Thursday, February 18, 2016

Your 2016 Giants: A Team With a Plan for High Velocity and K's

Fangraphs recently published a research piece titled, "The Giants are Sneaking Into the Velocity Era" and below is my comment regarding that stance.


ogc thoughts

If anything, the Giants are returning to the velocity era that they helped promulgate, if not create, not sneaking in.

Per the chart in the article linked above, the Giants had a higher velocity than the majors in 7 out of 8 years from 2003-2010, before the league finally caught up with them in 2011.  They had a variety of high velocity pitchers during that period, in Lincecum, Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Bumgarner, Wilson, Casilla.  And the majors did not catch up with the Giants peak until 2013.

Stability => Increasing Age => Decreasing Velocity

As the other commenter noted, Lincecum was losing velocity steadily during that down period, plus we lost Wilson out of the bullpen.  Also, the Giants pitching staff was remarkably stable during that period 2011-2015, as 8 pitchers out of 12 roster spots.  And you know what comes with age:  loss in velocity.

And 4 of 5 rotation spots, had the same player in 2011 as 2015 in there at some points.  Plus nearly a 9th pitcher, Zito, who was in there from 2011-2014, was a big contributor to the drop, along with Lincecum.

Furthermore, guys added in recent years - Petit, Hudson, Peavy, Heston - did not have a lot of velocity, and was older to boot, which means lower velocity as a starting point as well.

Giants Strategy For Handling MLB Trend Towards Increasing K/Velocity

I view this more as a result of the focus in the recent period on position players, as ignited with the addition of John Barr to the Front Office.  They had the pitching coming to fruition, so they started drafting a lot of position players after he joined the team.  That focus meant less top bullets (first pick for over a decade under Sabean/Tidrow was spent on pitching) spent on pitching, more on hitting.  And that forced a reliance on free agents and trades for replacing pitching, which contributed to the velocity drop, as most free agents and traded players are old and don't have much velocity (Samardzija notwithstanding).

But look at the top ranked pitchers added to the system once the 2010 decade began:  Crick, Beede, Bickford, Strickland, Osich, Black.  And they picked up Casilla to boot (for free!).  These are all guys with velocity to burn, along with other high velocity prospects who are making some noise in the system.  If you run through some of the first 10 rounds picks in the recent drafts, you will find higher velocity (95 MPH+) to be a commonality with them, along with the guys who they also value, who have a lot of average tools but no stuff.

I believe that this is part of their M.O., with the recent drop related more to circumstance than strategic intent.  Perusing a list of guys with homers off pitches that are 95 MPH and higher, I found a good number of Giants on that list - Pence, Belt, Posey, Crawford, Morse when he was on the team, Sandoval - so it led me to wonder if the Giants were countering the trend towards strikeouts and higher velocity by focusing on guys who make good contact (i.e. strike out less) and can cause damage even with high velocity offerings (hit high velocity pitches for power).  Add on top of that all the pitchers that they have drafted high with high velocity, and that seems to be a pattern to me, a plan to counter the rising tide of strikeouts and velocity.

4 comments:

  1. I added another comment, in response to another commenter, wondering if the Hudson and Peavy signings were a sign of a change in preferences:

    I think the Hudson and Peavy additions were more filling a short-term need, in a short-term contract, so that they don’t hold a spot and prevent SP prospects from advancing to the majors, as Bumgarner and Cain have long-term contracts.

    The Giants under Sabean has usually filled starting roles with veteran placeholders when there are young prospects who are getting near the show. That gives the Giants a base level of expected production, but not so high a hurdle that the young prospect can’t produce and push out the veteran, like Posey with Molina, and Duffy with McGehee. But it’s not hard and fast, which is why Sabean has usually picked up guys who can play multiple positions well enough, so when Belt had a great spring and an injury opened up a spot, they inserted him in at 1B and pushed Huff to the OF, where the injury happened.

    I think ultimately, there was an inversion to what they were planning for, that they were hoping that Cain and Lincecum could still be 2/3 on the staff, but it ended up with Hudson and Peavy being 2/3 instead, because of the injuries to Cain and Lincecum.

    I should also add that most references to Tidrow, who has been the Giants main guru on pitching internally (he was the one sent to fix Bumgarner when he started off one season horribly), talks about how he loves the standard model for pitchers, tall and strong hurlers (i.e. high velocity pitching gods), which suggests that the Giants have loved size and speed under Tidrow, but as he has shown with Lincecum and others, he recognizes excellence in pitching no matter the size. He was actually anticipating that Lincecum might fall to the Giants, even though he was in the conversation for the first pick overall, telling Sabean to not attend any of Lincecum’s college games so as not to telegraph to other teams of the Giants interest in him.

    Even Bumgarner was viewed as a non-Giants interesting pitcher, and Tidrow hid their interest. A report noted that another team’s scout saw Tidrow leave a Bumgarner start very early, and asked the Giants scout, “He didn’t like the cross-arm action, did he?” but when the Giants scout met with Tidrow later, Tidrow’s scouting report was simply, “I love him.”

    Another trend I would note, in terms of the Giants preference for pitchers, is that I have noticed that in recent years, I see a lot of pitchers who not only strikeout more, but also walk less, leading to huge K/BB ratios, starting as far back as Bumgarner. Strickland, Osich, Okert, Law, Bickford, Suarez, Johnson, Smith, Agosta, Gardeck, Coonrod, all have at least pretty ratios above 3, many above 5.

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  2. Glanced at the article, and that was my first reaction: the Giants were huge in velocity!

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  3. We also have some low velocity relievers like Romo and Lopez, but they are very effective when used correctly.

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    Replies
    1. Well the Giants clearly understand the value of pitchers, no matter their velocity, as long as they are effective with their pitches, no matter the velocity. Hence why high velocity pitchers that we had in the minors ended up not making it with the Giants. All through the Sabean era, there has been a 100 mph white whale in the system most years, who just couldn't put it together for us.

      The Giants want pitchers, no matter how they get it done. Hence why the Giants spent high picks on pitchers like Lincecum, who was so skinny that every team tagged him for the bullpen, or Bumgarner, whose crossover motion is a no-no for many scouts. Hence why Heston and Blach were kept on the 40 when seemingly better prospects get DFAed.

      But they do have a type. Or at least Tidrow does, he loves the big guys who can throw hard. Luckily he is understanding about the fact that not all your prospects are going to fit that mode, plus he appreciates that a pitcher can come in all sorts of shapes and styles. He mainly cares about the most important thing: can he gets hitters out?

      Delete

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