Tuesday, April 14, 2015

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.

ogc thoughts

I enjoyed skimming the book, lots of very interesting analysis.  I recommend this book to anybody interested in sabermetrics.  However, I wonder whether these holds up today, the analysis was done before all the extended playoff series we have today.  Back then, they were still in the two division winners playing to get into the World Series.  Still, let's look at some of them, I am only going to go over the ones which could apply to the Giants, and see what we can use of it.

Winning on the Road

The first conclusion in this chapter is that it don't really matter as much what a team does at home, in relation to getting into the playoffs.  Of course, you have to win, but most playoff teams win at home.  The dividing factor is how well teams win on the road, the ones that can win there generally do well in getting into the playoffs.

I was going to cover the last seven seasons (roughly around when offense went down significantly) for the MLB, but in gathering just the NL data, I think it shows that this is still true:  between the three divisions over the past seven seasons, the division leader in road wins finished first 16 times out of 21, roughly 80% of the time.  Out of the five times the leader didn't win, all the division winners were the team with the second most wins, and three of those five times, were only second by one game, or basically a toss-up between first and second in road wins as far as I'm concerned, if the season lasted another week, they could have swapped places.  And of the two remaining division winners, one was two games back, the other six games back.  This conclusion is clearly still true.

Plus, it just makes sense.  Obviously, to win a division, you can't really be losing that much on the road.  That would just mean you have to win that much more at home.  But most good teams do well at home, so we are talking an epically good season while doing very poorly on the road, a dichotomy that don't normally happen in any sport, generally talent will prove out.

Focus on Your Core Competency

This is not what the book says, but it fits in with this key business strategy rule.  What the book says is that to win, a teams should focus on hitting or pitching, but not on a balance between the two.  Out of 166 pennant winners, 110 of them were first in either pitching or batting, and out of those 110, 55 finished 4th or worse in the other category.

Though that does mean only a third actually fit this category of focusing on a strength in one area.  But, overall, the point I'm getting is that two-thirds were first in a category, and it didn't matter what they were in the other category in 66% of the cases, as in those cases, they won the pennant.  That's no guarantee but is certainly pretty good odds.

This is the rule that I'm surprised more people don't discuss in sabermetric circles.  This is also the rule that fits the Giants under Sabean mostly to a T, with the focus first on offense during the Bonds years, then the focus on pitching and fielding afterward.  As I've been saying for years now, if sabers actually applied their findings to the Giants, they will find that the Giants actually is following many of the rules.

This also fits in with recent theories on business strategy.  Geoffrey Moore, of Crossing the Chasm fame, wrote about focusing on the core of the team, and outsource everything else, which he called "hygiene", and there were other theories that had the same concept.  I wrote about this over ten years ago about the Giants focusing on pitching, pitching, and more pitching, based on their draft patterns, which even in this John Barr era, still leans towards pitching overall, with more pitchers drafted than hitters.

Can't be Cost Efficient and Have a Great Club

Most business theories of strategy note that successful organizations tend to focus on excellence in one area of their business. Most theories revolves around being the low cost provider or on a niche specialization. In particular, Tracy and Wiersma noted three generic competitive strategies:  operational excellence (cost leadership), customer intimacy (focusing on individual customer needs), and product leadership (bringing superior products to market).

In baseball, I think the three narrows down to two, due to sports' unique business.  All three relates strongly to winning, particularly customer intimacy, as every fan wants to win.  So it narrows down to winning with operational excellence (being cost efficient) or winning with product leadership.  As this study concluded, product leadership led to pennant winners 66% of the time.

And that is where a lot of sabers go wrong.  Strategically, a business cannot achieve excellence in multiple areas, you need to focus your operations on the core competencies that you want to focus on.  Do you want to win by being the most cost efficient (i.e. every deal you do aligns with $/WAR standards for that season) or by designing a team great in a key area, either offense (hitting) or defense (pitching and fielding).  Because, in a resource constrained economic system, you can't be excellent in all areas, you need to focus or your operations will not achieve excellence in any area.

The Giants get a lot of complaints from people about how they spend their money, but that is what they are not realizing, the Giants are going for product leadership, not cost efficiency.   Sure, they probably could save a few bucks by not signing all their Core Four relievers at big marketplace salaries and going with some of the young pitchers, or guys they pick up off the waiver wire.  But if they fail to find an adequate replacement, then they will lose that season without an effective bullpen.  Hence why they sign those relievers, they could be cost-efficient about it, but that introduces a level of risk into the baseball operations, whereas they know that these pitchers are good and can deliver good performances.

