Saturday, May 31, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: 11th Rotational PQS

Seems like it was just the other day that I published the 10th one.  Time sure flies!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: 10th Rotational PQS

A quick look at the 10th rotational PQS.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Tale of Three Pandas and un Petit du Cain

As people know, Pablo Sandoval has had a struggle of a season, but has come back from the struggles to be on one of his hot streaks.  Here's how I analyze his season so far:  in three parts (and the last part in two segments).  Also, news on Cainer and his regular stand-in.

ogc thoughts

SuperSandoval!

As noted, Sandoval has busted things open, kind of like this:

His season has been characterized as being one of struggle and then production.  I see there being three parts.

Part one of Sandoval's adventures this season was what I would call "Gift of the Miggy."   During the off-season, he was being mentored by Miguel Cabrera, who told him if he is to be a great hitter, he needs to take more walks.  Nothing new to his ears, I'm sure, but I suppose it was the way Miggy said it.  :^)  That characterized his first part of the season, where he hit .186/.284/.322/.606 with 2 HR in 59 AB, and 8 walks vs. 12 strikeouts, which is a great walk rate, exceptional especially for Pablo, who rarely saw a pitch that he didn't want to swing at, for a very good 0.67 BB/K ratio and OK 80% contact rate, but remember, this is probably still small sampling for any stat.  Still, this walk rate has to be so many standard deviations from his regular rate that it was significantly different, and indicative of Pablo trying to take more walks.

Part two of his seasonal adventure was what I would call "Panicking Panda."  He took the advice but while he was walking more, he wasn't hitting (not really surprising, when you are up there trying to learn to do something  new, you lose all your muscle memory and are stating from scratch), so it appears that he tried to switch gears and return to his usual hacking ways, thanks for the noble try to take walks, but we need you to hit like you naturally do.  Hard to mark exactly when he reached part two, given small sample sizing issues, so I took the start of this period to be after the walk in the prior game, plus the start of consecutive games of strikeouts, basically his walks went way down and his strikeouts way up.

His swing is a way of life, very zen, and he needs to work his way back out of the jungle that is his brain pathways, much like he has always had to do every time he returned to MLB pitching from a visit to the DL, he needs to find his swing.  That generally took about 4-6 weeks.  This time he took less time and in this second part, he hit .145/.203/.218/.422 with .205 BABIP, 16 K's in only 55 AB ( 29% contact rate, really bad) plus no walks and no homers, covering 16 games and 3 weeks of time (April 17 to May 6).

Part three, his current sojourn, is what the picture above depicts, "Super Sandoval."  His bat finally started to time MLB pitching and he's squaring the ball.  He's hitting .339/.344/.613/.957 with .321 BABIP (that's actually low for him) with only 6 K's in 62 AB (roughly 90% contact rate, which is great) and 4 homers (15.5 AB/HR rate, roughly 40+ homerun seasonal rate).  Only one walk, but that's classic Panda.

And really, I am stretching his good period a bit, there is actually two parts in that.  I usually count his having a multiple extra-base hit game as the turning point for switching into Panda-mode.  That was actually May 16 (almost exactly a month from April 17).  If you look back at all his down periods, the signal that he's out of the woods is a double tap of extra-base hits.  In that transitional phase, from May 7 to May 15, he had a good contact rate (3 K's in 33 AB, 91% contact rate) but no power, hitting .333/.354/.394/.748, with 0 HR.   From May 16, which is when he got two extra-base hits, he has hit .345/.333/..862/1.195 with 4 homers in 29 AB.

For his power, during his MLB career, has come in spurts.  He didn't do much in 2008 and early (first two months) of 2009, but then he started blasting them.  In 2010, he had spurts of power (like his first month) interspersed with periods of no power, as personal turmoil (divorce, custody battle, mother's near-death situation in San Bruno) played havoc with him, as well as his weight, and he ate his way out of the World Series lineup, pushing Sabean to say it's up to him and the first "Camp Panda", where he worked to lose that weight.  That led to his great 2011, except for the first of his hamate bone breaking, then injuries like his second hamate bone breaking and hamstring issues, put him on the DL, pushing him back to start to regain first his batting stroke in the majors, then his power stroke.

He appears to have come round circle again this season with that cycle of down, recovery, and then up into the air, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's super-Sandoval!

