Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Your 2017 Giants: Pondering the Draft Pick Position Possibilities

I was just here thinking about the Giants.  They have been playing OK lately, to my mind.  Not playoff level, but kind of like the Giants I grew up with:  Meh with a bit of hope and a dash of "OMG are you f-ing kidding me?"  Of course, I want a good draft pick, and meh might ruin that dream, so it got me thinking about what the draft possibilities are, even though, with so many games, still many ways it can go, many different scenarios.  Still, interesting to ponder.

ogc thoughts

So I started digging around the data, as I am wont to do.

Sandoval Not a Savior

One thought I had was whether Sandoval has given us a push upward.  However, after some good early moments, we have only been 8-7 since he returned, 7-7 in his starts.  But looking deeper into our record, from when they gave fans some hope with a nice winning streak in late June, the Giants have been 24-25 since June 25th, or roughly what we have done with Pablo on the team.  And with a .699 OPS, clearly Kung Fu Panda is not in da  house either.  And his fielding is still bad, so for all the qualitative positives I've heard since he returned, the advanced stats say nay.

Sam I am Not a Savior, but Maybe a New Affeldt

Another player I thought that might have been a boost was Sam Dyson.  He has been a revelation as our closer, after early hiccups that showed how messed up he was with Texas, and how the Giants Pitcher's Whisperers have saved the day again, by fixing him up and returning him to closer goodness once again.  Hopefully Melancon is healthy next season, with him as the closer, and Dyson as the new Affeldt-ian alt-closer who can be used in any situation from innings 6-8 (or earlier if Bumgarner can relieve), plus Will Smith as the new lefty-killer, and a mixture of Strickland, Crick, Law, Okert in there, along with maturity and experience, and probably Gearrin and Suarez (Albert), we could have a killer bullpen as soon as 2018.

However, Dyson was not the word, or at least not the entire word:  the Giants have been 25-37 since getting him (I did not count his first appearance for us, as he pitched horribly, but because we led by so many runs, we won that game).  Not that he has not been superb:  after that bad first appearance, 25 appearance, 11 saves, 1.32 ERA; and he was even better once he became the closer, from his first save, he has had 18 appearances, 11 saves with 1 blown save, 0.90 ERA.

Oddly, he has been pitching great while still putting up the lousy peripherals that he was exhibiting with Texas, and nothing like the great peripherals he was showing when he was a great reliever for Texas.  Overall, he is about the same as he was when he was starting out as a major leaguer for Miami:  kind of wild, not that much of a strike thrower, but able to keep runs from scoring.  In other words, a pitch to poor contact type of pitcher.

The kind the Giants have been using forever in their pitching staff in the Sabean era, from the first trade, when Sabean engineered the Kirk Rueter trade just before he was named the new GM, to when Cain, even with good velocity, pitched to poor contact anyway, unwilling at first to trust his stuff, to today, where, Stratton is in our rotation, Beede spent a couple of years de-emphasizing his velocity in order to be able to pitch to contact, and Kontos was banished to the minors for a while to learn how to pitch to contact.

Bum's Not the Word

I've also seen some mention of the lift Bumgarner has given the team once he returned.  Not so much.  The team has been 16-20 overall since he returned to the rotation, and only 3-5 in his starts.  Of course, like Dyson, it is not that he has not been superb:  8 starts, 2.81 ERA, .654 OPS, even a low .261 BABIP (which he has not really been good at before, at least not consistently good; if anything, hitters have been over the mean on BABIP with him, it is just that he strikes out so many guys while walking very little, and limiting the damage).   And, of course, 6 DOM in 8 starts, zero DIS starts, should lead to a lot of wins (not, with the team's 3-5 record in his starts, and clearly poor offense to boot).

A Little Bit of Both

And he basically returned right after the All-Star Break, so the Giants did not get any bump from resting at home and thinking about how to get better in the second half.  Though, there has been an improvement, as the hitters bumped up their hitting from the first half:
  1. Half:  .243/.303/.374/.677 OPS
  2. Half:  .263/.324/.389/.714 OPS
And most of that comes from a higher BABIP, as it rose from .282 to .312, which pushed the BABIP to an about average .291 BABIP currently.   And most of that good hitting has been in August, with a decent .270/.334/.410/.744 OPS.  Pence, Panik, Parker, Posey, and Hundley (and Belt before his concussion) were the guys who hit well in the month of August so far.

