Saturday, September 27, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: Playoffs Edition

The Giants made the playoffs!  The Giants made the playoffs!  The Giants made the playoffs!

ogc thoughts

Now that's the first thing I'll tackle.  Some people view the wildcard as not being part of the playoffs.  They seem to place it into the same void as when teams play an extra series to determine who wins a division.  That I can understand, it is deciding something within the regular season, the divisional winner.

I can also understand calling it part of the playoffs too.  The season's over, and now you are playing games to decide who gets to move onto the next phase of the playoffs.

But in this case, I don't see why people can't see it as part of the playoffs:  it is part of the playoff rules now, and therefore part of the playoffs.  Only two teams in each league are playing, again part of the playoffs.  Football has done this for years, consider it a bye for the division winners, it's part of the playoffs.

Three Playoffs in Five Years, Three Eras

I just realized this huge oddity about this Giants era of playoffs:  we have had three different aces of the staff in the three playoffs.  Lincecum in 2010, Cain in 2012, and Bumgarner in 2014.

It speaks partly to the TINSTAAP aspect of pitchers, but just think of how blessed we are to have had three DIFFERENT ace level pitchers on our staff over this short time period.  I know Lincecum is not part of the rotation now, but he was for most of the season.  And of course, Cain was out for most of the season.

Teams can point to aces in a generational sense of the word, like Drysdale, Koufax, Fernando, Hershiser, Kershaw for the Dodgers, they have been very blessed.  But they rarely overlap these eras, and extremely rarely, have three of them on the staff, with each of the three taking turns as the ace of the staff in each playoff run.  Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner.

Oh, there was the Braves with Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz.  But the Giants developed all of their pitchers, and Maddux was a signed free agent, lucky for them that he wanted to pitch there (and not for us when he signed back up with Chicago).  The A's had Hudson, Mulder, Zito, as well.  Though, aside from maybe one or three good seasons up front, Zito was never much of an ace, Mulder neither, while Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner had extended and/or better periods of ace performances.  I'm sure there were others (Baltimore's four 20-game winners come to mind now), but the point is how rare it is, and even rarer that each of the aces rise to the fore, in rapid succession, replacing each other.  Who will be the next, Crick, Blackburn, Beede, another draft pick?

Playoff Roster

They are not announcing the roster until the morning of the game, plus they can make different choices in each phase of the playoffs.  However, the Giants roster has been so decimated by injuries or lack of performance that the hitters and starting pitchers are pretty much locks, with the bullpen being mostly locks.

Position Players:

  1. Blanco CF
  2. Panik 2B
  3. Posey C
  4. Sandoval 3B
  5. Pence RF
  6. Belt 1B
  7. Crawford SS
  8. Ishikawa LF
  9. Susac C
  10. Arias 3B/SS/2B/1B/LF?
  11. Perez LF/CF/RF
  12. Duffy 2B/SS/3B/LF?
Only other choices are Quiroz, Duvall, Dominguez, and Brown.   Nobody's performance screams must be on the playoff roster.  Even Perez wasn't that good, but the Giants need an actual OF to take over for Ishikawa in the Wild Card mid-way in game if leading or tied.  The Giants could have really used a better OF on the bench.  Too bad Schierholtz was not available (or if he was, that they didn't pick him up), he would have been good to have.   As much as I liked Morse's addition, I think we originally was trying to get Omar Infante but he signed with someone else.


Starting Pitchers:

  1. Bumgarner
  2. Peavy
  3. Petit
  4. Hudson (maybe Vogelsong)
The first three are obvious based on performance.  Hudson probably earned the starting job with his great last start.  Have to think Bochy will reward Huddy with a start for great season overall and great last start, plus it is not like Vogie has been on fire lately either, yesterday's start was not that great, which would be a reason for Bochy to chose him.  Both have been meh lately - or worse in Hudson's case, if he didn't have that great last start, Vogie probably would have gotten the starting job, by default.  Hence why I say maybe.  But Vogie has a lot of experience relieving while Hudson doesn't, so that probably will factor into the decision some as well.




