Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Enough With the Duvall Talk!

I've been seeing a lot of talk about bringing up Duvall because of his hot hitting.  Here's where sabermetrics comes to the rescue, from the hype.

ogc thoughts

First off, I have to state that I have nothing against Adam Duvall.  I like him as a prospect, particularly his power, but he needs to prove that he can field a position as well as just hit in the majors.  Like any fan, I would love for a guy to come up and do what he's doing in AAA right now, hitting .431/.455/.824/1.278 with 4 homers in 51 AB (13 AB/HR) and 15 RBI in 12 games.  Sign me up!

But, unfortunately, AAA is not the majors and he's only had 51 AB.  SSS to the extreme, it is two weeks worth of games, a drop in the storm.  And remember, the vast majority of pitchers in AAA are not good enough to pitch in the majors, lacking a major out pitch, for the most part.

Nobody is mentioning his 15 K's in those 51 AB.  This is a miserable 70.6% contact rate.  Which would only get worse in the majors, where most of the major league pitchers have out pitches that enable them to stay there and not end up in AAA.

Nobody is mentioning his .545 BABIP, which nobody in MLB history has ever duplicated in a season.  Even the best hitters of our era, like Ichiro, never maintain an BABIP that high over a full season.  He did reach .399 (again, he was one of the best of this era) in 2004, and .389 another season, but his career BABIP is .343 and over his best period of years, .357, which are considered great for a hitter.  And he was one of the fastest players around, which helped him beat out grounders for infield hits.

Duvall is not much of a runner, so he's not going to get many of these.  So what are the odds of him having a .545 BABIP in the majors?  Especially in light of his sad 70.6% contact rate.  Which might be fine if he was walking a lot, but with only 3 walks in 55 PA, he isn't much of a walker either.  Which is another sign that he's not that great a hitter (because good hitters generally walk a lot, while doing other good things with his bat), and therefore unlikely to be able to maintain such a high BABIP.

Even his career numbers for BABIP are not as good as that.  Individual hitters attain their own levels of BABIP.  And remember, these were achieved in the minors, there will be a reduced ability to achieve these numbers in the majors, what sabers call Minor League Equivalencies.  Each has their own methodology, but essentially the idea is that the competition is that much tougher in the majors, and thus, say, an 1.000 OPS guy in AA, might be a .800 OPS in AAA, and a .600 OPS in majors (my own made up numbers to illustrate how the process might work)  I'm not sure what the exact translations are, but I would note that I noticed that guys who hit 1.000 OPS in AA is a sign of a guy who will get chances in the majors:  Sandoval, Bowker, Ishikawa (but against RHP), Schierholtz, Belt are ones who come immediately to mind, so you can see the checkered history of that (and again, they hit over 1.000 OPS in AA!).

Some are able to learn at each level and advance, like Duffy or Panik, but the vast majority of players who hit very well in AA do not necessary make it in the majors.  There is a severe weeding process and many a prospect (Linden, Feliz, Ishikawa, Bowker) come up from AAA after killing the ball there, and not do all that well.  Swing and miss guys like Duvall usually just end up missing even more in the majors.  If he could get his contact rate up into the 85% rate, I would have greater hope for him.

And I wish him all the best, as I do all Giants prospects.  But calling him up now is just an act of desperation, a hope to catch lightening in a bottle.  Just because Duvall has been very very lucky thus far in just a couple weeks of games does not mean that he's going to duplicate that at the major league level, particularly given his lack of overall contact, his high BABIP and low walk rate.

He will need to continue to hit like this into June before I would start to take notice and think that this might be real, it is not impossible to strike out so much and still do well in the majors, but two weeks is not enough for me to believe. If I were totally tied to statistics, the amount of time statistically necessary to verify him would be too much time to take, probably a couple of season's worth, and that's obviously too long a time.  I don't think that you can wait for confirmation in baseball or you will never make any moves at all until the guys career is over.

Stats help point out stuff, but then intuition and guts (i.e. scouting) need to be part of the overall equation.  I don't have the scouting, so two months seems fair to me, he would have earned a chance with such hot hitting over an extended period.  But everybody is different, I recognize that.  Still, two weeks is just too short, statistically just too short.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: PQS After (nearly) Three Turns of the Rotation

I was not planning on writing anything regarding PQS this early, but with the losing and the fans' angst, I thought I would look into it.  Plus, with LA coming up, thought I would combine the two.

ogc thoughts

Again, the Giants starting rotation starts out slow, as they did in 2014 as well.  This time, it's Heston being the dominant starter (last year it was Hudson), with 3 DOM starts out of three.  Unfortunately, the others only have two DOM starts among them.

