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.


  1. Maybe he is just in a lucky hot streak right now, probably exactly what the giants need before he cools off and goes 0 for his next 30! Look how poorly Belt started the year! Baseball is a game of streaks and luck in addition to great skill.

    1. For me, in response to your comment, it is this: what is more likelier to happen, Duvall to continue his hot streak in the majors when he hit so poorly for us in 77 PA last season or McGehee or Belt to figure things out, given how well they have hit in the majors over 1,000's of PA? I believe the latter is much much much more likely, for the reasons above on why Duvall's hot streak is not likely to continue.

      If he was a top prospect who has done well at every level, then I might be inclined to say maybe there is lightening. But he stalled in a hitters league with San Jose, then stalled again in Richmond, which while some think it is a pitcher's league, I have found that it is mostly the top hitters, one's whose OPS are over 1.000, who come up to the majors and do something (and even then, not all of them do), and he was below 800.

      I'm glad he improved in AAA last year, so he deserved the promotions he got to the majors, but he really stunk in the majors, in fact, got worse with exposure, whereas Panik, Susac, and Duffy all started hitting well after about a month in the majors.

      So it will take more than two weeks of hot unsustainable hitting to get me to promote him, which would then force us to DFA a player off the 40 man roster. I suppose you could swap out Susac for him, but I assume you are like me, more of a believer in Susac than Duvall as a major league hitter. Then that would mean DFAing someone.

      Right now, the major candidates are Maxwell and Arias, and I suppose Hanchez could be on the chopping block too, since Susac is up. Plus there is Ishikawa to consider as well.

      I would be OK with Arias, but then that means only one MI backup, and I don't see the Giants doing that. I like Maxwell, Ishikawa, and Hanchez more as hitters than I do Duvall, and hence my choice.

      As I noted, calling up Duvall is a desperation move. That is the type of stuff that the Giants did 30-40 years ago, when we didn't have much of a team. Which the Giants today don't do because they are a playoff competitive club, and clubs like that don't do desperation moves.

      I'm excited by what he is doing, but he needs to prove himself by prolonging this streak. Ideally by cutting K's, but his K rate is even worse now than his good season in 2014.

      But maybe he's got it figured out! That's possible. So I'm certainly open to bringing him up at some point.

      But right now, he's just lucky, and he needs to prove that it's skill and not luck by continuing to do this into June, then I'll be sold.

  2. Hey! I'm the new Lead Writer/Editor over at Around the Foghorn, the San Francisco Giants team blog for FanSided.

    With a major roster revamp in the works, I am reaching out to see if you might be interested in joining our ranks. We're looking for passionate Giants fans with journalistic savvy willing to contribute a minimum of 1-2 pieces per week. More frequent contributors may be considered for an Assistant/Co-Editor role.

    If you're interested, give me a holler!

    All the best,
    Matthew Connolly (mconnolly7@gmail.com)

    1. Hey, thank you Matt! If this was 10 years ago, I would probably have jumped at the chance, I was younger and more willing and able to contribute 1-2 pieces minimum per week. As you can see, I've been doing this a long time and I'm not up for regular writing anymore, I stopped covering each series preview 3-4 years ago, and now write mostly as the muse strikes plus keeping up my PQS analysis that I've been doing for a long while. Plus I intend to update my draft study again at some point, once I get time to update my database, and publish it here.

      Good luck, and if you give me your link, I will add it to my collection of Giants blog links on the side.

  3. Remember Randy Winns hot streak when we first traded for him? Remember McCovey's rookie year? Remember Dan Gladden's rookie year? How about the run we had with Scutaro? All those were hot streaks sustained for a few months, yet none of those players were able to do that consistently. Yes McCovey was a great hitter and a hall of famer, but never hit again like he did when he was a rookie. Dan Gladden was a nice player, but never came close to repeating what he did as a rookie. Winn only had one sustainable Barry Bonds like period in his career, and I am glad he was on the giants when it happened. The fact the Scutaro became Rodgers Hornsby for a a few months was okay with me. These guys had hot streaks in the majors. Sandoval came up blazilng in his rookie year. McCovey and Sandoval had some short sustained hot streaks mimicking their rookie exploits, but they came up hot. Remember Bowker's first week or two? We all thought we had something, Lance Niekro had some shades of positivity, but neither of those two were able to sustain it in the majors. I am still waiting for Belt to become the next Will Clark or Willie McCovey, but something keeps stopping him from reaching what seems to be his potential. By the way OCG, love your analysis.

    1. Thanks, no problem, love the discussion.

      I do remember all those streaks and add in Larry Herndon.

      And perhaps trump you with Randy Elliot. He had the hottest spring training ever, we thought we had the second coming because he was so good and we didn't know that much about streaks like that when we were teenagers. He made the team.

