Monday, June 22, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Rotation Judgement Day

Per the beat writers, the Giants brain trust are spending this off day to discuss the pitching rotation for the near future, when Peavy and Cain come off the DL (Peavy's 30-day rehab is over, so he should be back by weekend; Cain probably one or two rehab starts away, Sabean gave a good report on his last MiLB start).

ogc thoughts

The Giants have seven starting pitchers and, at the moment, only five starting rotation spots open.  Bumgarner obviously has one of those five spots, leaving Hudson, Vogelsong, Lincecum, and Heston being removed once Peavy and Cain return to the rotation, and all indications is that they will be starting, the question is really more, who will not be starting and what is the composition of the pitching staff (and thus position players as well, as there are currently 13 pitchers).

Bochy has noted (per beat reports) that they are considering a 6-man rotation, but with a number of off days coming in the next month or so, that is not ideal, as it would push the pitchers out of their normal routine of days off.  He also said that merit will be the main consideration in who will remain in the rotation.  He also noted that there were starters who have been dealing with stuff who could be moved out of the rotation, but he gave no names.

6-man Rotation Option

I would note that while a 6-man rotation could mess with rest, what they could do is a modified 6-man.  Kind of like how teams would have a 5-man rotation to start the season, but leave him out until sometime in May, a team could have a 6-man rotation running when there are no rest days within the rotation, but when a rest day pops up, the team could skip the 6th starter to keep the rest of the rotation on regular rest.  But, still, who would be that 6th man/long reliever?  This gets back to Vogelsong's role going into the season.

DL Options When Peavy Returns

Regarding starters who have been dealing with stuff, all the beats have been noting that Hudson could be that guy.  They noted that prior to the season, the Giants were already thinking of giving him some rest at some point, to save his strength for later (i.e. playoffs) in the season.  So he looks like an obvious starting pitcher to trade off on, as he has not been doing it all season, per PQS, he has struggled to dominate (which Lincecum was able to do until recently) but fortunately, he has also been good enough to avoid disasters (which Lincecum has not been able to do).

So right now, it looks like the most obvious move to do when Peavy returns this coming weekend is to DL Hudson.  Which works because Hudson's next start is on Saturday against the Rockies.   He clearly hasn't been himself all season long, he had always been a dominant pitcher until this season.

Cain Options

That leaves Cain's return, and who to remove for him, as the Giants say that he needs one or two more rehab starts.  With Hudson gone, that leaves Vogelsong, Lincecum, and Heston to pitch to keep their rotation spot.  Vogelsong has been Vogelstrong lately, probably our second best starter, so unless he craters in his next two starts, he's not going anywhere.  That leaves Lincecum vs. Heston.

And right now, there is no contest, Heston would win that battle.  Over their last 10 starts, Heston has a 40% DOM/30% DIS while Lincecum has 40% DOM/40% DIS.   No pitcher can hold a rotation spot giving up 40% DIS starts, heck, even 30% DIS is on the edge of removal itself, let alone 40% DIS.  For comparison, Vogelsong has a 70% DOM/30% DIS over his last 10 starts (70% DOM is elite level; 30% DIS, not so much, but is made up for by the high DOM).

But neither has been sterling good, so they probably have 1-2 starts (one for Lincecum, two maybe for Heston) before the decision has to be made.  If Heston goes, he probably is optioned to AAA, and use up one of his options for that.  If Lincecum goes, he probably takes over Vogelsong's long relief role that briefly existed at the start of the season.

However, that would necessitate the removal of a relief pitcher.   Based on merit, Casilla, Kontos, Lopez, Romo, Strickland should all keep spots.  Strickland and Broadway have options, but I don't see Strickland going back down at all.  Broadway would be the easy choice, but he has done OK so far and the team seems to like him.  Still, he's the easiest cut to get down to 13 pitchers when Cain returns, so that's probably going to happen.

However, Bochy noted that "pitcherS" were struggling with health.  While only Hudson has been openly named by the Beats regarding healthy and the DL, Bochy suggests that there are more.   Two who could be health impaired are the two relievers who have been underperforming this season:  Affeldt and Petit.  Affeldt more than Petit, but really hard to tell with reliever's SSS.   Still, one of those two could be DLed once Cain returns, and Lincecum would take that reliever's spot in the bullpen.

Machi Gone

Another pitcher on the DL is Jean Machi, and he should be eligible to come off pretty soon.  I think he has already started pitching in AAA already.   Unfortunately for him, I think he's gone.