Relievers:

  1. Casilla
  2. Romo
  3. Affeldt
  4. Lopez
  5. Machi
  6. Kontos
  7. Strickland
  8. Lincecum

Despite being on the roster all season, Gutierrez is probably not going to be on any playoff roster.  Definitely not on the roster for the Wild Card.  Both Kontos and Strickland have been too good.   And Lincecum is too much of a wild card not to include, I think.

But there is one spot left in the above roster configuration.  They could go for Duvall or Dominguez for power.  Brown hasn't been used much, so I doubt he'll make the roster, even with his two hits today.  He's probably only here to absorb the environment and give his career a kick in the butt to get him going faster, incent him.  They could add Gutierrez to reward him for the season, as well, since there is a spot.   There is also Cordier, and while good so far, extremely wild, with walks and HBP galore, so probably too wild a card to play.

Thus, for the last spot, for the Wild Card, I doubt they go for another pitcher, not with so many choices, right now I have to think the extra spot will go to a position player, and since Dominguez has been used lately but not Duvall, have to give nod to him.  Especially since he only has 1 K in 12 AB, that's great in limited opportunities, but he needs to be able to hit as well as control his bat if he wants to stay up here.

However, for the rest of the playoffs, I can see the Giants giving the spot to the starting pitcher who is not starting, whether Hudson or Vogelsong, to reward all the starting pitchers.  And again, it is not like Gutierrez has been that great, both starters have better ERA and FIP than JC, else the story would be way different.  Plus, clearly, Bochy likes to go to the bullpen early and often in the playoffs, he's the new Captain Hook, just look at what he's done in the past, going to starters, with an "All In" attitude to win it now and worry about later, later.

Evaluation

When you are missing two big cogs of the offense in Pagan and Morse, of course the team is hampered.  It would have been nice to carry an extra OF, but few good players sign to be a bench guy all season, so that has to be taken care of mid-season and Sabean was not able to do that.  A Schierholtz type, who plays great defense and can hit some, would have been ideal.  Probably should have made a deal back then, but at that point, who would have thought both Pagan and Morse would be lost to us.

Still, if Belt can get back his swing - and he appears to be doing it in recent days - having Panik, Posey, Belt, Pence, Sandoval 2 to 6 would be a good enough offense, I think, for our pitching.

But it won't be like 2010 or 2012, we will have to battle to get to the promise land.  But I don't think it's out of the question either, we have a strong enough rotation, we just need some hitters to carry us.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Your 2014 Giants Did Not Back Into the Playoffs, They Won Their Way In

I've been reading around that the Giants backed into the playoffs.  Preposterous!

ogc thoughts

The way I've always understood backing in is probably from football, where it makes much more sense, because one game usually separates playoff teams from wait 'til next year teams (of which the 49ers were too much the latter than the former, in my formative years).  In that situation, it is the last day of the season, and you need either a win for your team or a loss on the other to make the playoffs, and what happens is that your team failed to win, so they had to wait for the other team to lose, at which point, they back into the playoffs.

But that is not the case here.   Sure, the Giants technically got in because the Brewers lost.  But irrespective of them winning or losing, the Giants only needed to win one game in this four game series with the Padres in order to make the playoffs.  They did that yesterday, they won their way into the playoffs.

And this is all random circumstance.  If you can go back in time and reschedule the games around differently, with wins and losses, and dates and times, but still the same final result, there will be scenarios where the Giants "win" their way into the playoffs, not "back into" the playoffs.

Now, if it was the last day of the season, and the Brewers' loss put the Giants into the playoffs, but the Giants won later that day, that to me is still technically not "backing in", as again, the random circumstance created that situation.  But I can better understand people saying that, as there was no more games left, and it all happened on the last day of the season.

So I find it insulting that people are referring to it in this fashion and I wonder if it bothers the Giants too.  It denigrates their achievement of winning enough games in the season to make the playoffs.  Remember, there has been 159 games played already, they worked hard to get where they are today, especially getting over the disappointing June Swoon that slid into a July Roller Coaster, until they righted the ship in August, but then limped in September.  It is a marathon which they made it to the end finishing with enough to get into the playoffs, that's not backing in.

