Monday, June 29, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: After 15 Turns of the Rotation

My report on the Giants starting pitching based on PQS data.

ogc thoughts

The starting rotation compiled a 49% DOM and 22% DIS through 15 turns of the rotation.  That is low by the Giants standards of this Team of the 2010 Decade, but still pretty good overall.   The rotation for the most part has been doing as expected except for Hudson, who for most of this season was unable to dominate the other team, until recently.  Without him, the rotation would be 57% DOM and 24% DIS, which is much more in line with last season's performance, but still low per Giants recent higher standards.

Bumgarner's Elite:  Duh!

Bumgarner is the leader with 73% DOM and 7% DIS.  Clearly so to any Giants fan.  But after three starts, he was up and down.  Since then, though, 10 DOM starts in 12 starts, with two MIDs midway when he was a bit wobbly, but he has just been great again.  That is elite dominant pitching by Bumgarner, not to mention the hitting he provides as well.  Obviously, no worries here, his extra pitching last season due to the long playoffs did not affect him much if at all this season, he's back to normal Bumgarner pitching.

Vogie Has Saved the Staff

Vogelsong has surprisingly been second with 69% DOM, almost as good as Madison.  However, he had 31% DIS, which is pretty bad and would have put him on the drop list that the Giants were working on with Cain and Peavy's returns, if he weren't pitching at an elite level in all his other starts.  And since his early wobbliness, which one could attribute to being unused to being used in a relief role, he has had a super elite 8 DOM starts (just as good as Madison!) in his last 10 starts (plus 2 DIS starts, still high, but doable).

And that is why the Giants signed him up this off-season, they wanted to mitigate risks of Cain's return by having Vogelsong around, just in case.  And he has done a good job in taking a rotation spot.  However, little could the Giants have known that Peavy would go out too.

Heston Has Saved the Giants and Brighten the Future As Well

And hence Heston has been a savior too, saving the Giants.  Heston has been even more surprising with 53% DOM so far, which is a very good level (though not up to Giants prior standards).  His 20% DIS is OK too.   However, over his last 10 starts, only 4 DOM and 3 DIS, so he appears to be settling down to a 4th or 5th starter level pitcher for us.

Still, it is only his first season, nothing is set in stone, plus, sinkerballers like him tend to lose it relatively quickly when they lose it, it is like an either-or, either he's good or he's bad, and suddenly, he's just bad.  That is what happened to one we had in the late Aughts, forgot his name, but suddenly his pitches stopped sinking.  But his emergence still brightens the Giants future, as we need starting pitchers of all shapes and sizes in the coming years, as we have an old staff, that is looking older this year than hoped for.

FYI, here's a factoid I learned in the aftermath of his no-hitter:  he's not related to Charlton Heston, as was reported by some sources when he was drafted by the Giants (I recall BA in particular).  In fact, Charlton's real name is John Charles Carter, maybe he could have done something with the John Carter character, he was quite a character himself.  So Charlton is a carpetbagger to the Heston name (I wonder how he chose that), Chris is the real Heston!

Pitcher's Hitting Contributes to Success

And Heston has been quite a hitter too.  7 for 31, second on the staff in BA with .226 (just slightly behind Madison's .235) and he has the second best OPS among pitchers with .484 OPS.  He is also the second best SLG (or best in non-Madison category) with .258.  The Giants have been 10-5 in his starts, and 5-1 in games where he got a hit.

The Giants seem to win in games where the pitchers get hits.  The Giants were 9-6 in Bumgarner starts (should have been better), and 5-1 in starts where he got a hit (5-2 with hit and/or walk).  The Giants were 2-2 in Hudson starts where he got a hit (3-2 if you include walks).  For Vogelsong, only three games, but Giants were 2-1.  For Lincecum, 2-0  (3-0 if include walks).