Cain to Skip Start, Petit to Start Instead

As the news notes, Cain will skip his start - again.  This time due to his hamstring injury.  He has already missed two starts this season, for his sandwich making adventure where he survived a knife cut, and his last start was cut short by his hamstring injury, so I would say three starts missed, or at least interfered with.  And, who knows, he could miss the next one too and get DLed briefly.  But that's not the news to me.

The news is Petit will be taking his spot - again.  This will be his fourth emergency start this season, third was for Hudson's hippy hurt.  Much was made about how the Giants don't have much depth in the starting rotation, and some were not sold on Petit.  I'm not sure what they were not sold on.

Petit has been a very good starter with us.  Whatever problems he had before as a prospect and MLB pitcher, either maturity, Giants coaching, or both, has led him to finally capitalize on the skill set he possessed when he was a regular on Top prospect lists when he was coming up.   He has done very well for us in the minors, and then for us in the majors.

He has had 6 quality-level starts out of 11 starts for the Giants.  I would give him at least one or two more, for while he didn't pitch the requisite 5 IP necessary for PQS dominance, he was pretty close in terms of performance, just didn't make the required IP, which he might have made but Bochy took him out, partly because emergency starters are not usually prepared to go so many innings, so many pitches, you usually need to work up to that.  Petit appears to have a bit of a rubber arm, like Lincecum, and can just come into a game cold and start pitching well.

So depth or no depth (given how poorly our crop of minor league starters are doing this season, including our supposedly next starting pitcher in line, Escobar, we have little depth in the minors), Petit has made that "flaw" of our minor league system a non-question by taking the ball whenever needed and not only eating innings for us, but throwing good quality games as well.  The Giants the last two seasons have been 8-2 in his starts for us.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: April's At the Rate They Are Going - Addendum

I had written a blog post earlier this month with this title, and I felt the need to add an addendum.  I noticed recently that another blog basically dissed the concept of my post, perhaps an oblique slap since he and I are not on good terms, but my blog was not mentioned in the post.

ogc thoughts

The opinion was expressed that there is no value to examining the extrapolated production of players.  I would agree if that is all that was done, was to extrapolate, as he did, and marvel at a player on pace to hit, say, 80 homers or get 2 bajillion RBIs.

Plus, as I noted, it was suppose to be a fun exercise to see where players are on pace for, which brought me back to my youth, and hopefully others.  I feel sorry for those who think that they are so high and mighty now and can't remember their youth and innocence.

But that wasn't all that I did, look at the extrapolated production.  I not only extrapolated out what people's rates were, but also noted standards, like what the leader had last season, and where they would rank.  And besides homers and Machi's wins, nobody is producing at an outrageous rate, unlike other teams where their guys are clearly on a hot streak that will end at some point, at which point they will fall back to the pack.

Plus there were areas of underperformance.  That bodes well for continuing our winning ways, few are over producing as well as there are a number of those underperforming, and hopefully they balance out as the former produces less.  That's a sign that this type of winning should be continuing, as long as we have everyone (and we just lost Belt, which could have been a factor in our 4-3 homestand, and Hudson's skipped start definitely was a factor, the Giants scored 5 runs in that game, and in his eight starts this season, the most runs given up so far is 4 runs, so we should have won that game; but funny how one win changes a view entirely about a homestand, as then they would have been 5-2 instead, hence why I'm not too put out by this homestand, can't win every series, can't do great in every homestand).

Then I discussed these factoids at the end, noting:
The good news is that most of the players are not playing over their heads except for homers, where there is no way all those players are going to be at 30 or more homers.  Morse's RBI pace is the only one where he's not likely to continue at that pace.
And I did note right at the very beginning, that this is for people who are not as experienced in following a baseball season, who might not have a sense for what is too unrealistic.   And my analysis showed that most players were not off the charts in any way, though in my review again here of the article, I probably should have made more of an emphasis that performing at this rate does not mean that they will, but I thought that any reader should readily understand that.  It also provided a springboard to a discussion regarding the disappointments of the starting rotation as well as the bench.

What this post provided is a view as to whether a player is performing at a rate that does not jibe with leader standings of the 2013 season, i.e. is totally unbelievable.  Not everyone (probably few) is aware of what the leaders produced, I know I didn't until I did this exercise, as newspaper rarely list the leader list anymore since such info is readily available on-line.  And looking at the production, most people don't have a sense of what that type of production means over a full season.  5 homers seems a lot but not so much, but that translate into a 30 homer season, which is unreasonable for everyone on this team except for Morse and perhaps Sandoval (though with his slow start, not this season either).