And we have two great examples of the two areas of specialization here in the SF Bay Area.  The A's have to be cost efficient because their revenue stream is lacking, and they are famous for picking up hitters who deliver.  The Giants have chosen to be good in pitching.  And both teams have generally been winners under Beane and Sabean.

Pitching Better Than Hitting for Championships

So which way is better?  Or are they the same?  As I've discussed on this blog (and highlight in my business plan), two different studies (BP and FG) using different methodologies studied how teams go deep into the playoffs and win championships.  Both found that defense is what allows teams to go deep into the playoffs and win championships.  Both found that hitting was not a significant factor in leading teams to win.

As discussed in the strategic terms above, what this means is that ideally, teams should focus on defense (pitching and fielding) as a core competency while treating hitting as a hygiene business process.  In resource constrained scenarios, you need to focus your precious resources on developing a differentiating competitive advantage.  Thorn and Palmer found that focusing on hitting or pitching is the way most teams have won pennants in the past, not by trying to find a balance.

And that just makes sense:  to win, you need to be good at something, balancing things out just makes you mediocre.  As the studies show, you not only can get into the playoffs with pitching, but also go deep into the playoffs by focusing on pitching.  And as my study of PQS shows, it is pitching that has the most control over the outcomes of games, because the more pitchers you have who can throw PQS DOM starts, the more DOM starts you can expect during the playoffs, and the more likely you are to win those games.

And as my business plan noted about pitching, there are numerous benefits to focusing on pitching.  Most of all, there is huge flexibility with pitching, where the cream rises to the top.  If you have a great pitcher but then develop a greater pitcher, you just improved your rotation.  If you have a great firstbaseman, but find another firstbaseman, eventually you have to trade one, as the Giants did with Orlando Cepeda, keeping McCovey, and the Rangers did with Hafner and A-Gon, keeping Teixeira.   So if you find a good pitcher, he can fill one of 12 different roster spots, a good hitter at best can fill maybe 2 or 3.  And once you can fill up a rotation, then spill over into the bullpen, with whatever quality of pitching you got.

This flexibility allows a team to more rapidly refill their roster with homegrown players.  And homegrown players are cheaper, which helps you keep the star pitchers on the team.  

In addition, focusing on defense as your core competency results in the ability to win 90 games without having a good offense.  In fact, you can have an offense that is much below average.  And that means that you don't have to invest as much in good hitters once you get a core (like Posey, Pence, Belt).  And, again, you can fill in with cheaper players in the lineup, since you are not aiming for even an average offense.

And so it has been that the Giants have been following another of the findings of sabermetrics and being a good example of it, and yet is greatly denigrated by most sabers.  They have focused on great pitching, good fielding, and good enough offense (but with a core set of players like Posey, Pence, Belt, Crawford, and it is looking like Panik and Duffy might join the group).  But sabers treat them as if they are idiots, still!

However, Sabean has the best revenge, for as Affeldt noted in his funny commercial for this season, he's like any other person, he puts his rings on, one finger at a time.


  1. I'm not quite sure I follow you - since the Giants chose to spend a lot on Peavy when there were other big name starters available.
    Equally, the large deal match offered for Sandoval vs. what was eventually settled on with McGehee doesn't seem to fit the narrative either of the Giants going for a strong pitching team.
    Not that I'm saying the Giants should have gone whole hog for either Sandoval, Lester, or even Fister.

    1. That's life in a nutshell: things don't always go the way you want them to.

      Let's take your comments one by one.

      First, Peavy. The Giants settled on Peavy. They first tried to sign Lester for 5-6 years at $25M or so per season (don't recall exact details, having a hard time remembering things today...), then offered Shields 4 years at $80M (but Borass being Borass, made Shields push the decision into the new year, and so he settled for 4 years at $76M with his apparently hometown Padres), before settling for Peavy at $13M per for 2 years.

      Then you mention Sandoval. The other side of pitching is defense, and as bad as a hitter that Sandoval has become over the years, he's been very good defensively.

      But I guess you are relatively new to my blog, since you are confused on where I stand regarding defense, both pitching and fielding. I focused on pitching in his post because that was the topic discussed in the book I read. But if you look into my business plan (just search the page for that term, the link is down below in a panel), you will find that it is pitching and fielding that a team needs to focus on to be successful (more times than not) in the playoffs.

      McGehee was a stop gap measure most probably because most other teams knew that the Giants were in great need of a 3B and were asking for Crick, Beede, Susac, Panik, Duffy, and other good prospects, for their crappy 3B. He's OK defensively and offensively (his OPS was basically the same as Sandoval's last season), and while they gave up two nice prospects, they weren't any of our top ones, plus, clearly they have great beliefs in and hopes for Duffy, which was rewarded by his great spring training and good hitting so far.