I'm OK with Limping In

Speaking of which, I am OK with characterizing this as limping into the playoffs.  That captures the entire picture, as they are only playing .500 ball right now, this month, and people forget in complaining about the team's offense that they have been missing their lead-off hitting (Pagan), #3 hitter (Belt) and #6 hitter (Morse), who was suppose to lengthen out the lineup for them, as they have all been injured.   Most teams missing half of their top hitters tend to not do so well with their offense.

And we are only getting back Belt.  Hopefully he will be enough to for the team to do something in the playoffs.  He will have to be, or maybe somebody can be the Cody Ross of this year's playoffs, and carry the team on his back.

Put on top of that the fact that Sandoval has not been a #4 hitter since his hitting streak ended at the start of August, 42 games, .261/.307/.345/.653 batting line, only 2 HR in 165 AB, only 84 ISO, until his nice game yesterday.   That really killed the offense too, Bochy probably should have swapped him and Pence in the lineup and have Hunter bat 4th while Panda bat 5th (or 6th, really, but all the injuries made that impossible).  
The Panda could have gotten teams hankering to sign him up if he finished up the year the way Hunter did last season, but he came up small until yesterday, when it was too little too late.  Had he been hitting the way he should be, we might have caught the Dodgers at some point, and maybe even still be in contention for the title, though most probably not.   If he can get hot during the playoffs, that will help teams forget, but that was a pretty lame finish to his season, when the team needed him to stand up as a $100M player, and he was no better than replacement level.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: 32nd Rotational Turn

The Giants 32nd Rotation PQS analysis.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: Sandoval Free Agency Thoughts

Some well-known media person wrote that the Giants plans were to 1) offer Pablo a QO, 2) expect for him to reject it, and 3) offer a 3 year offer to Sandoval, with 4 years a "stretch".

Someone thought that three years was a significant point.   I also see a lot of people thinking that Sandoval is going to get a big contract and use Shin-Soo Choo as a good comparison, as apparently he has been injured a lot too.

ogc thoughts

I know Shin-Soo Choo and Sandoval is no Choo

Shin-Soo Choo is a way different situation than Sandoval.  I see this comparison all the time and don't understand why.

First of all, in four of the five years leading up to free agency, Choo had at least 646 PA in the season and over 150 games 3 of 5.  So he might be injured often, but he sure seems to play through it most of the time.  Sandoval, at the moment, has zero seasons with at least 646 PA in his career and over 150 games 2 of 5.  Sandoval might reach 646 this year, but unlikely unless the offense goes crazy.

Second of all, Choo in those five seasons hit .288/.392/.459/.851 with 87 HR.  Sandoval, for comparative purposes, in his five seasons leading into free agency is hitting .285/.338/.446/.784 with 78 HR.  More importantly, Sandoval hasn't even reached .800 OPS in four of the last five seasons and, worse, not at all in the last three seasons.  Choo had been over .800 in four of the last five, and .883 and above in three of the last five.

Third of all, research by Fangraphs shows that outfielders get paid a lot more than infielders do, significantly so.  If you look at the top outfielder contracts and compare it with the top 3B contracts, like Zimmerman and Wright, you can see the dichotomy.  On top of that, both Zimmernan and Wright had great batting lines often and overall.  Sandoval only had two good seasons, last time in 2011.  Hence Sandoval asking for Pence's numbers just don't make sense given the realities of the marketplace.

Three Years is No News
  
And this 3 year offer is not really any news at all.  Observant Giants fans know that the Giants offered a 3 year, $42M contract to Sandoval in the pre-season.  This is the one his agent spat on publicly and gave the quote that they want to start the bidding at Pence's contract and hope to get to 9-figures.  So it figures that the Giants will continue to offer that amount, that is where they last left off at.

Value Is Not There

The fact is, Sandoval hasn't been a good hitter since 2011.  His ups and downs, for whatever reasons, whether injuries, family issues, or whatever, just seem to happen and that is the package any team signing him would be getting.  Teams have been stupid with their contracts, but generally they have had good reasons to be stupid.  If Sandoval had hit 900 OPS in 2014 like he did in 2011, he probably could find at least one stupid team.  But he didn't, having another middling season.