Sure, some, like Hicks is performing way better than anyone could have hoped, but that's the beauty of baseball, sometimes a player, when given the chance, will do well enough to keep the job.  It is not like this is impossible for Hicks to do, his minor league history is full of this type of hit and miss performance, he is a three-true-outcomes type of player, and as his age approached the age of the league, he has hit better and better, and he's reaching league average (average hitters age is 28.5, pitchers is 28.8).    It is too early in the season to say definitively that he couldn't continue the pace he was producing in other areas, but to think that he can reach 30 homers, a figure only the best homerun hitters in the league has achieved in recent years, that for certain is not something to expect.

And yet, sometimes players do the usual, that's the beauty of baseball, and that is what I try to teach in my blog, rather than reach for the lowest common denominator in order to goose readership.   I try to illuminate what can be expected, good or bad, from anything related to the Giants.  Hopefully my faithful readers understand all this, but if not, let me know how I can improve.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: 9th Rotational PQS

As long time readers know, I've been studying and analyzing PQS for a long time (for new readers check out the label "PQS" or see the links I set up to the right showing the final analysis of the past three seasons).  I had the occasional thought on this but finally thought of it early enough in the season to quickly compile the data then update it every game, making the data collection less onerous.  I was wondering if anything could be seen by checking out each turn of the rotation and how the starters collectively did as a group in each turn of the rotation.  This is a first in a series I plan on doing this, though at this point, I'll probably be writing when there is something interesting to say, so right now, I don't know if I'll be writing about every turn of the rotation or just certain ones.

As for what I've been collecting, in addition to PQS organized by groups of five starts, I'm also looking at the average for the last N starts, for N=5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 (roughly a month).  I might check higher N's later, but I thought this would be a good start.

ogc thoughts

This is the 9th turn of the rotation for the team.  They are at 49% DOM and 22% DIS, both good but not great, though closing in on that (great is >50% DOM, < 20% DIS).  And remember, this is the whole rotation that is good, nearing great, not just one pitcher doing that.

The rotation had early problems in their first five turns of the rotation, with that bad first turn of the rotation and another bad one in the 4th.  Since then they have been on an upward trend, despite having Petit pitching for a starter in three starts, attaining one DOM, one DIS, and one Middle (there was never an official name given to this PQS score of 2 or 3), bringing down the average.  Still, it has slowly improved to the point where in the last two turns of the rotation, the Giants are at 60% DOM and 0% DIS, great averages, a team will win a lot of games playing at this level.

Looking at the averages for N starts, given the improvements noted above, I thought I would note some of the trends for these averages, stated in terms of the number of averages over 60% DOM and under 20% DIS, which has been the dividing lines for prior Giants rotations in terms of monthly and annual average performances.

Because of up and down DOM starts, it has varied between one and two averages (out of the 6 being captured now) but with Vogelsong's great start today, this is the second straight week of 60% DOM, pushing it to three averages at 60% and another one getting close (at 56%).  Without the Petit starts, the starting rotation has a 50% DOM overall right now.

Because of so many DIS starts early on, the averages have been running high, above 20% easily.  The 8th turn of the rotation was just the second one to feature 1 or less DIS starts in a turn, and this 9th turn is just the third.  Last week, only one of the six were under 20% but with two straight turns without a DIS start, five of the six averages are under 20% now, and the sixth (the 30-game average) is at exactly 20%.  While DOM starts are no guarantees of a win (though pretty good), DIS starts are generally pretty good guarantees of a loss (from my playoff study of PQS starts, roughly 80% for each, that is, 80% chance of win with DOM, 80% chance of a loss with DIS).

And it could get better if our top of the rotation gets themselves into a groove.  As we all know, Hudson has been the one steady starter for us (no DIS starts yet, plenty of DOM, 62.5%).  Vogelsong has gotten himself into great shape, with 4 DOM starts out of the last 5 and no DIS.  Lincecum has also been strong, with 5 DOM starts in 7 (elite 71% DOM), though with some DIS starts thrown in.