      Let's put it this way, if Duffy keeps on hitting well while McGehee still sputters, both offensively and defensively, I can see the two of them switching roles, with McGehee becoming the MI utility player, playing 2B and 3B (and Duffy taking SS and McGehee 3B when Crawford gets a rest).

      This fits into the pattern I have noted over the years about how Sabean likes to keep a spot in the lineup semi-open for a prospect to jump up and force the issue. This season, I see McGehee at 3B as a placeholder unless Duffy, Adrianza, or Duvall forces the Giants to start them instead, and Aoki at LF as placeholder unless forced out by Mac Williamson, Brown (during spring, but obviously not going to happen now), Jarrett Parker, and really, he was more a backup or replacement for Pagan at leadoff, and so far he has been great.

      In any case, if you have a strong pitching team, you need to have a good fielding team as well. And to your point, both McGehee and Aoki are not that great defensively at their positions. But as Bochy has done in the past with poor fielders (Burrell in LF, Sandoval when fat at 3B), he replaced them with a good fielder (Torres for Burrell, Arias for Sandoval) late in the game.

      It gets back to my first statement, life don't always work out the way you want it. That's something a lot of Giants fans don't seem to understand, I've seen this a lot over the past 10 years, all the complaining about Sabean's moves. A lot of them were because he had no better alternatives and sometimes in life you roll the dice and see what happens.

      Some blame him for not having alternatives, but if you look at any team out there, nobody has a budget high enough that every contingency is covered, not even the Yankees. I see some harp on the Giants big budget but lack of depth in the face of the avalanche of injuries this spring, but money only covers so much, and at some point, you just have grin and bear it, and do the best you can do, and hopefully survive.

    2. And given we are barely out of two weeks of the long season, there is really nothing to be that worried about given all the injuries causing the problems. I'd be more worried if, when Pence returns and start hitting, the team collapses after that. Teams have recovered from being this far behind before, particularly teams with talent like the Giants have. We basically have the same team that went through the playoffs relatively easily, except improved with Aoki over Ishikawa and, when combined together, Aoki/McGehee/Panik is an improvement over Morse/Sandoval/2B last season.

      Lastly, you focused mainly on Peavy as a representation of the Giants strategy of focusing on pitching and fielding defense. But he's only one part of the equation.

      The rotation still had Bumgarner, Hudson, Cain, and a potentially improving Lincecum, the news of him working with his dad came out right after the World Series (SI interview), and the Giants had great pitching in 2009-2013 even though there was always one OK average-ish starter (usually Zito) and one bad 5th starter (Randy Johnson, Wellemeyer, Zito, Lincecum).

      Among Bumgarner, Cain, Hudson, Peavy, and Lincecum, seems like it should be easy to get 3 good performances plus one average plus one bad (and hopefully two average at minimum with no bad, if Lincecum can get rid of his "lost" periods, he had a 3.18 ERA over 18 starts in 2014, but once he lost his mechanics, he was done for the season; hopefully his dad's work will help him be more consistently good).

      Lester and Shields would have been good additions, to be sure, making it more likely to happen, that is, having a good rotation, but it was gilding the lilly to have them, as Peavy, I felt, was an adequate addition to the rotation to help us get through the season. So you focused too much on the one, than looking at the whole, to my thinking.

    3. I've read your blog for a while - you're consistently very optimistic. Nothing wrong with that, but not everyone shares your view.
      As for Peavy: he isn't a low-cost, low-risk signing like Vogelsong at $12M/year. Sure, he's cheaper than Shields, but he also had a far worse track record, is older, and is probably not as good a pitcher. The question is: if the Giants were willing to go after Lester, why weren't they willing to go after Shields? It isn't like Shields was holding out for 10 years like some of the other big name offseason signings.
      Equally, McGehee. We've talked about him before: he's a worse defense, worse offense, older, but much cheaper Pablo. Definitely a low-risk, low-cost signing except that the Giants very much need offense of some sort - and the Giants' poor start to the year is precisely due to poor offense.
      Sure, Pence's injury is a factor. But the Giants have the (tied for) 4th fewest runs scored in the NL thus far and played more games than any of the other 3 teams. They've played teams which have poor pitching to boot. As noted in another comment, Posey+Belt+McGehee+Crawford are hitting collectively under 0.200 - and the team overall isn't doing much better. Only 2 spots in the lineup are hitting well - what happens when the Giants play the Nationals or Dodgers, teams which *do* have strong pitching?
      In any case, I certainly share the hope that Matt Cain will return and pitch well. Equally that Peavy and/or Vogelsong can pull it together.
      Nonetheless, the Giants right now have the 4th worst offense and the 4th worst pitching - which puts them exactly where they are at: the 3rd worst record in the NL - and this despite having Lincecum pitch well in his 2 starts to date and a big positive surprise with both Aoki and Heston.

