The Giants, not surprisingly, was up and down in the rankings. Much like their playoff successes. When they were in the Top 10, they usually won the World Series. Each component had their ups and downs. I'll cover each individually.
The Giants as we know, were not a good offensive team to start this golden era of playoff competitiveness. They had an RAA (Runs Above Average) of -107.1 in 2009, which was the worse across all the components, by far (in fact, the others were rarely ever below average and negative). But they have gotten better and better, to the point where it is now a strength of the team, which we also know, seeing our homegrown infield blossom over time, from Posey to Duffy. It was 65.0 last season, high for the period, second was in 2012 with 47.8, and been at least 3 Wins (30+ RAA) the past four seasons, but not so good from 2009 to 2011.
Fielding of Ground Balls (but really, Infield) has been mostly good for the period (though negative in 2012 and 2013; Scutaro and Sandoval?) but the defense went up another level in the past two seasons. High between 2009 and 2011 was 16.2 RAA, but was 24.9 in 2014 (addition of Panik) and 51.3 in 2015 (addition of Duffy). Unfortunately, I could not figure out how they came to these numbers through the player profiles on the website, so if someone could point out where I can get to the details, I would appreciate it.
Fielding of Fly Balls (actually Outfield, and it includes how outfielders handle ground balls through the infield, I presume) has taken a downward trend since the early seasons of this period. Clearly, Schierholtz was a marvelous outfielder for us early in this era, and probably Torres too (Burrell and Huff not so much; Rowand?), and we had RAA of 51.5 and 55.4 in 2009 and 2010. Since then has been a bumpy ride: 2011, 16.1 RAA; 2012, 36.7; 2013, -5.5; 2014, 16.9; 2015, 32.3. Seems odd, since much was made about Pagan's poor defense in 2015, as well as Aoki's mediocrity. But 2013 fits in some with theme that Pence has not been a very good defensive OF and that Pagan had a large decline that season. Still, one would think that 2014 would have been a down year with Morse spending so much time in LF, so I'm not sure how good this data is.
As we all know SP has dropped over time, as the unit declined over time, as the unit got older and older, culminating with the addition of Hudson. Oddly, it was best in 2009, at 58.4 RAA, then has been trending steeply downward afterward: 2010, 21.4; 2011, 19.0; 2012, -5.9; 2013, -37.7; 2014, 11.6; 2015, -23.4. Obviously, Lincecum's and Cain's decline contributed greatly to that trend, then Vogelsong and Hudson. The addition of Cueto and Samardzija (both had averaged 10-20 RAA prior to 2015) will be a welcome boost to the unit (plus dropping Vogelsong, Lincecum, Hudson, for net turnaround of about 50 RAA (plus any gains from Cain improving), plus hopefully health for Peavy and Cain.
And, of course, any of my regular readers will know that I don't think any sabermetric tool yet measures accurately all that the Giants starting pitching staff can do, as there are assumptions regarding BABIP and HR/FB that makes the Giants look worse in a sabermetric viewpoint, over the years, and yet they beat it every season, so is it just luck or is it the tool's inability to measure some key competitive differentiating skills? I believe the latter. So this affects relief pitching as well.
Although Giants fans know about the strength of the unit and how important it has been to our success in this period, none of the sabermetric analyses I've ever seen rates our relief pitching well or as critical to the team. It has been up and down during this period, best in 2010: 2009, 1.5 RAA; 2010, 28.4; 2011, 9.9; 2012, -10.7; 2013, -18.1; 2014, 11.6; 2015, 1.7. About the only thing I can note is the decline of Affeldt hurt the 2015 stat, and the influx of new guys briefly in 2012 and 2013 hurt the overall bullpen stat. But as I noted at the start of the 2012 playoffs, while the Reds had a much better bullpen per the overall numbers, but if you added up only the relievers we had, our bullpen had just as good an ERA as the Reds bullpen, which amazingly was mostly just the same group all season, whereas the Giants cycled through some relievers before settling down to the core guys used in the playoffs.
And sabermetric tools generally fail in measuring relief value even more so than starting pitching. There is value in shutting down teams when the tying runs are on base that don't get captured, as all sabermetric tools measure a strikeout the same, whether done with a 10-0 lead and nobody on base, or slim one-run lead with the bases loaded and two outs. And then we can get into the BABIP and HR/FB misfires noted above, which is not always accurate as well.
While a lot of sabers act like the state of the art is very advanced, a science even, any WAR out there is, at best, a beta test which is failing at identifying some of the best starting pitching and relievers out there, except bWAR (baseball-reference.com), which bases their pitching WAR on actual performance, not theoretical value that everyone else out there computes. But bWAR can't identify who overperformed or underperformed due to luck, or if that is really their talent level, which is the goal of fWAR. Still, it not without some value, in terms of getting a sense of change and magnitude of improvement.
The Giants have been up and down throughout the period, in terms of ranking in the majors. For the most part, the Giants made the playoffs when they were in the Top 9, EXCEPT for 2015. Oddly, 2015 was the highest for the period, by a good amount: 2009, 17.6 (12th in majors); 2010, 108.4 (7th); 2011, 2.6 (15th); 2012, 52.1 (9th); 2013, -35.8 (17th); 2014, 95.1 (6th); 2015, 133.8 (2nd).
The Dodgers have been better than the Giants over the past three seasons, and their order in the NL West has been determined by how they compare during this period. They were particularly strong the past two seasons, especially in 2015, when they led with 161.5 RAA, leaving the Giants far behind in the dust at 133.8 in second place. Yet the Giants didn't make the playoffs, and the Dodgers didn't make it out of the first round, losing to the eventual NL champion, the Mets.
That was a good example of how good starting pitching can help a team win a lot of series. And the World Series showed how all that theory is thrown out, as we see who can handle the pressure of pitching in the World Series and who can't. The Giants have mostly chosen well with their pitchers, Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Vogelsong, even Zito did well, out-pitching Verlander. And I think it's worth pointing out Cueto's 2-hit complete game in the World Series for the Royals last season.
Thus, while it seems to work over a full-season (but not always, like the Giants 2015 season), it is not as much of an indicator in short series, like the playoffs, where the teams the Giants faced were all over the place (and, of course, the team in the playoffs is often nothing like the overall amalgam that a season's stats represents).
- In 2010, the Giants were way up there (though 7th), basically equals: Giants 108.4, Braves 132.0, Phillies 109.4, and Rangers 117.0. So it worked out that way, the series were mostly close, coin tosses, until the Giants calm and cool leadership (and starting pitching) led the way.
- In 2012, not as close, but they weren't the worse: Giants 52.1, Reds 9.5, Cards 125.0, Tigers 82.2.
- In 2014, they were very good but faced much better teams: Giants 95.1, Pirates 142.3, Nationals, 162.8, Cards 36.5, Royals 11.1.
Still, I thought the stats were interesting, and hopefully you found it interesting as well. Any other interesting points I missed (or worse, got wrong)? There is also a menu selection that allows you to check out how each team's farm team did in their league, FYI, so one can have fun with that data as well. Perhaps another day.