If it wasn't for all the injuries and the odd scheduling this spring where the Giants had long stretches where they had no off days, Machi most probably would have been gone Opening Day.  The decision was down to him versus Kontos, and George won that battle in spring training easily.  And Kontos has simply been brilliant during the regular season, he has basically taken over Affeldt's role of handling set-man duties and facing both RHH and LHH.  He's not going anywhere.

And Strickland has done too well to get sent back too.  Broadway would be his alternative but could be already gone if Cain beats Machi to the majors.   If there is someone else needing a DL health break, then Machi could take that player's place, but right now, there is nobody named yet.  But at some point, unless there is a stream of injuries, Machi will be DFAed at some point, and most probably returned to AAA Sacramento.

Options When Pence Returns

Pence's return appears to be farther off - probably because the Giants want to maximize the chances that his tendinitis won't flair up again - but not that far off.  When he returns, do the Giants remove a pitcher, to get back to the normal 13 position players/12 pitchers roster structure, or remove a position player.   There are only two position players who would make sense:  either Arias or McGehee.

McGehee is the guy most Giants fans hate enough to DFA him immediately, without thinking.  But Arias would make the most sense in this scenario.  He hasn't hit for much of anything for the past three seasons.  His defense has never been all that good, except at 3B.

People point to McGehee defensive numbers as being poor, but a lot of that was early in his career, he has been just slightly below average since 2011 season.  That works out to roughly -1 DRS or RTOT over those years.   And he was OK at 1B or 2B, whereas Arias has been horrible defensively anywhere else other than 3B.  On top of that, McGehee, even in his worse seasons, hit better than Arias has in recent years.  And, should we make it that far, better DH choice than Arias.  McGehee should be the choice to back up 1B, 2B, 3B over Arias.

So, who backs up SS when Crawford needs a rest?  Shift Duffy over to play SS, while McGehee can handle 3B.   Still, that's a pretty slim bench, carrying just Susac, Arias/McGehee, Blanco, and Maxwell.

More likely, however, a pitcher will go.  Assuming the likely scenario of Hudson DL when Peavy returns and Broadway AAA when Cain returns, with Lincecum long relief, maybe 6th starter, I have to think one of those pitcher health issues that Bochy noted will take care of opening up a 25-man roster space for Pence.

Affeldt seems the most obvious choice, as he has not been himself all season, and has both horrible K/9 and K/BB.  Petit has also not done as well, but at least his K/BB is still pretty good, as his K/9 has been marginally good while his BB/9 has been pretty good.  And if you look at Affeldt's 2013 season, it looks a lot like his 2015 season, only worse, considering age and wear & tear.  Hopefully rest and treatment will help Affeldt recover enough to contribute to the playoffs, like he had previously, he has a 22 game shutout streak, covering 23.1 IP, .366 OPS, only 10% of inherited runners scoring.  And over his 26 game career for the Giants in the playoffs, 0.69 ERA, .350 OPS, only 6% of inherited runners scoring.

Overall Rosterbation

So, to me, it looks like the Giants will DL Hudson when Peavy returns, then option Broadway back to AAA when Cain returns, which then pushes Lincecum out to long-relief role, and really, more of a super-utility reliever, who could pitch a long middle game, but also come in and pitch in set-up as well.   But first, Lincecum needs to figure out why his mechanics have been so off recently, as he was one of our better pitchers early on.

Then when Pence returns, probably DL one of Affledt or Petit would go on the DL, with the off-chance they just dump Arias, as they still have Adrianza in the minors.  Ehire's been doing OK there, whereas Arias hasn't done much of anything in the majors, at least Adrianza would bring some speed and good defense.


  1. Well, I was far off on Machi, I thought he was suppose to be on the DL longer, but my memory is off. He came off the DL today and Broadway was sent back to Sacramento. Hopefully that MLB experience will push him to keep up the good work he has done so far, and he'll probably be back up in September Call-Ups.

    That leaves me at Hudson DL when Peavy returns, and Machi DFA when Cain returns. Some think that Pence is out to ASG.

  2. Giants plans revealed by Pavlovic and Schulman:

    Bochy announced that that Peavy and Cain is slated for one more rehab start (apparently the beat writers got it wrong about when Peavy's 30-days were up because he briefly had to stop his rehab when he had a setback) and are currently slated to return to the rotation on July 2 and 3, order to be determined. However, Cain pitches on Friday and Peavy on Saturday for AAA, so presumably Cain will pitch July 2 game, Peavy July 3.

    No Giants announcement on what happens to Hudson and Lincecum, the two guys currently slotted for those two starts, nor on how 25-man space will be made.