    4. That's fair enough, I know not everyone shares my view, but you were the one asking ME on MY blog about the narrative of a strong pitching team and so I pointed out that I have a narrative of a strong defensive team tied with a strong pitching staff, which long time readers should at least understand, if not believe in.

      I've been very positive about the Giants' future since 2007 and been saying that the Giants will be the Team of the 2010 Decade since 2009 or so, so I see no problem with being consistently very optimistic. I was very consistently very pessimistic about the Giants future from the early 1970s until Will Clark exploded onto our scene in 1987, as well. I will go where the data tells me.

      For example, I was getting pretty negative about Sabean about a dozen years ago, particularly about the farm system and the draft, and was writing about that. Then I decided to study the draft and found out that it wasn't anything in particular that he was doing wrong, it was just hard as hell to find good players when you are winning and either picking in the 20's in the first round or punting picks. After that, it was an evolution of my feelings regarding him.

      I didn't say anything here about Peavy being a low-cost signing. And any pitcher is not low risk, unless he's really cheap.

      I will say here, since we are talking about it, that he's relatively low-cost and relative low risk. He's being paid roughly to be an average pitcher. Per BB-reference, over his last 5 seasons, he has an ERA+ of 103 overall. If you look only at the last three seasons, 109 overall. Both about average. Which is what the Giants are paying him for. So I'm not sure what your problem with him is. He's a nice pitcher who unfortunately is crappy in the playoffs. I was anticipating that Bumgarner, Hudson, Cain, Lincecum will be good in the playoffs, and now with Heston doing well, sub him in for Cain until and if Cain returns. I can be happy with that rotation in the playoffs, it is not world beating but I think it can be good enough, like it was last season.

    5. Oh, and I appreciate your comments. I know I can be very wrong sometimes.

      They were willing to go after Shields. They offered him MORE than what he eventually got. Shields (and Borass) decided that he could get more than that by waiting. They bet and was wrong, it cost them $5M.

      I think the Giants had an idea of how much he was worth and if he wasn't willing to sign for what he was worth, of course, the Giants had to give up and move on, it would be worse to then bid more, just to "win" him. And basically the Giants did bid to win, going beyond what any other team was willing to offer, and still Shields (and Borass) didn't bite.

      And frankly, I'm OK with that. You say Peavy is older like he's way older. He's 34 this season, Shields is 33 (yeah, I was shocked by that). So while we owe him for years 34 and 35, the Padres owe Big Time James for years 33, 34, 35, 36, and 37. Pitchers' reliability (health and performance) takes a dip starting at age 33, and declines from there, historically, per research from Baseball Forecaster. And at age 33, he would have gotten laughed at if he asked for a 10 year contract.

      On top of that, Shields can opt out after two seasons. So if he's good, he can take off after two. But if he's bad, you are stuck with him for another three seasons. I don't like contracts like that, players are already favored in these huge contracts, getting paid for non or lousy performances, so an option like that just makes his deal seem like a loser for me, one that only a desperate club would make, not a good one.

      Lastly, Big Time James hasn't been all that great in the playoffs, he has been up and down or middle. If I'm paying all that money, I would want more of a stud in the playoffs. But that's my personal opinion.

    6. About McGehee, just to clarify, he was acquired not signed.

      Sandoval hit .279/.324/.415/.739 (4% better OPS)
      McGehee hit .287/.355/.357/.712

      So basically same offense, just slightly worse overall.

      Since 2010, McGehee has basically been average defensively, just slight below in WAR value, but average is 0.0. Sandoval's average since 2009 is 0.1. I think people remembers how good Sandoval is when he's in shape (or really good shape). Did he look on good shape in that spring training photo? So while I would agree that Sandoval is the better defender and was slightly better last season, is that worth an extra $14M per year?

      The problem, to me, is that people focus too much on one player, when it is a team thing. The Giants replaced Sandoval, Morse, and 2B (various) with McGehee, Aoki, and Panik. If you look at what those three positions hit in 2014 during the Giants 43-21 run, basically McGehee, Aoki, and Panik are projected to hit basically the same, overall. So I disagree, replacing Sandoval with McGehee is not the problem with the offense.