And the pitching has been improved as well:
  1. Half:  4.68 ERA, 1.418 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 2.51 K/BB, BABIP .321
  2. Half:  4.14 ERA, 1.375 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 2.50 K/BB, BABIP .315
Though that is mainly attributable to the drop in BABIP.  Amazing what giving up less hits does for your ERA!   And most of that was in August, as the pitching staff had a 3.82 ERA, 1.307 WHIP, 7.8 K/9, 2.79 K/BB, BABIP .305

Stratton and Bumgarner has brought down the ERA a lot, as well as some of the relievers.  However, as well as Stratton has done, Blach has not, as the league appears to be catching up with him.

Draft Position Situation

I'm going to assume a split of the Brewers series, with Samardzija and Moore starting, a coin flip seems about right.   That will leave us at 52-77.  We are currently in 3rd, behind the Phillies by 3 games, and the White Sox by 1 game.  In 4th is the Reds, 3 games behind us, and in 5th is the A's, who are 3.5 games behind us.  6th and 7th are the Mets and the Tigers, both 4.5 games back.  Padres are 8th, 5 games back.  The Braves are 9th, 5.5 games back, and in 10th is  the Blue Jays, 9 games back of the Giants.

With 33 games left to play for the Giants to play, it is very unlikely for the Blue Jays to catch the Giants, basically impossible.  If the Blue Jays play .500, they end up 77-84, and the Giants would need to go 25-8 for them to tie.  If the Giants play .500 (which they have for a while now, using 16-17 since odd number of games left), they end up 68-94, which would mean the Blue Jays need to go 9-29 to tie.

The Braves are a lot closer but still hard for them to catch us unless they play very poorly going forward.  If they play .500, they end up 73-89, which would mean the Giants need to go 21-12.  If the Giants play .500, they end up 68-94, which means the Braves need to finish 13-26, which is not impossible, and they have been basically playing at that rate since July 17 (10-22) but if you look at their second half record, that changes to a less threatening 13-22.  Still, that could be their talent level for the rest of the season.

Next, looking at the Reds as the other end of the spectrum, between them and the Braves, if they play .500, they are 71-91, and the Giants need to go 19-14 to tie them.   If the Giants go .500, again, 68-94, and the Reds would need to go 15-22.  They did play that badly in June and July, but they are 11-9 in August.  Their main problem was their pitching was really bad in June, and then their hitting was really bad in July, but now their hitters are really good in August, while their pitching has reverted to being bad.  July seems to be the aberration, with poor hitting, relatively (probably was still better than the Giants in any month).  So they do not appear likely to pass up the Giants unless the Giants suddenly got good or they suddenly got bad.

And therefore the same for the teams in-between the Reds and Braves.  But the margin for these teams is not that high that it can't happen with so many games to play, and especially with September being the month that younger players get put in more often.   So the Giants can still end up anywhere from 1st to

Who Might Leapfrog the Giants

So, looking at recent trends, these are the teams to watch out for in terms of climbing ahead of the Giants:

  • A's:  They were 11-19 in their last 30 games, and at that pace, they end up at 68-94 or 69-93, which is where the Giants would be playing .500 the rest of the way.  And they were 8-12 in their last 20, which leaves them at 69-93.  
  • Mets:  They were 11-19 in their last 30 games, and at that pace, they end up at 68-94, which is where the Giants would be playing .500 the rest of the way.  And at only 6-14 in their last 20, that would place them at 66-96, better than the Giants if we play .500.  
  • Tigers:  They were 11-19 in their last 30 games, and at that pace, they end up at 68-94, which is where the Giants would be playing .500 the rest of the way.  And at only 7-13 in their last 20, that would place them at 67 or 68 wins, roughly where the Giants are.
  • Padres:  They were at .500 over their last 30, which would mean that they are unlikely to pass us up, but at only 8-12 in their last 20 games, that would get them to 70-92, which is striking distance if we improve by 2 wins (say 18-15 instead of 16-17) or they do worse by 2 wins.  