But it's not like the others were all bad.  Lincecum has 1 DOM and 1 MID, for a 50% DOM/0% DIS.  Hudson had two MIDs until his start today, where he had another MID but got BABIPed badly, so he is 0% DOM/0% DIS (but would probably have gotten a DOM today had he not thrown so much because of that one inning.    Bumgarner had one of each in his three starts, for a 33% DOM/33% DIS.  

It was really two starters who really stank, Peavy and Vogelsong.  Peavy had two DIS starts after talking his way out of not being placed on the DL, until he finally admitted he wasn't doing the team any good by not DLing and getting himself 100% healthy.  I understand the value of guttiness, but now was not the time for that, even if he just signed a new contract, he should have took the DL since we had starters in reserve for this type of situation.  On top of that, Vogelsong had a really bad start in place of Peavy's first start, and really hasn't pitched well in any appearance this season, he's been worse than gasoline, more like jet fuel.  

And here are some odd similarities between 2014 and 2015, even though there are a number of new members of the rotation.  In both seasons, the ace (#1) starter was up and down to start the season.  The second starter has not been his normal self, and eventually been DLed.  The third starter have seen a nice surprise, wasn't sure what to expect, but he came out dominating.  The fourth starter has been middling.  The only difference is the fifth starter has been better than last year.  

And the losing streak had a fair bit of bad luck in there too.  We lost the two DOM starts in that eight game losing streak.  And there were three MID starts. Plus the three DIS starts, which we rightly lost.  Instead of 0-8, most of the time, probably should have been 3-5 in that streak, winning three of the five DOM or MID starts.  That would have changed our record from 4-10 to 7-7, and even just winning the two DOM starts would have meant a 6-8 record, changing gloom and doom 6 games back to 3 game back mehness.

I'm Not Worried

I don't feel good, like everyone else.  It is never good to be 6 games back.  

But I'm not worried.  We still have 148 games to play.   A LOT can still happen.  We can still win 90 games, we still can get into the playoffs.  To reach 90 wins, the Giants only need to play at a .581 win pace to reach that.   This team has done it before with the majority of these players.  

One good win streak and we are back into the playoff race.  We have seen this back and forth action in terms of the NL West standings for years now, one or two teams will get off to a great start, but then they hit their bad patch, while the others who had bad were now good, and catch up, changing up who the leaders are during the season.  The Giants can be that team.

It is not good that Pence and Cain is still not ready to resume physical activity, but, at least for Pence, it should not be much longer.  Hunter broke his arm, but none of it was displaced, it is just a matter of time before he's back in the lineup and all that would be forgotten.  

As I noted above, the pitching hasn't been all that bad, based on their sabermetric performances per PQS.  It has certainly not been good, a 36% DOM is never good, but good starts at 40% and goes from there.   And they were similarly poorly performing last season as well, that was masked by the hot offense we had at the start of last season, but then turned it on by mid-to-late April, and that carried the offense for a long while, until June.

And we have had good pitching.  Bumgarner, would be foolish to think he's going to be like this all season.  He'll snap out of it, like he did last season when he stumbled to start the season.  Hudson and Lincecum has been OK up to now, showing some flash, but more importantly, not giving in and throwing up a disaster start.  And Heston has been a god-send thus far, can't expect him to be this good all season, but based on what he's done at each level rising up the minors, he's a battler with success at every level now, so you can't bet against him either.   

And that's the formula the Giants used in 2009 to 2014 to deliver good PQS performances each season that helps drive winning streaks.  You have the ace, you have three good contributors, and then you have the 5th starter who stinks up the place.   That will kick in soon once Bumgarner finds his bliss, like he has in seasons past, and give us the ace to go with the other good performers.  

Peavy Replacement Starter and When

Bochy has not given a hint yet who will get the last rotation spot in place of Peavy, other than to say probably either Vogelsong or Petit.  Looking at the 40-man roster makes that statement look clear:  they have no 40 man starting pitcher waiting in the minors.  If they want to bring up, say, Braulino Lara, who has done very well in two AAA starts so far, or old vet Kevin Correia, who they recently picked up, they would have to drop somebody that they have held onto very strongly so far.  Cordier and Parker are probably the next guys on the list, but the Giants have steadfastly held onto them so far.  

Bochy has also said that he's not adjusting the rotation by moving Heston up a start to pitch against the LADdies.  That makes sense, as then he would be pitching the potential rubber game against our hated rivals.  That would be a lot of pressure to put on the young rookie, a lot to put on his shoulders.  It would also have the stink of desperation, which a lot of fans have been giving off, but not something that Bochy would ever do this early in the season.  So Vogie or Petit would be taking that Peavy start against LA.