Altogether, the Giants have been 16-5 in games where their main starting pitchers got a hit (didn't check Petit or Peavy) and 17-6 in games where they got a hit and/or a walk.  Compare that to 25-29 when their pitchers did not get a hit nor walk, that is, didn't contribute anything as a batter (I'm not counting sacrifices).   Small samples, but this gives a view into what I've been saying for years about how pitchers learning to hit can contribute a lot to a team's success (my example showed how starting pitchers who were also average replacement level type hitters could add one win to their team each season).

For a full season example, I can still recall Livan challenging his fellow starting pitchers to hit better, so I thought I would look at the 2002 team.  Ironically, while he's one of the better hitters among the group, the Giants only went 5-6 in his starts where he had hits.  However, for Jensen, the team was 4-1, Schmidt 5-1, Rueter 9-1, and Ortiz 10-3.  Overall, the 95-67 2002 Giants were 33-12 in games when their pitchers got a hit (didn't bother with walks) and 62-55 in games when their pitchers didn't get a hit.  Maybe I'll look into this in another post.

Lincecum's Roller Coaster Season

He has been SO up and down this season.  In his first 8 starts, 5 DOM and only 1 DIS, both good numbers to have (63% DOM/13% DIS).  He looked like he was back.  And I was wrong in that assessment, because, in his last 7 starts, he only had 1 DOM and 4 DIS (14% DOM/57% DIS), which is horrendous.  Leading to an overall 40% DOM (OK) and 33% DIS (horrible)  And his velocity continues to spiral downward.

I had expected some uptick in velocity to result from working with his Dad, but his stamina has been fading a lot this season.  It probably doesn't help that he does not stand up well in heat, and it has been a hotter summer than usual.   This is shown in his dichotomy home vs. road, where it tends to be hotter than SF:   6.06 ERA (1.30 K/BB, which is Zito bad) on the road versus 2.68 ERA at home (1.89 K/BB which, while not good, isn't bad).

His ups and downs would probably be tolerable if he didn't have all these disaster starts.  What he is doing is actually OK to have in the 5th starter's spot, which is where he is this season.  Unfortunately for him, we have a lot of pitchers who look like they can do better, and he was slotted to be moved into the bullpen soon, until he got hit by a batted ball.

The Baseball Gods Haft Spoken!

So Lincecum getting DLed because he got hit by a ball up the middle, off of his throwing arm, no less, comes at a fortuitous time.  It could not have been planned any better.  It just brings to life Bochy's statement he often gives, that roster crunch situations tend to work themselves out.  So it looks like the Baseball Gods haft spoken.

Lincecum most likely would have been pushed to the bullpen to allow Cain and Peavy back into the rotation.  He has an OK 40% DOM but horrible 33% DIS.  Guys don't keep rotation spots tossing 33% DIS without producing good DOM.   And he has been really bad lately, three 0-PQS disasters in his last four starts, which is pretty bad.

Now Lincecum can simply be DLed and not take up a spot on the roster, while the Giants staff works with him and get him fixed up to how he was earlier in the season.  And he would stay out until healthy and ready, as there was already some suggestion beforehand that he was struggling with his stamina even before the injury.  Then go into the bullpen where he can work in shorter spurts of excellence, hopefully, as a super-reliever, taking any role, as pitchers generally experience a jump in velocity coming from the bullpen.

It also allows the Giants to see how well the two of Cain and Peavy do in a MLB situation before needing to decide on what to do about Hudson in the rotation.  The Giants could skip one or two starts for Hudson, as he has clearly been struggling with something all season long, the beat writers have noted his ankle and hips as problem areas.  He could relieve for a little bit, and handle some long relief.  Meanwhile, we see how Cain and Peavy do.

I'm not too worried about Cain.  Ishikawa says that he looks the way Cain always look like, when pitching well.  I think we would have heard more bad news about his arm if there was any possibility that he could suffer a worse injury as a result.