      It is as you commented on my other post, the offense sucks because guys like Posey, Belt, as well as McGehee, are not hitting as well as expected, plus Pence is out. McGehee could be hitting as well as Mike Trout right now, but with Posey and Belt mired in slumps, we still wouldn't be winning many games. Getting McGehee is not the problem with the offense right now, our middle of lineup hitters not delivering (or out in Pence's case) is the main problem. You can't lose your three middle of lineup hitters production and expect to score runs or to win.

    7. Regarding Shields: yes, there's only 1 year difference, but there's a big difference between 33 and 34 vs. say, 22 and 23. Agree that Shields is a very big risk longer term - however, he is a much stronger pitcher who might benefit from Giants coaching and pitch framing. Again, not saying that Shields is a fix-all, just noting that it seems strange to go after Lester but not Shields. Lester is only 31, but also cost a heck of a lot more.
      As for McGehee - his numbers are inflated because of his career year. Pablo, I would expect to maintain his offensive numbers for a while but McGehee is very much more of a risk. I also don't think they're actually comparable defenders from watching both in the field. Pablo's range is somewhat limited, but within it he's really strong and has a great arm. There is a very clear bias within the defensive metrics for defenders who put a glove on otherwise very borderline defensible balls vs. defenders who just don't get close - the former get penalized for a failed attempt while the latter get a pass (a hit).
      In any case, Bochy has done the right thing and moved McGehee down - and the rally killing has largely stopped.
      I'd also note that Crawford has already shown tendencies to streak - so his early performance isn't anything to worry about. Posey also - with weak hitting both before and after him in the early going, definitely does tend to try to do too much.
      In any case, while the Giants did sweep the Dodgers (yay!), it was hardly a dominant performance. The Giants did manage to score more than the previous 7 games, it seemed like.
      Hopefully this was more due to the offense surging rather than a dead cat bounce.

    8. I noted this above: the Giants did go after Shields and they did offer him the most money, ultimately. Shields chose to follow Borasss advice to wait until near spring training to select the winning bidder.

      And that is not how Sabean plays the game. If you want to be with the Giants, join them now, while the offer is on the table. Don't wait until spring training, like Boras has his clients do, to try to leverage the team into a higher offer.

      In addition, Sabean prefers the bird in the hand vs. the two in the bush. Let's say he pursues Shield, waiting on Peavy. Peavy signs elsewhere because there's other teams wanting him and he don't want to wait until there's no open rotations. In February, Shields decides he would rather play for SD even though they offered him $5M less than the Giants. Now the Giant are forced to go with Tier 3 starters, as that is all that is left to sign at that point. That's why Sabean would rather have something in hand in December, than wait to Jan/Feb and pick from the bottom of the barrel, potentially.

      He could have waited and see what happens. Maybe Heston works out. He did, but this was not knowable in the off-season. Same with Vogie, he has had issues, hence why no other team made him an offer to start for the money the Giants paid him. Petit would work in the rotation, but the Giants clearly love having him in the role he is filling plus who would replace him easily.

    9. Yes, there can be a huge difference between 33 and 34. There is also a huge difference in performances between different pitchers. Damn, I just explained this somewhere else. Ah, here it is:

      Peavy had a 1.17 WHIP the past three seasons, whereas Harang has roughly been around 1.37 WHIP. Peavy's ERA was 3.70 with an ERA+ of 109, which is pretty good, while Harang had a 4.08 ERA with an ERA+ of 91, which is pretty bad.

      Peavy has been bad in the playoffs, but Harang has never seen the playoffs, so we don't know how he would do there, relative to Peavy, other than that Peavy has been a much better pitcher than Harang over his career and, at minimum, been much better than him over the past three seasons. Peavy is also only 34 YO this season, while Harang is 37. I don't see why Harang is considered better to acquire than Peavy. He was signed to a one year, $5M contract, so for Harang, you get what you pay for.

      And I don't see why Peavy could not have gotten a two year contract. He's only 34 YO. Yes, injury history, but missed only 9 starts over possible 96 starts the past three seasons. And I noted his good performance over the past three years.