Thinking it over, seems to me that there are two scenarios that could affect the decision, which I expect to be announced after the second game of the series.  While it is too early to have a must win, if the Giants are in position to win the series, I think that Bochy would start Petit.  He has pitched much better than Vogelsong so far this season, and better than him the past two seasons, when Petit is given the mantle of "starter in the rotation" and not "replacement starter".  If the series is tied 1-1, I can see Petit being given the start, to go for the win.

On the other hand, if either team has already won the series by winning the first two games, then I can see Bochy giving Vogelsong the start.   At this point, he got nothing to lose by starting Vogelsong. Perhaps Vogie has been struggling to get into his relief role.  That happens to most pitchers, it seems like, I've read that comment too often to not believe that until a pitcher accepts his relief role, he can't do well as a reliever, because part of him still thinks he is a starter.  So putting him in the rotation in place of Peavy would at least place him back in a familiar role, and hopefully relax him enough to do well again.

And that circumstance, Vogie in the starting rotation relaxing him, might just be the factor that makes him the starter no matter what.  However, that was true even before Peavy got DLed, and up to now, Bochy had been deferring to Vogie's veteranness and making him the starter while keeping Petit in his great role out of the bullpen.  But instead of going there immediately, Bochy first said that they would need to think about it, then said that it would be either Vogie or Petit.  So hence why I tried to divine what circumstances could be driving Bochy's decision making.  It will be interesting to see how and who he choses.

LA Due to Cool Off

Plus, the Bridegrooms have been riding a bunch of hot streaks.  A-Gon is not going to hit so many homers and doubles.  A-Gon and Kendrick's BABIP is going to regress to career means as well.  Pederson is striking out way too much to keep up his hitting or .474 BABIP.  And Peralta is not going to be able to keep up being a good closer, his last very good season was in 2011 and he's 39 YO, not likely to get better suddenly, he's more likely to regress to his 3.79 ERA over his past three seasons.  

This is as good a time for them to return to reality.  Streaks like this rarely last more than a couple of weeks, and they have a bunch of players just playing above their talents, and these guys have good talent, just not good enough to do something that no player in the history of the majors has ever done, having such high BABIPs.  Plus, getting to play at home for 9 of their first 12 games (and the 3 road games were in AZ, hardly much of a trip and they even got an off day before the short trip), helped them a lot, I would have to think, they got to stay home and get comfortable.   Today is their third off day already.  So a lot of things have gone their way, and good times don't last forever.

Giants Get A Rest

Plus, they'll be in SF, which gives us some home advantage as well, as bad as we've been doing.  There must be some reason why the MLB starts each team slowly in April.  As much as players complain that they don't need that much spring training or that much rest, there is always a lot more days off in April than there is in August and September.  That is why a lot of teams skipped their 5th starter in April in years past and didn't bring him in until May, all the days off enabled that.  I view them as opportunities to rest and allow the players to get back into the swing of things, as well as a day to get their mind off things.

But the Giants have just had a 14 day stretch where they started the season and didn't have a rest until today.  Many teams already had two days of rest already and I read that the Cards will have their 4th day of rest tomorrow, plus as noted, today is the Dodger's 3rd day of rest already.  The Giants, meanwhile, had three travel days with no off days plus no off days.  It is almost like the MLB did that on purpose, the Giants being on the road should have gotten more days off, while the Dodgers, being mostly at home, should have had zero days off.  

So whether it's mental or physical rest that players need this early in the season, the Giants players have gotten no rest at all, which has not helped to change their mind set once the badness started to flow.  I expect the players to get refreshed some with today's off day and be better able to battle LA the next three days.  Hopefully they can get out of whatever bad habits they have gotten into, hit the mental reset button, and come out great tomorrow.

Go Giants!  Buck the Bridegrooms!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Your 2014 Giants: Playoff PQS Analysis

I was just looking at the Giants stats when I realized that I had not done the Giants 2014 Playoffs PQS analysis.  So here it is.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Big Six Prospects

I've tried in prior years to discuss prospects, and so again I'm trying.  I honestly don't think more than 6 prospects at any time is ever going to make the majors, and Christy Mathewson was nicknamed the Big Six (after a famous fire engine company in NYC), so I've named it in his honor in my blog posts so far.

But in recent seasons, more than six were interesting, and so I would at least mention ones who looked interesting to me in some way (honorable mentions).  And I've never liked the format of combining by some combination of closeness, or potential impact, so I'm going to break them up in this post.  Also, I'll mention interesting players for both pitching and hitting.