And 2011 was the last year he had at least 20 HR, a mark he has only done twice in his career.   Teams have gotten stupid signing up players who has a lot of power, and this is his first season to beat 15 homers since 2011, so no, that's not a power hitter's profile.  His 3-HR game in the World Series is looking more like Elster's 3-HR game at AT&T, an outlier, not a norm.

So there is no reason to think that he's going to get a bigger contract than what Zimmerman got with the Nats or Wright got with the Mets.  They were much better and more healthier players than Sandoval plus they hit for a lot better batting line.  The Giants offer was totally in line with what he had produced up to this season, and there is no reason for them to go much more above that.  In fact, with how poorly he has hit this season, the 3 year, $42M contract looks like it might be overpaying now.  He plays nice defense, but nothing like he did in 2011, so his value is reliant on hit hitting, which has been up and down but mostly down the past three seasons.

How I See It

If Sandoval's agent is stupid enough to continue to ask for Pence-sized contract, I think that Sandoval will end up not signing until sometime in Jan/Feb before spring training, and probably will end up signing with the Giants for the QO (even after he rejected it, the Giants don't seem to like to take advantage of players in that situation and would still leave it on the table).

Who knows, maybe he finally gets it and take the Giants 3 year offer.  As I noted in the pre-season, I can see the deal going as high as $15M per year, or $45M, or roughly 2.5 to 3.0 WAR per season production, which is about what he has done the past three seasons (roughly just under 3).  So that would make it a "win" for his agent (by getting more than originally offered) while nowhere close to what he was asking for.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Your 2014 GIants: Basic Ace

Now THAT is what an ace does: whether or not you have your best stuff that day, you duck and bob and weave and keep your team in the game, no matter what. Especially when the team gifts you with a big lead like that in the first inning. You never ever give it back.  Bumgarner did that today, he didn't strike out anyone, gave up a ton of hits, plus gave up two homers, had a DIS start, and yet still held the Tigers to only 3 runs, helping the team win the game (and stay two back of the Dodgers, who won).

It's like this children's book I used to read to my kids. It's about trains that can talk, and one train had trouble remembering the one rule all trains must follow: you never, ever, 100% never, get off the tracks (or something like that, it's been 15+ years since I last read it...).

Aces somehow wills their team to a win, no matter what. That's why I was always impressed with Dave Stewart of the A's. He often got matched up with Roger Clemens, and somehow, no matter how good Clemons was that year, Stewart came out with the win. I certainly would have voted for him for Cy Young over Clemons in many years.

Bumgarner was not an ace early on.  He was jittery his first six starts, with 3 DIS starts and only 2 DOM starts.  The team was 3-3 in those starts.  Since then:  out of 24 starts, only 2 DIS starts (and that's including today's start) and 18 DOM starts or 75% DOM (elite level) and 8% DIS (also elite).  The team has been 15-9 in those starts.

Of course, his bigger test will come up soon: facing off with one of the Dodger's aces (reportedly Mattingly has adjusted his rotation so that the Giants will face Ryu, Greinke, Kershaw, I think in that order, so then it would be Ryu).   That will set the tone for that series, if he can get us the win, then we only need to win one of the following two games to gain one game on LA in the standings.  If he loses, we would be forced to win the remaining two, including one against Kershaw.

And losing the LA series (especially at home) is not an option, we cannot lose any more games in the standings to them.  Heck, losing any LA series is not an option right now.

Madison:  do what aces do!

Go Giants!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

2014 Giants: August PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of August 2014, 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).