However, Bumgarner and Cain has been up and down so far this season, they would have a two game streak of DOM then non-DOMs before two more DOM then non-DOMs.  On top of that, Bumgarner has had a team high 3 DIS starts (tied with Lincecum, so some more recent vintage great Timmy, bad Timmy).   If they can get into their usual good grooves, this rotation could be unstoppable, much like the Dodgers last season in July/August, except that the Giants could be doing that all season long if everyone can stay healthy.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, things can turn on a dime sometimes with PQS, so we will see if Lincecum and Vogie can continue to do well.  On top of that, Hudson had his recent hip issues, so we will see if his old body (his words in many interview) can handle the stress still, or if he'll be up and down as well.  Plus, Cainer and Bum, this could be their new level of performance.  Cain, I thought was back at the end of last season, but he's been off so far this season.  Bumgarner, I could excuse one or two starts, because it was his first season opener and another was in Colorado, but the ace is suppose to be able to shrug those off, and he didn't.  But it could also be learning curve for him.  So we will see.

Still, things are on an uptrend, they are lookin' good.   They just now have to rinse and repeat.   Let me know if any questions pop up, I'll try to answer them.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Long-Term Tale, Not Over Yet: Say Hey, Bum

Seeing complaints about a variety of Giants players like Belt, Pence, Morse, when they, not that long before the complaints, were doing well, reminded me of how in baseball, you need to look beyond the current, look beyond the overall, look beyond the year.   And I know I've been guilty of not taking a long enough look at a situation, though at some point you have to point out the bad stuff.  I thought I would look at such a situation:   Madison Bumgarner vs. Jason Heyward.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A-Gon: A-Gone, Returned, A-Gone Again?

Seeing the Dodgers and A-Gon got me thinking about A-Gon, who had a very hot April, apparently finally recovered from his shoulder surgery in the 2010 off-season.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: Beat Dem Bums

I was curious how the Giants have fared since the Trades That Made the Dodgers Great (TM) , getting A-Gon, Hanley, and others, most of the bigger names they have kept, some gone already:
  • July 25:  Hanley Ramirez
  • July 30:  Brandon League
  • July 31:  Shane Victorino
  • Aug 3:  Joe Blanton
  • Aug 25:  A-Gon, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: Fickle FInger of Fate, Part Deux: Sans-a-Belt

You read the news today, oh boy:  Belt HBP, broken thumb, says he's out six weeks.  He'll be DLed tomorrow.  He's one of our leading hitters with .815 OPS and team lead in homers.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: April's At the Rate They Are Going

One thing I used to do for readers when I was Biased Giants Fanatic on Scout/Yahoo was publish seasonal rates for players, just to follow along with how well players are doing.  Of course, many players are doing much more and much less than they will probably do over a full season, but I always found it fun to play this mental game when I was younger - like when Matt Williams was on pace to reach Babe Ruth's 60 homers when the strike ended that season - and so this is geared more towards people who are not that experienced in following baseball (which probably eliminates most of my readers, but I'm doing this anyway :^).  I guess a little nostalgia struck me, if people like it, I'll continue it.

Monday, May 05, 2014

2014 Giants: April DRS defensive metric

I'm giving it a shot at reporting on the Giants defensive numbers on a monthly basis.  My focus will be on the stats provided on baseball-reference.com, and mainly DRS, but I'll see where my muse takes me.

ogc thoughts

The Giants in April was on FIRE!  They had a total of 15 DRS, which is roughly slightly under a 90 DRS seasonal rate, or roughly worth 9 wins.  At least, that's under an average scoring environment:  when the Giants pitchers are doing well, like in 2009-2012, the run environment in Giants games is lowered and the teams needs less runs to win games, and improved fielding adds more to winning.   Clearly, the fielding defense is much improved so far (last season, the team overall was only barely over average, or zero).

Team leaders in DRS (drs/yr for those with over 100 innings):
  • Pence:  5 (23)
  • Hicks:  4 (29)
  • Sandoval:  4 (21)
  • Casilla:  3
  • Affeldt:  2
  • Hudson:  2
  • Perez:  1
  • Posey:  1 (7)
  • Sanchez:  1
  • Vogelsong:  1
There were a few negatives, some surprising:
  • Arias:  -3 (-35)
  • Morse:  -3 (-22)
  • Petit:  -2
  • Crawford:  -1 (-6)
Basically, it is the defense of Pence, Hicks, Sandoval, and Casilla that gives us such a big bump up over last season.  Since most were not that great last season, it is fair to question whether they can continue to be so good going forward.  Some thoughts:

  • Pence was actually pretty good early in his career, but for some reason he declined and was in fact strongly negative, though not costing his team one win per season with his fielding, so not horribly bad.  The Giants, meanwhile, has been able to use their proprietary advanced fielding defensive metrics to enable water buffaloes like Burrell and Huff to record positive defensive value while with the Giants.  He's not going to continue at this pace, but there is a learning curve to RF in AT&T, I'm sure with its intricacies, and it makes sense that he should be better, given his tools, so he should be able to stay positive in a good way this season.
  • Hicks, as Shankbone astutely noted on his blog, had played mostly at SS in the minors, and thus his poor defensive rep might be driven more by lack of familiarity than any inherent lack of skill defending 2B.  Like Pence, not going to keep up this great a rate all season, but he should not  be a drag either.
  • Sandoval when he was in great shape in 2011 had a great DRS, heads and shoulders above everyone else.  Had he merely been average offensively plus that good defensively, he probably would be a gold glove all-star every year.  That is, had Project Panda continued.  Instead he regressed to be pretty bad.  So this is not a mirage nor something to rely on since his ability to stay fit is questionable until he proves otherwise.  Given the big money stakes, his brothers and agent will probably keep him in line and thus I think he will probably continue at this pace.  
  • I have no idea how a pitcher can generate so much runs saves via defense, but I don't see how that's sustainable either.  Hopefully he can bank the 3 runs and play average defense the rest of the season.  Still, a lot of pitchers are in the positive, not just Casilla.  

About the negatives:

  • I'm not surprised by Arias being there, just by how badly.  It is probably because he has played so much at SS and 2B, where he hasn't been that good defensively, he's only good, per DRS, at 3B, good enough that in his career, he was worth 1.6 wins defensively at a seasonal rate.  In fact, 2012-2013, at a 650 PA seasonal rate, he was worth 2.3 WAR, and thus he would be an OK bridge in 2015 from Sandoval to the next 3B (Posey?) should Pablo decide to leave us, though he probably should be paired with a lefty hitter (like Adrianza) to help keep his BA higher.
  • Morse is not a huge surprise given all the negative press he got when he signed.  Still, Morse is so good offensively that he is on a 6-7 WAR pace right now, even with that huge defensive drag on his WAR production.  He has basically paid off his contract with his performance so far, he could add no more WAR and still have earned his contract.  The thing that minimizes his defense is that out of 280.0 innings so far, he has only fielded 192.0, or 68.6%.   And with 10 games in AL parks, where he'll probably drag most DH assignments, he'll maybe play about 105-110 equivalent games in LF defensively.   And his hitting so far is not that surprising, he showed in 2010-2012 that he's a good hitter, plus he has a career BABIP of .330, which usually results in good BA for him given his contact rate, his main problem has been staying healthy over a whole season.  
  • For pitchers, once you make a mistake, it's going to cost you big since they don't play that many games, so hopefully Petit can be as average as he was for his career before this season.  However, he has been negative in 3 of 4 seasons where he appeared in at least 10 games, and with one more game this season, that would push him to 4 of 5 seasons.  The good news, again, is that he has been average his whole career up to this season, so I expect some regression to average (or 0) DRS.  
  • Crawford is the big surprise, given how good he is in the highlight reels, and that wonderful video of him being the Professor and doing all sorts of fielding tricks, a la Harlem Globetrotters.  Given how sensitive DRS to good and bad plays, as seen with the pitchers, I expect him to improve by season's end.  He played at roughly a 1 win rate in his first two seasons, but wasn't as good last season, but I'm excusing him thus far because of his finger injury last season.  
  • In addition, about Belt not being in the positives given his good rep for defense at 1B, his performance in 2012-2013 suggests that he's worth about 5 DRS per season, or roughly 1 per month, and given how pitchers were so positive with few innings, he just needs a couple DRS in May and he'll be right back on track.
  • Another mystery is Blanco's 0 DRS so far, given his very nice over 10 DRS seasonal rates in LF.  Again, it is similar to Belt, not enough innings under his belt yet to necessarily register any DRS.  He might not register anything in another month of play and then get a bunch, like the pitchers did.  

Thursday, May 01, 2014

2014 Giants April PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of April 2014 (I'm including the one game in March as part of April), 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).

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