The Hidden Game of Baseball: What Makes Teams Win

Long time readers will know that one focus of my blog has been on research of how teams win.  A long-time classic sabermetric book, The Hidden Game of Baseball, by John Thorn and Pete Palmer, had been out of publishing, like, forever, until recently having another printing with a new Foreword and Preface added, and I just got my copy the other day.  I am going to go over the chapter on what makes teams win in this post.

Monday, April 06, 2015

I Read the News Today: Lon Simmons Passed Away

And a strong part of my boyhood passed away with him.  Lon Simmons' death was reported Sunday night by the beat writers and the Giants issued a press release today.

ogc thoughts

I guess it was just meant to be.   My passion for baseball.  My dad was not into sports, he being an immigrant coming into the U.S. around the time he was in high school, though he was open to a lot of things and I would not put on him the image of the immigrant stuck in the old ways.  So I didn't get it from him.

I was introduced to baseball in fourth grade and I loved it from the first second.  Made my dad get me a baseball glove.  Made my dad return that catcher's mitt (here his old-world sensibilities came in:  it had a lot of material and thus a lot of worth).  I think he got me an outfielder's glove:  it didn't have an autograph (not that I would have recognized anyone at that point) and it's not small like the infielder's gloves I've seen since nor large like a firstbaseman's glove, but it wasn't as large as the outfielder's gloves either, it was a tweener.  It was perfect.

I've thought about why I love baseball so much.  As a skinny kid growing up (and on the taller side), basketball was the sport most people thought was for me.  But I had problems shooting the ball up close (unfortunately, pressure gets to me) and was only OK from the outside, so I focused mainly on rebounds.  Plus, the point guard generally hogged the ball most of the time (rightfully so :^).  And my physique and generally awkwardness made me a lineman in football, either rushing or defending.

But baseball, it didn't matter if I was the last player picked when choosing up teams (really, you picked THAT guy over me?), I got to bat and I got a position.  It might have been behind the pitcher, it might have been catcher, it might have been Left-Out, but I had a position.  And while some would bat me last often, they learned that I was better than that (I eventually batted leadoff for my 8-1 intramural softball team in college) and I was usually in the mix higher.

So while I didn't do much of significance in basketball or football that I can remember (getting a QB down behind the line?  I can remember passes I dropped...), I can still remember big plays in baseball.  Hitting a double down the line and driving in the winning run.  Blocking the plate to keep the runner from scoring and holding onto the ball for the out.  Doing a Willie Mays, running straight back for the ball and reaching out and grabbing it blind.  I might not have always been good in baseball (or any sports for that matter) but in baseball, I could be the hero at some point, you never know.

So, of course, I had to follow major league baseball.  Again, it was fate, meant to be.  Like any kid, I went for the team that was winning, and so I went for the Giants that season, 1971.  But after that season, growing up in the East Bay, I heard it a million times:  why aren't you an A's fan?  And I just missed their World Series run that happened then, though as a baseball fan, I enjoyed it.  So it was just meant to be.

And I wouldn't have it any other way, I feel like I earned my fan badge by cheering on my team from 1972 to 1986, and it was branded on, white hot with each near miss, 1978, 1982, 1987, 1989!, 1993!!!, 2002!!!!!!!!! Blacker and Oranger.

If I were an A's fan growing up, I'm not sure I'll be a fan today, I think I would be more jaded than I am, more willing to move on to grown up stuff.  You would think I would be a better fan, given that I loved sabermetrics forever, even before Bill James came around, I was fiddling with statistics anyway, crude stuff and yet strangely apt, I didn't have the Pythagorean formula, but I was using runs scored over runs allowed plus runs scored, so I think I have some affinity to the discipline.

But there was a time after the strike of 1994, when Matt Williams was stolen of a chance to match Babe Ruth's 60 homers, and worse, the World Series was cancelled.  I barely paid attention to the MLB back then.  If it wasn't that I was a lifelong newspaper reader and subscribing, it was Pavlovian, I would read the sports because it was there, as I still had interest in other sports, like basketball, football, golf, it was just, now, baseball was just another sport.

Maybe since it was McGwire and Sosa who brought me back, with their home run chase (I still believe Commisar Selig had the ball juiced to bring back the homers, but that's another story), one would think I would be draw to the A's story.  Maybe, maybe not.  I think I would have tired of the ownership being cheap, though.  I know I had some feelings like that when Lorie owned the club, and definitely when Magowan forced Sabean to buy a boadload of cheap players instead of allowing him to pursue Vlad, and worse, sacrifice a draft pick in order to save money to buy a player.  No owner should ever put a GM into such a position, they should just get out of baseball then.  Still, Magowan for the most part never cheaped out, and once AT&T was open, the pocketbook was open too.  So I think I was just meant to be a Giants fan.