      Let's compare to other similar free agents this off-season. Jason Hammel, who has a similar injury history (actually worse over past three years, only 72 starts vs. 87 starts for Peavy), similar age (he's 32 YO), and worse performance (3.94 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 102 ERA+), got 2 years and $20M vs. 2 years, $24M for Peavy, an extra $2M per year seems little to pay for a pitcher at 109 ERA+ vs. one with 102 ERA+. And Brandon McCarthy, 31 YO, got 4 years and $48M, but last three years, only 72 starts, 4.00 ERA, 96 ERA+ and 1.29 WHIP. Lastly, Ervin Santana, healthy with 93 starts, age 32, got 4 years at $55M ($14M per), but 4.06 ERA the past three seasons, 95 ERA+, 1.24 WHIP. Oh, also Edinson Volquez, age 31, 95 starts so healthy, but 4.24 ERA, 84 ERA+, 1.42 WHIP, and he got 2 years and $20M.

      Peavy seems like a bargain compared to some of these guys. Particularly given that he out performed them pretty handily, with his 109 ERA+. He might not perform in the playoffs, but if Bumgarner, Hudson, and Lincecum are pitching well, then perhaps Peavy could get Zitoed off the post season roster, with maybe Heston (or if Beede or another starter can jump up in performance) can take the mound. And at worse, Bochy understands the playoffs, and even if he started Peavy, would bring in Petit or Heston or Affeldt early before the score gets out of hand.


      So yeah, 33 is different from 34, but Peavy has performed much better than the younger players who also got similar contracts this off-season. Age is one factor, not THE factor, in what to expect from his performance.

      On top of that Shields has performed better than Peavy. But that is why he got the contract he got vs. the one that Peavy got, both in length and amount.

      OK, how did we get here? OK, you actually make my case for me. I was trying to make the point that there is not much difference between 33 and 34, but you insist that there is.

      Let's go with that. So you are willing to sign Shields to a 5 year, at least $85M (Giants top offer was $80M and you seem willing to go higher, and teams/players seem to like numbers divisible by 5). In year one, he's 33 and all is fine, he performs well. Now in year two, per your comment, that's a "big difference" as he's now 34 and you are on the hook for another, say, $65-75M to him over the next four years. How can you justify that?

    10. I agree with you that McGehee is not as good defensively as Sandoval. But that is why he's being paid $6M or so while Pablo is getting a lot more.

      OK, have to get my bearings back to the original issue. You asked how this fits in with a pitching narrative. I answered that with my first sentence of my comments: life don't work the way you want it sometimes. A strong pitching (and really, it is actually part of a strong defense narrative, unpinned by strong pitching and good fielding, as I demonstrated in my business plan) narrative does not mean that every single move you make toes the line or is even close to the line.

      Life is a bitch sometimes, as the saying goes.

      And in a resource limited business (and really, any business you are in has limitations, you need to make choices for the future), you will sometimes have to sacrifice an area to beef up another area.

      In 3B case, it looks pretty clear that Sandoval wasn't coming back and that the Giants knew that. There was too many rumors of Sandoval's unhappiness, and heck, his agent's very public "waa-waa" moment last spring sent a pretty good shot across the bow that all was not happy in the Sandoval Camp.

      So the choices for the Giants, really, was to shell out big money for another 3B, like Headley, trade for another starting 3B, go with a rookie like Duffy, or trade for a transitional player which buys time for the Giants to further evaluate and develop the rookie.

      I'm glad they didn't sign any big free agent. I like that they have mostly saved their payroll to pay our stars who have performed so well for us in the past five seasons.

      I'm glad they didn't make any big trade. We don't have a deep farm system in the first place, and a big trade for a 3B would not only cost a lot of prospects, but it would probably bring a big price tag too (see above). Plus, I like the top prospects that we have, and we would probably have to clear a good number of them to get a good 3B.

      I'm also glad they didn't just hand the job to Duffy. Was 2014 an illusion, a good BABIP year only to regress the next? And just because he looks good in 2014, it does not necessarily mean he will look good in 2015, he don't have the pedigree coming out of college, all that he has been doing is unlike what he did in college. And some young guys let the championship go to their head and they come into spring unprepared or unfit or both, like Kontos and Hanchez in 2013. Sabean, as I've been writing about for a number of years, like to mitigate risks, but if any of these things go wrong with Duffy, it could be like 2008, when they were ready to start Frandsen, and then they were forced to find whatever they could get, and grin and bear it.

      Instead, they got a transitional player like McGehee, who if he delivers, is a good enough replacement for Sandoval, not because he replaces everything that Sandoval does, but he actually hit almost as well in 2014, is OK defensively at 3B (sure, Sandoval is better defensively, but that is caveated by the fact that he is only better if he feels like coming into spring in shape or not; and you saw his picture, I'm sure).