Meanwhile, I am wondering about Peavy.  The beats had already reported early in the rehab process that it was not a matter of getting Peavy healthy, as he will not be 100% this season, but a matter of getting him to the point of being effective as a starting pitcher.  So while the news have been good for him for the most part lately, with no mention of his back, I have to wonder if it is a matter of his back going in and out.  For example, in his last start, he was horrible in his first inning, then was shut down the rest of the way.

Maybe Peavy gets a couple of starts and we find the Giants moving him into the bullpen and Hudson back in, hopefully rejuvenated from the rest and extra work on mechanics while not starting.  Giants pitchers have benefited greatly from skipped starts before, Jerome Williams, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner (in playoffs no less), so maybe Hudson would benefit from a quick break and pit stop, as he has not been all that good (though to his credit, not that bad either) for most of the season.

Hudson Starting to Round Into Shape

Hudson had neither DOM nor DIS in his first 8 starts.  In his last 7 starts, he has 3 DOMs and 2 DIS (43% DOM/28% DIS), which is only OK, but at least he is getting some DOMs now.  Overall, that is only a 20% DOM/13% DIS.  He had a 4.01 ERA in his first 8 starts, 5.53 ERA (those DIS starts REALLY hurt a pitcher's ERA) in his next 7 starts.  A rest probably would be good for him, spend some time in the bullpen. The Giants are only 7-8 in his starts to boot.

Cain and Peavy Return

Of course, we have no idea what we will get from the two of them.  Cain has even more variance, he was an elite pitcher for years, then after his perfecto no-hitter, he was just good, roughly 40% DOM, and he was bad last season before his elbow gave up and needed to be operated on.   I expect him to be good.  Ishikawa gave a good eyeball test on that, so the question seems more to be whether his arm is back and healthy, or if it is a string waiting to break.  We will see.

Peavy is more a binary question.   Will he be bad like he was with Boston last year and early this year with us, or will he be the excellent pitcher he was while with us in the 2014 regular season?  His 67% DOM and only 8% DIS was great for us last season, better than Bumgarner last season (Madison had a worse DIS%, almost double).   He was horrible early this season (he insisted he was fine and cost us two losses!) and was struggling with Boston, which he implied was their catcher's fault because, when asked why he pitched so well with the Giants, he credited Posey and Susac (and he noted that was in spite of Susac's lack of experience, which was a huge compliment of Susac's catching abilities).

But given the comment early in his DL stint, when the beats said that he's not working towards 100% healthy, he's working towards being effective, because his back pain is not going away this season, I'm just hoping that he can last long enough for Hudson to get himself straightened out, and then they can reverse roles, with Peavy handling some long relief, while Hudson returns to the rotation.  Or if his back really is that bad, just DL him for the rest of the season until September when they can bring him back to help in relief without worrying about 25-man roster issues.  Lincecum getting DLed saved Hudson from getting DLed himself, at least for now, and it might just end up with him skipping a start or two.  We will see.


  1. I was reading over the post and realized that I didn't cover Peavy's return. Who leaves to enable his return?

    It appears that he's taking Hudson's turn in the rotation, and the beats have been repeatedly saying that Hudson could get DLed. But then one of the beats noted that Hudson was not happy about talk of DLing him. Bochy did hold out the chance of a 6-man rotation. They could simply have Peavy pitch, and they must suspect something, because the beats reported that Bochy was going to talk with Peavy about his health, so perhaps they see how he does, and if he's OK, then they move Hudson out, but if Peavy's not looking good, they could simply pitch Hudson in the next game, and put Peavy into limbo instead.

    If Hudson is not DLed, though, then probably the Giants option Broadway to AAA or DFA Machi.

    Lincecum is going to be DLed, which opens a spot for Cain, but Cain won't need the spot until Thursday and Lincecum will be DLed on Tuesday, so the Giants could bring up somebody for a short or long while.