      He immediately went cold and soon was out of baseball, from what I recall (sue me, it's been 40 years around abouts :^).

      If we weren't that good and had a spot to bring up someone and try him out, I would probably be OK with a wild shot and try to catch lightening in a bottle. That basically was my position on Ortmeier one spring training, to just give him the starting job and see how it goes, he had shown some hitting the year before and it was win-win for me: if he hits, we win, if he's lousy, we win a good draft pick. Nobody understood that.

      Losing like we have been, and offensively challenged, but a probable playoff contender, I am not OK with it, because we have a better alternative in Susac, at least at this moment.

      And he's only here because someone with no options (Peavy) was DLed. The 25-man roster is full. We will have to lose one of Machi or Kontos at some point, unless it turns out that one of our DLed pitchers end up DLed for the season. And Erik Cordier is probably gone the moment we waiver him after he gets taken off the DL himself. We will have to lose one of Maxwell, Ishikawa, or Arias the moment Ishi is ready to come off the DL. We already had to dump Kickham (lost him), Brown (lost him), and Adrianza (luckily, he's the one I most wanted to retain).

      Adding Duvall to the 25-man would force off someone, and perhaps you are willing and eyeing someone, but I'm not willing, I like all the players on the 25-man (and DL) and the decision making will be tough to make, and yet must be made.

      And all for what? The 1% chance that Duvall will be the next Herndon or Gladden? Or the 99% chance (read my reasonings above) that he hits like he did last season (or worse)?

      If it was just a matter of trying him out, sure, but since it means losing somebody, I'm against it, particularly since he most probably will not do anything. If I knew he was going to bat 1.000 OPS, heck, even if the odds were 25%, I might do it, but the odds are severely stacked against him doing it.

      To lose a valuable player just to take a wild fling at the wall and see if the jell-o sticks is not my way of running a team.

  4. Have to agree: happy that Duvall is doing well, but there's no indication that this will transfer nor sustain at the big league level.
    Comping vs. Gladden, Winn, etc is not strong because all of these were big league players from the get-go. They were definitely not as strong as their hot streaks, but their streaks were at the major league level. There is absolutely a qualitative difference between the major leagues and AAA as OGC has noted.
    The one caveat is home runs. The Giants are unusually poor in power, and frankly McGehee has been just awful: 5 GIDPs vs. 2 extra base hits, plus 9 strikeouts vs. 3 walks. Oh, and 3 errors and a sub-90% fielding percentage to boot.
    I hope for everyone's sake that he pulls out of this - it looks like a postWS Huff.

    1. Well, McGehee has a defensive fWAR on the plus side, 0.2, which happens to be exactly the same as the defensive fWAR of the guy he replaced, Sandoval, for Boston. He is having offensive problems, but his BAPIP is barely over .200, which suggests not only that he is making weak contact but also that he's having bad luck--if the low BABIP resulted mainly from weak contact, he'd be hitting into fewer DPs, wouldn't he, because feeble grounders would lead to force plays or outs at first. He's seeing the ball well enough that his K rate is about league average. These numbers indicate that his problems at the plate are likely to be temporary.

    2. I agree campanari, I think McGehee is struggling under the pressure of having to deliver in Pence's absence and because of him returning home and wanting to do well in front of his friends and family. I think he will be better once he settles down. I think he will once he starts batting 7th regularly. Maxwell doing well helps with that.

    3. I disagree with the post-WS Huff comparison. Aubrey had his own set of mental issues involved with that. I would not label McGehee in that way.

      But I can see your point, however. Perhaps he's having problems dealing with playing in front of his friends and family. He wouldn't be the first to have difficulties with that. We can only wait and see if he can get out of the nose dive. The two hits helped, but now he has to string more of those together, like Panik did after his initial cold streak.

  5. You don't need sabermetrics to see that Duvall is not a Major League ball player.All you have to do is watch him play.Thanks for trying to put this nonsense about Duvall to rest.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Nice work, I'll be sending people here when they need to learn why Duvall is not the answer at third.

  8. Since I wrote this post: .243/.293/.514/.808, .226 BABIP, 12 K's in 70 AB, roughly 83% contact rate, which is much better, but now he can't buy a hit. He still hit 5 HR in 70 AB, or 14 AB/HR, still great HR pace, but an 800 OPS hitter in AAA is like a 500 OPS hitter in the majors.

    For example, in 2014, he hit .298/.360/.598/.959 in AAA, but Baseball Forecaster calculated his major league equivalency to be .226/.266/.413/.678, or almost a 300 point drop in OPS.

    What he is hitting overall right now is around the same, so he would be a 700 OPS hitter roughly in the majors, which is OK (near what Sandoval and McGehee hit last season, but with no where close to the defense of either).



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