signing presser, he said that he wasn't on the same page with Boston's catchers, but that he worked well with both Posey and Susac, high praise for the rookie. Perhaps it's whatever mojo that Righetti and Gardner provides as our pitching coaches that enables our pitching staff to defy HR/9 saber-rules and give up less homers (that is a huge change in his SF numbers). Whatever it is, it is working, his PQS perked up.

    Not that it's all milk and honey. Looking at his numbers, he's clearly lost something. His strikeout rate has gone down, and that probably represents age and the attendant loss of talent. But as Hudson has shown, he has continued to perform well even as his strikeout rate has dropped as well. And Peavy made an adjustment of some sort to boost his DOM% up to prior heights.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Oops, sorry meant to comment above, but when I clicked Publish, my comment disappeared! After the panic, I remembered I can sometimes get it back by using the back arrow, and there it was. Thinking I was in the right box, I continued...

      Delete
    2. Also, to clarify, I was referring to the 10% HR/FB rule when I said HR/9, was trying to be shorter but realized I better clarify.

      Delete
    3. If I had a gun to my head, I would actually point toward Posey's pitch framing skills. Posey is top 10 in the majors in the stat - and isn't just up there because there are only 30-ish catchers; he's genuinely good.
      Be that as it may - we'll see in 2015. You believe Lincecum has turned a corner, I'm still very much reserving judgement.
      We've both seen him show patches of brilliance in most years interspersed with strings of ugly starts.

      Delete
    4. As for the bullpen - the while the ERA was good, the sad fact is that the actual performance wasn't a lockdown by any stretch of the imagination.
      All relievers will cough up at some point, but there were quite a number of such performances in 2014. In the first 18 months, these were concealed by a powerful Giants offense but the same performances later on were not nearly so good.
      Every single one of the "core" Giants relievers had such stretches in 2014 - Affeldt looked totally lost in several starts, Romo had his hiccups, Casilla mostly did well until the WS, and Javier Lopez wound up pitching to a lot more righties than he ever should have. Take that 2014 performance and add a year to a fairly old crew - it isn't surprising that the projection systems are down on the Giants' relievers.
      I also believe the projection systems work with park independent numbers - the extreme AT & T splits hurt them a lot in this case since an average or slightly above average performance in AT & T is equivalent - park adjusted - to a below average performance elsewhere.

      Delete

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