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: September Call-Ups Part Deux

The Giants had another round of call-ups.  Apparently Fresno still had one more game to play or something like that, so they called up first the guys who would not be needed in the minors.  Also called up:

  • Brett Bochy, RHP.  Obviously, the manager's son.  I was hoping the Giants would do that for Brett at some point, as a reward to the manager, to be able to manage his own son and so forth.  It also helps that Brett has actually done well enough in the minors to at least get a look at in the majors.  His stats include two starts where he got beat like a drum.  His ERA as a reliever was a sterling 3.38, though his 7.3 K/9 and 1.64 K/BB were not that great.  But that is related, it appears to me, to injury mid-season, pre-injury his numbers were 8.8 K/9 and 2.00 K/BB before the two starts that appears to be the trigger to injury and decline, as he went on the DL soon after those starts and he hasn't been the same since in terms of peripherals.   So I think he did earn the call-up but he hasn't been pitching well lately, so we'll see how much he'll be used.  He wasn't on the 40-man.
  • Gary Brown, CF/OF.   I was kind of hoping for this, but his numbers have been so bad and up and down that I wasn't sure what would happen.  Despite all his downs, I still think that he can add value to the team, though now it would mostly be through his defense.  And I still think that the skills he showed as a hitter before should translate at some point, but that takes experience.  Given his struggles, I see him as a future replacement for Blanco at some point, having a similar profile:  strong defense, OK at getting on base at times, OK with power sometimes, but too inconsistent to become a regular.  Not that I've given up hope that he could start someday, but right now, I'll take one step at a time, and that's getting and holding a reserve spot in order to get the opportunities to show what you got and to learn.  I assume he's going to be mostly a pinch-runner in late game situations where a steal is not necessary (he's still getting caught a lot, though the Giants appear to have let him loose late this season to see what he could do) and late inning defensive replacement, particularly in CF, though Perez has basically the same profile.   I assume Bochy will utilize one in a PH situation and then the other in a PR/Defensive situation in any game.
  • Adam Duvall, 3B/1B.  I was going to ask in my first post about call-ups why he wasn't called up but luckily let it go, as he was called up the next day.  I don't recall anything happening like this before, splitting up the call-ups like this.  He's going to be a power bat off the bench for Bochy, and get a start here and there, semi-platoon with Ishikawa perhaps, though Brown or Perez could play LF and push Morse to 1B against LHP plus Posey would get starts at 1B too.  Might also give a rest to Sandoval at 3B.  Forgot where I read it (Chronicle I think, though) but the Giants in August was the first team in a hundred years to start five players at least five games each in a month at 1B.  Yeah, obscure and meaningless achievement, but thought I would share it anyway as I like that sort of stuff.  
  • Erik Cordier, RHP.  Flamethrower like Strickland, only Hunter has shown superlative control this season and Erik has not even been close.  Still, he's on the 40-man and relievers like him are becoming de rigueur, as the Giants stockpiling of guys with high-90's profile continues with picks in the draft in recent years (Shankbone has noted this trend often on his blog;  Strickland hit 100 MPH twice in yesterday's game and was mostly at 98-99 MPH), so Bochy probably wants to kick the tires on him and see what he got.
  • Chris Heston, RHP.   Heston is put back on the 40-man after being dropped after his poor season last year.  He had a really nice season, 3.38 ERA with 2.45 K/BB, though only 6.5 K/9.  Still, he's one of those prospects who don't have the stuff to keep on getting chances and has to prove it at every level he gets to.  The road is hard for these prospects, but sometimes they make it up to the majors and get a chance, like Charlton's descendant.  I always root for these guys, as I identify with them.  He's probably not going to see a lot of action, as he's probably the long relief guy (Kickham too, but he'll probably see some 6/7 inning work as well) though I expect him to get at least one appearance as a reward for doing well enough to get promoted to the majors.  

As noted, two 40-man spots needed to be opened up, so Scutaro and Cain were moved to the 60-day DL list to clear up two spots.   The Giants have 35 players up here out of the 40-man roster, according to reports (but I only count 4 guys not up so I guess I'm missing someone or maybe we still have one spot open, just in case).

Shows how much they think of Strickland and Cordier for the team to call both of them up while also putting them in the AFL as well (though depending on how much they get used in the majors, they might send someone else instead).

I've been hoping that Brett could make the team and stay on it, but the bullpen has been so good, it's been hard for him to break in.  I've been hoping that Brown could make the team, but he just hasn't done so well, hopefully he can show off something while up here.   Good luck to all the new major leaguers!

Go Giants!

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