    11. I'm not sure what you mean by a career year. 2014 was at best, an average career year for McGehee. I never mentioned his actual career year, in 2009 or 2010, however you want to define career year, in terms of how well he will perform, other than his BABIP, which is a much different thing than his batting line. His story is that he went away from his batting mechanics that got him to the majors, but went back to them in Japan. His BABIP in 2014 conforms with that story line, in terms of BABIP.

      I have outlined before the reasons I think he can repeat 2014 for us. He is not replacing Sandoval's output overall. However, offensively, he with Aoki and Panik will collectively replace the batting line of Morse, Sandoval, and 2B. In addition, it is Belt who is replacing Sandoval in the lineup (vs. last year's much better lineup so far, which was missing Belt much of the season, basically since he was DLed the first time).

      McGehee's defense might be worse, but given Sandoval's habit of not being fit, the risk of a bad defense counters his good defense chances, and over his career, he's barely above average, which is what we get from McGehee.

      So, from a statistical/economic viewpoint, sure, you might get more from a Sandoval, but the expected value is not much greater than McGehee's output, plus we are paying McGehee much less and for only one more year, while we hopefully get Duffy ready to become our starting 3B, hopefully sooner than later, and right now, looking like sooner.

      At worse, McGehee fails, but a #7 hitter (and that's all he'll really be once Pence returns, it was pretty clear the lineup was going to be Aoki, Panik, Pagan, Posey, Belt, Pence (swap with handedness of SP), then McGehee. That's the only reason he has mostly batted 6th so far, and sometimes 5th. Bochy was forced to do that.

    12. About Crawford, you are arguing with yourself here. I didn't discuss him much at all. You first complained about how Crawford et al wasn't hitting that well, then you reassured me that Crawford is a streaky hitter and that you are not worried. Once you come to a decision on what you really think about Crawford, then I can give you a better answer.

      I know about Crawford's streakiness. I've covered it in previous seasons. Part of it is injuries, some known, and I have a feeling, some unknown. For whatever reasons, he has played in spite of them, which is what I have blamed for his streakiness last two seasons.

      I feel like he's ready to break through, much like Belt. Both showed signs of it, then Belt got HBP and Crawford, I think, hid some nagging injury around that time as well. Both have shown good command of the strikezone, but then would lose it for whatever reasons. Both actually have hit high velocity pitches, they were on the list of hitters with the most homers off 95+ MPH pitches. So the Giants are built to attack the elite relievers in the league whose best skill is velocity.

      It's amazing to me how well hitters seem to hit when Bochy sits them on the bench one start, since Crawford's sit down, whatever pearls they told him or however much he needed to clear his mind, he has hit .333/.462/.762/1.223, with 2 HR in 21 AB, and 5 walks to 6 K's. That led to 8 runs in 7 games, nice to get out of your #8 hitter. With Duffy around, hopefully the Giants will feel OK to DL Crawford should he need the rest or rehab from a nagging issues.

      And that's another reason I like getting McGehee, it allows Duffy to have an impact at SS, 3B, and 2B, as a super utility guy. The Giants have been working, it seems, on this type of role, first with Blanco covering all three OF positions, then Timmy as the experiment in 2012 playoffs, then Petit in 2013, taking on many roles in the pitching staff. And now Duffy, a la Zobrist.

    13. Yes, Yay, swept the Bridegrooms.

      When I said dominant performance, I was referring to the starting pitching. Again, PQS is the methodology I use here and "dominance" in my blog refers to a SP dominating the other team with a 4 or 5 PQS start, which you can only attain if you can strike out enough batters to qualify. When pitchers can regularly dominate like this, you can win a lot of games even though your offense sucks, like it has for the Giants recently.

      Last season was a down season, but in seasons' past, the Giants had their rotation above 60% DOM for the season, something that is a good accomplishment if you are a pitcher, phenomenal for a while rotation to do. They look capable of doing that again in 2015, after a pause in 2014.

    14. Is it strikeout or outs, or runs or something else which determines a PQS? The Dodgers struck out 23 times in 3 games vs. the Giants - that's completely average for them.
      As for McGehee: again, you keep going back to the defensive ratings but failed to address my specific point: Pablo's weight affects his range, but it doesn't affect his ability to put a glove on anything within his range. McGehee has a similarly poor range, but has a visibly poorer ability to put glove on ball. I don't consider them to be similar defenders at all - Pablo would certainly be better if he didn't have to shift an extra 20% or 30% body weight because he'd have greater range, but he's still far superior within that range. It is like the difference between Crawford and Andrelton Simmons: both have similar range, but Simmons is better getting glove on ball than Crawford. As for batting - I also wonder about how comparable they really are. Pablo's gift and curse is his free swinging ways - but the gift part is that a pitcher really literally never knows what will work against him on any given day. You can pitch Pablo to swing outside of the strike zone, but he can and does hit some of those for doubles.
      McGehee, on the other hand, has been depressingly consistent in pounding ground balls to the same area hence the many double plays. He's now got 6 DPs vs. 2 extra base hits.
      Lastly, Crawford's batting. I don't have a problem with Crawford occasionally having bad streaks - he's there for defense. However, the consequence of having few top notch hitters - either power or average (or ideally both) is that the streaks of the poorer hitters make it that much harder to score runs.