    I saw a rumor that Adrianza could be brought up. If he is, then I expect him to stick this time and that Arias would be DFAed when Cain needs a spot. Arias is not that good defensively at any position other than 3B and McGehee is a better hitter than Arias, even with all the DPs.

    The Giants could also bring up another reliever, though only Hall has a 40-man spot and could get a shot. They could also bring up an OF, like Mac Williamson or Engel Beltre, both of whom hit OK in AA, plus Beltre plays CF.

    And when time comes for Cain, perhaps Maxwell is the one DFAed, as he has not really hit that well since his early nice hitting. He has batted under .500 OPS the last two months, and also under for the last month as well.

    The only problem with them is that there is no 40-man spot to bring them up with, though Bochy noted that Parker is not MLB-ready and apparently the Giants have not been happy with Perez this season, plus he's injured, so the Giants could clear one of those two off the 40-man for a new guy. Or they could clear him to bring up a reliever like Osich or Okert.

    I just have a feeling that players are going to be dropped off the 40-man soon. The Giants clearly have been making decisions about prospects and moving players both up and down the farm system. Machi should have been gone at the beginning of the season, and with Strickland and Broadway up, he should be gone soon. Arias, as I noted, hasn't hit for much for years now, and don't play defense above average except for 3B. And Maxwell hasn't hit for any for two months now, he should be gone at some point, at worse, when Pence returns. He wouldn't have gotten a spot if not for Ishikawa's injury, probably.

  2. Wow, totally off again, Giants DFA McGehee again to bring up Adrianza. Ehire brings a lot more versatility positionally than McGehee, plus he is a switch-hitter (I would note here that it bugs me when people note a hitter is a switch hitter, as if that automatically makes him a better hitter than another one who don't switch hit; and yet I do it too :^) and a much better defensive player who can play SS, plus provides speed off the bench, a good commodity to have.

    Apparently the Giants think that Arias provides more value than McGehee. I don't see that with how poorly Arias has hit in the past three seasons and how poorly he has fielded every position except for 3B, so clearly the Giants see something about the way they play to make that call, the numbers just don't support it.

    In any case, I like Adrianza a lot and view him as the replacement for Arias at some point. I had hopes of him winning the 2B or 3B starting job at some point, but now those are pretty firmly in hand, so perhaps he can be the super-utility guy I had hoped would be a stepping stone towards a starting job.

    I view him as a version of Blanco in the infield, providing some good enough hitting while providing superior defense at multiple positions (if he's good at SS, I would expect him to be even better at 2B and 3B, with practice). He probably could learn to play 1B and the corner OF as well. Hopefully he can fulfill and hold onto this role, I would hate to lose him.

    And thanks to McGehee. I viewed him as a bridge to Duffy or Adrianza taking over the starting job at some point, only I didn't expect him to face plant so badly and so early. It was the right move at that time, we still didn't know what we had with Duffy at that time, but now that we do know and he's been holding the job not only fine, but like a vet, it becomes a matter of whether McGehee was the best solution on the bench or not. Plus, with Ishikawa around, he's probably a better DH to have than McGehee, now that I'm thinking more about it, so all around, Casey just didn't have a niche he could occupy on the bench. I'm sorry his stay with his hometown team (not sure if he was fan or not, but I think he was growing up) was short, but that's the way the baseball bounces sometimes. Good luck to him.

    1. I saw someone wonder why Adrianza and not Frandsen. For a number of good reasons.

      Mostly, Adrianza is a very good defensive SS and Frandsen is not Also, Ehire is hitting just as well as Frandsen in AAA, even though he's 8 years younger. He also has speed which Frandsen does not.

      I can see Frandsen over Arias as the next move at some point. Though, for Arias to survive, uncut, for so long when the only bright point I can point out statistically is that he plays 3B well defensively, one has to wonder what damning photos he has of Bochy and/or Sabean. :^) But Frandsen would be an upgrade offensively. So we will see.



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