    Schulman again noted Hudson will probably be DLed for ankle and hip issues (he had his ankle operated on just before spring training, and had hip problems late last season, when he was horrible). And it appears that Lincecum would go to the bullpen.

    However, the Giants appear to be keeping things flexible, just in case. They noted the 6-man rotation option before, so that gives Lincecum a chance to save face, if they push him back one day or perhaps skip a start and then put him back into the rotation after they tune him up, like they had done before with other starters, like Cain and Sanchez (Dirty threw his no-hitter in the start after that skipped start; I think Cain nearly no-hit the A's, if memory serves).

    Plus, we were down this road before, in spring, we thought Cain and Peavy were ready to start the season, but, then, weren't. Another injury could pop up when they pitch again in the MLB, there is some uncertainty, though the best bet, given their OK starts in the minors, is that they will be fine.

    Of course, no word on who is removed from the 25-man roster when each starter returns. If it truly is the Hudson DL - and there is so much smoke on this from the beats, would be shocked if that don't happen, plus would explain his non-Hudson type of season so far - then that handles Cain's return (assuming he is first, good assumption since he pitches next, then Peavy).

    Then when Peavy returns, I have to think that they would DFA Machi. Other choices would include sending Heston to AAA or Strickland to AAA. But Bochy talked about merit driving their decisions, and thus, given how poorly Machi has pitched all season, he's probably DFAed, and given his cheap contract, I have to think some team will pick him up, just to kick the tires, and perhaps pick his brains for secrets about the Giants.

    1. Carl Stewart had his account, which has more info, which I'll quote:

      Bochy said two current starters are probably headed to the bullpen to make room for Cain and Peavy and two additional roster moves will also have to be made. The manager admitted there will be some tough decisions to make and that he and his staff will continue to discuss the options.

      “It’s a good problem, but you have to make these moves,” Bochy said. “If someone misses a start or goes to the bullpen, sometimes it’s a good thing. It gives them a break. These two are close to being ready and they are part of our rotation, so they’ll help us out. As far as the other two moves, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”

    2. Ooops, my apologies, Carl Steward, not with a 't".

    3. Oh, should note that this gives Hudson and Lincecum one more start before Cain and Peavy returns.

  3. two current starters are probably headed to the bullpen

    Agree on the Tims.
    Huddy might well excel in all roles from long relief, to setup to ROOGY as long as they're careful not dry humping his arm with useless pen warm-ups.
    Wouldn't be surprised if other Tim reprises role of Oct 2014 as The Invisible Man.

    1. Exactly, Huddy is a pro's pro, he would work in a lot of different roles for us, and Bochy should just use him if they bring him up to warm up, he could even close out some games, to save Casilla's arm as well as Romo's.

      I still have belief in Lincecum's arm. He was doing great to start the season, but he lost it for a while now. But he's been doing that since he first joined us, even in his Cy Young years, he would have a month where he's totally lost and useless. I think the Giants can work with him (and hopefully his dad too), while he's out of the rotation, get his groove back, then he can use his rubber arm to do any role in the bullpen at any time, and be that super reliever he was for us in Oct 2012, that is the example I would give. And maybe as a reliever, he can add a tick or two, which would be enough to make him greatly effective again as a pitcher.

  4. Speaking of rosterbation, with Aoki's DL for a broken tibia (return unknown, but look at how long it has been for Pence, who we thought end of April, and it is now almost July), the Giants have called up NLCS hero Travis Ishikawa.

    At first I was worried about what happens to Travis when Aoki returns, with Pence's problems, he's probably not coming back before the September call-ups, at which time, it don't matter any more, Travis won't need to be DFAed. And who knows, complications do happen, maybe he might end up out for the season.

    Though, I just realized, Ishi's probably the one to go when Pence returns, unless the team decides to go back to 13 position players and drop a pitcher instead. A decision for another time...

    There was mention in Schulman's reportage (main one I've seen so far, he has been on top of this one the best) that Belt will see more starts in LF, with Ishikawa starting at 1B, more so than Posey playing 1B and Susac starting.

    Personally, and it always personal here :^), I would just make Belt the starting LF and Ishikawa the mostly starting 1B. If we have any long-term plans for Belt with the Giants, we know that Posey to 1B is happening at some point. Why not let Belt get some good experience right now starting in LF, to prep him for later?

    But if you put Susac at C and Posey at 1B, you weaken two defensive positions that the Giants have generally prioritized defense at. Particularly at C, we have all see the fuss the Giants have made about Posey staying at C, and most advanced defensive metrics, including getting called strikes, agrees with that assessment.