    15. Sandoval was somewhat better at defense though he did have a worse DRS than McGehee over the past few years. But the defensive difference is not as large as people would like to make it out.

      And, so far this year, both players have a dWAR of 0.2. So it's been a defensive push. And that was with McGehee hurt and hobbled while Sandoval no longer seems to have any incentive to keep the fat off and play to his HOF-level talent.

      As for McGehee's double-plays... When you look at the numbers, you've got to realize it's a mere statistical compression.

    16. PQS results from 5 parameters, which were based on sabermetric principles. +1 for each achievement.

      +1 for IP >= 6.0 IP (able to last deeper into the game)
      +1 for IP >= hits (able to prevent hits)
      +1 for IP <= K-2 (able to dominate with K's; roughly >= 6 K/9)
      +1 for K >= BB*2 (able to command pitches)
      +1 for HR <= 1 (able to avoid homers)

      Get all five, you have a 5 PQS dominant start. 4 PQS is also considered dominant. A disaster start is a 0 or 1 PQS. And I've been calling 2 or 3 PQS "Mid" because the creator of the methodology never gave them a label.

      Yeah, a strikeout team will help boost a pitcher, but it is not like the strikeout offense will always strike out a lot either, the pitcher has to have that skill.

      And it is something you need to see as a whole, of course, all this is small samples. But this is the terminology I use, based on this methodology.

    17. I don't have your ability to look at players and judge how one is better than the other in terms of range and other factors.

      However, I do have access to all the latest defensive measurements and Pablo and McGehee are rated virtually the same over a period of years.

      If you are saying you can see things that the measurements can't, that's cool, I don't believe any of them are be-alls or end-alls yet (or really close, else they would be closer to each other; maybe with FieldF/X). But that's my POV.

      I agree that McGehee hasn't shown anything thus far this season. I will agree that he's been struggling. But he hasn't been himself either, striking out more than usual. If you have no problem throwing away years of data regarding his ability to hit in the majors, that's your prerogative, but I chose to incorporate his past with his present.

      And presently, he's not demonstrating a good command of the zone right now. He did it as recently as this spring, with only 7 strikeouts in 58 AB. So I'm trusting the numbers, and willing to give him more rope to show what he can do.

      For example, that's part of the reason I didn't give up on Sandoval last season. He was terrible for the first 5-6 weeks of the season, but I believed in his numbers and he bounced back nicely to be one of our offensive leaders on the team.

      I'm not trying to say that McGehee is replacing all that Sandoval provided, just to be clear. I've been trying to say that he's close enough that he's a good pickup.

      Sure, Sandoval does try some pitchers crazy. We'll get some of that back when Pence returns. McGehee has the ability to drive pitchers crazy by not swinging at balls while making good enough contact when swinging at strikes that the pitcher will pay for it. He isn't great, but he's good enough, once everyone is healthy and back into playing shape, a lineup of Aoki, Panik, Pagan, Posey, Pence, Belt, McGehee, Crawford will be pretty good. McGehee is a good #7 hitter, not as good when Bochy is forced to use him #6, or worse, as #5. Maxwell hitting well has helped by pushing McGehee downward in the lineup.

      But everyone has their issues offensively. His apparently is his DP proneness. Pablo's is that when he don't care or care too much, he's not much of a hitter. Particularly when he don't care about his weight, and you saw his picture and attitude about that.

    18. I assume you have noticed, but Crawford usually bats 8th. That's where the worse hitters generally bat, and all teams generally have a bad hitter in their lineup. Worrying about bad streaking 8th hitters is focusing on the wrong problem. The problem has been Posey has not been hitting for much of anything, and when he has, he's not hitting for much power. You add in Belt going through spring training again and Pence DLed, and you have a horrible offensive team, any team losing their 4, 5, 6 guys are going to suffer. So I would much rather complain about our $20M (or whatever) clean up hitter not doing his job, then about Crawford and his bad streaks.



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