And if you follow the Giants, you had to watch their games or at least listen to them.  Just happened that my Uncle gave me a small Japanese transistor radio, and I killed it carrying it everywhere, listening to games, no matter where I was.  It's like kids today glued to their smartphones or iPads, only I had that radio next to my ear.  And under my pillow, listening when I should have been sleeping (sorry Mom!).

And for me, listening to the Giants don't get any better than listening to Lon Simmons' rich baritone broadcasting the Giants games.  His humor, as he was very self-deprecating.  His grace.  His humility.  His distinctive voice.  He was a great story teller and yet knew when less was more.  He was a great announcer.  His voice was the voice of my childhood.

And that's another thing different between the Giants and the A's.  Simmons was the long-time voice of the Giants, then Hank Greenwald, then Jon Miller (there were a few others mixed in, but they were the main guys I remember over the years).  When I think Giants, I think KSFO and then KNBR, Channel 2 for TV games, there was stability throughout much of that period.  The A's had a new radio station every season, it seemed, nobody was willing to listen to them, and the broadcasters would change often too, and TV wasn't always assured, it seemed.

And, I'm sorry, I love Bill King, but for me, he was the voice of the Warriors (and apparently the Raiders too) and to hear him doing the A's was weird, though not as weird as Simmons doing A's broadcasts (a time we should not speak of...).  And that was after my childhood, I think, I would listen to A's game back then too (I needed my baseball fix), but don't really recall anyone distinctive enough to come to memory.

That continuity would help to sustain my interest, I believe, as my radio station locks were always set to KNBR first, then I get to the rest.  It would have faded had I been an A's fan, as I would not have been able to keep up with the radio and TV changes over the years, and would lack the identification with the team that I got with the Giants.

And Lon Simmons is a huge part of that.  His voice will forever mean that I'm a teenage boy, listening furtively to a Giants broadcast late night, hoping that his team will win (for once).  His voice will forever remind me of green grass and picnics, with the radio blaring in the background, ready to give me the latest score.  It will mean good times and bad, the next "great" player, starting with King Kong Kingman, the past losing season.  It will mean mediocre teams and yet the feeling that it might be different, next year, but generally not.

I was happy when the Giants re-hired him to be a broadcaster emeritus, who would show up sometimes to bring back good memories for fans like me.  I was especially happy because I knew that he was ripped off an some jerk investor who stole his life's savings, and needed the income.  It sounds like he has had a great retirement life in Hawaii (Maui Wowie!) for many years now, and I was happy about that.

Now he is gone:  Rest in Peace, Lon Simmons, now you get to broadcast again with Russ Hodges (who I never got to hear, so that's why it's all Lon for me) and get to tell him all about the three World Championships that the Giants have now.  And show him all your rings.

Your 2015 Giants: Opening Day Roster

The 25-man roster has been settled.  Extra Baggs.  Chron. SFGiants.com

Pitching Staff (probable rotation):  Bumgarner, Peavy, Cain, Hudson, Lincecum;  but Vogelsong probably takes over Peavy's first start and then it sounds like the Giants plan to insert (or skip) pitchers as needed this season in order to maximize who they got facing any particular opponent of interest (like the Bridegrooms), using Vogie and Petit as needed.  There will not be a 6-man rotation.  Bullpen:  Casilla as closer, Romo (who will sub as closer as needed Bochy noted), Affeldt, Lopez, Machi, and Kontos (both relievers kept).

Starting (probable) lineup:  Aoki, Panik, Pagan, Posey, Belt, McGehee, Blanco, Crawford.  Bench:  Hanchez, Arias, Duffy, Maxwell.

To make this roster work, the Giants did the following moves.  DLed Pence, Ishikawa, and Cordier.  DFAed Ehire Adrianza.  

Friday, April 03, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Extensions and/or Promotions for Sabean, Bochy, Evans, and Shelley

As reported by various media sources (CNSBA, Extra Baggs, sfgiants.com, Chronicle), Brian Sabean, Bruce Bochy, Bobby Evans, and Jeremy Shelley were either extended or promoted or both today.  I'll collate the info and add a few of my thoughts, below.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Final Roster Battles

With the news of Justin Maxwell being signed by the Giants to a $1M contract (and the DFA of Gary Brown to open up a 40-man roster spot), the Giants are left with only two more roster battles:  last bullpen spot and last MI bench spot.

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