    By starting Ishi at 1B, the Giants keep Posey at C and good defense at 1B with Ishi. And offensively, Ishi is better because whoever starts between Ishi and Susac will be batting 7th or 8th, and down in the lineup, SLG is more important than OBP for scoring runs, unless Bochy goes saber and bats Susac 9th. Which he has not been willing to do yet.

    Ishi is an excellent fielding 1B, and has been roughly equal offensively to Susac. And that's why against LHP, Susac can get starts at C, push Posey to 1B, and Ishi to bench. And when Posey needs to play 1B against RHP, with Susac catching, Ishi gets pushed to bench, he's the starter unless we need otherwise, and especially not against LHP.

    This was the role I was hoping to see Ishi in before the 2011 season, he would mostly start against RHP, except when Posey needed his breaks at 1B. He's great defensively, and OK offensively against RHP (OK enough only because we need him to bat in the lower part of the lineup). So it would not be a big deal to sit him in favor of starting Posey over him, but when he's in there, he's contributing great defense plus a little offense, much like the Giants had him doing last season during the playoffs, when they were starting him in LF, except then, he was a novice in LF, whereas he's great at 1B. And Belt has been seeing some playing time in LF this season, so just push him to full-time there, now that we need it.

    Plus, then instead of Blanco starting LF and Maxwell in RF, guaranteeing a poorer offense no matter the thrower, with Belt in LF, Blanco would platoon with Maxwell in RF, improving the offense in RF as well.

    1. Pavlovic:

      A little conflicting reports - Pavlovic says that Bochy wants to see Susac's bat more often, meaning more starts for Posey at 1B with Belt in LF, Baggs don't note at all. Both notes that it will be a mix and match in LF, but Pavlovic noted Belt will get a lot of starts in LF so that Susac can start and Posey plays first, whereas Baggs only noted that Belt would see more time in LF, without any mention of who gets to start at 1B. They both also noted that Ishikawa would see time in LF as well. And neither really mentioned Ishikawa playing 1B. Looks like he's mostly bench plus some LF.

      From Pavlovic regarding Susac:

      "That's a pretty good bat to put in the lineup," Bochy said of Susac, who is hitting .265 in limited time but has seven hits in his last 16 at-bats. "I do think his more recent at-bats have been better. His timing was off, and when that happens and you're not playing everyday it can be more difficult."

      Baggs note a report by Ishikawa about Cain and Peavy that was very positive since it was eyewitness and he's seen them when they were good, with Ishikawa "saying the two pitchers “looked good – as good as I remember them” and that in several of their starts, defensive lapses caused them to throw more pitches."

      Very encouraging note, in the face of losing Aoki.

      Regarding the OF, both noted that Perez is injured (plus Baggs noted a regression this season), and both quoted Bochy as saying that Parker was "not major league ready", about as bad as it can get. And Mac Williamson has not gotten a lot of ABs above A-ball yet, and Duvall did not do well in his audition last season (have to think he's trade bait, given this comment, probably AL, like when Conor Gillaspie was traded).

      Baggarly noted about Ishikawa's call up: "You know this is not a short-term thing because Ishikawa is out of options. They wouldn’t add him to the roster for just a few days because if they needed to send him down, they’d have to go through the process of designating him all over again."


      Hank's notes hew to Pavlovic's that Susac will see more playing time and matches all the other notes for the most part. Good to get reports from all three and triangulate, each would usually catch something the others didn't.

      Lastly, looks like Blanco will usually be in the lineup going forward, either LF or RF (or CF to rest Pagan), so no platoon happening in RF with the two of them. Plus, Pagan will mostly be the leadoff guy, the hope is that he will start hitting again, he has been cold for the past month or so.

    2. Haft's account:

      He is more in line with Pavlovic's view that Susac will see extended playing time:

      "San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy hopes to bolster the Giants' erratic offense by having Posey and reserve catcher Andrew Susac in the lineup simultaneously -- maybe not every day, but not infrequently either. This means moving Posey to first base and installing first baseman Brandon Belt in left field."

      Also quoted Posey (read from Schulman too):

      "He hasn't talked to me about it," said Posey, who has repeated that he prefers catching to playing first. "But I have to understand, we have to understand, that it's about winning games.
      "Boch has been really good at his job for a long time. We all have trust in the decisions he makes. Anybody who has seen this team for a long time knows that the guys are willing to change their roles to help the team win. There's an understanding among us that you have to go get the job done, no matter what."

      Wow, nice quote "It is all about winning."



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