The good news, which normally would be bad news, is that the Giants has not been consistently good over long stretches of the season.  The best stretch I could find was 9-3 from May 10th to 22nd and 7-1 from June 26th to July 5th.  11-9 from August 1st to 21st is the longest stretch I could find where we were over .500 for at least 20 games.   And 24-25 is the closest to .500 over a longer stretch of games.  Good times.

Each good stretch would be followed by a long extended streak of losing, generally of a long stretch of games.  The Giants have not had any really good 33 game streak, other than that .500-ish streak.  So I feel really good about that, plus, on top of that, Bochy will be playing more of the young players in September.

Frankly, I would give Crawford a lot of rest and play Calixte there, Arroyo if he is healthy (though I think they might have shut him down for the season), maybe some Tomlinson.  He has not been right this season.  And maybe it is his age, and maybe he's been distracted by personal business, but whatever the reason, the season can't end soon enough for him so that he can move on to 2018.

And once Slater is ready, he should be the starting LF, with Parker the starting CF/RF, and Span and Pence can alternate starting in September.  Or they can semi-platoon since Parker and Span are lefties, Slater and Pence are righties, mix and match depending on the opposing starting pitcher.

And once the roster expands in September, start using all the young relievers more often, and use Gearrin and Melancon less often, giving the youngsters a whole inning to screw up in or dominate in, no pressure.  Especially Crick late in the game in pressure situations where the score is close.  We need to see if he can be a big contributor in 2018 in the late game or if he's taking the Kontos middle innings role.

I would experiment with going with Suarez in the middle innings when a starter just don't have it, but only to bridge to the rest of the bullpen, like normal, and maybe he can then pitch consecutive days, sometimes, as spot starting is usually not happening except in emergencies when we could bring up someone for the 10 days that you have to keep the guy you send down for.

These would not only give valuable experience, but also help to push us to lose a few more games, to help us keep the good draft spot.  And, if they come through, then we are better set for 2018 with players we can rely on.  And might still have the good draft pick, as one good performance is not going to swing the team that much, frankly, it takes a team to win (or to lose).

Ultimately, though, I want a Top 5 pick, which looks doable right now, being in 3rd place, and only four teams looking possible to jump ahead of us, as not all of them are going to do that poorly all together (unless they consciously decide to tank, which we can't help - but to tank too, if we are smart; and so far, in the Sabean era, they have been)


  1. I know the metrics do not say much about Pablo's fielding, and he did make a throwing error, but I have been watching all the games, and he has been playing a very good third base, and he has already made some really excellent plays. I do not want to jinx him, but he seems to be fielding just fine. He is hitting 274 so far as a giants. When I started reading this article I thought that you were going to review some of the possible draft choices the giants would have.

    1. Yeah, sorry about that to everyone, I see what you mean. I should have said "draft pick" instead!

      Thanks for your comments on Pablo. Your account aligns with comment a beat writer just made about how Pablo has improved defensively and appears to not be a liability right now.

  2. Based on very preliminary analysis of the 2018 draft class, if the Giants have the #5 pick, they should get a player who is every bit as talented as the the #1 overall pick. The top tier might go 1 or 2 deeper, but I haven't looked at it in enough detail to say for sure. I am quite confident about 1-5.

  3. I guess it depends on if you think College 1B/DH Seth Beer is a top 5 talent or not. There are 4 names that seem to be in almost everybody's top 5: College RHP Brady Singer, HS SS Brice Turang, HS RHP Ethan Hankins, HS RHP Kumar Rocker.

    HS OF's Brian Kelenic and Joe Gray appear quite often. College players like OF Tristan Pompey(Dalton's lil bro) and LHP Justin Hooper could climb into to top 5 status with strong Junior seasons.

  4. An ace college pitcher like Brady Singer would sure solve a lot of problems for the Giants in 1 pick. I guess that's who I am rooting for.

    1. Thanks DrB for your incomparable knowledge of prospects, amateur and minors! Yes, that is exactly what I am rooting for as well, an ace starter is exactly what would cure a lot of what ails the Giants.

      A reminder to those not as experienced as DrB, this can change drastically by the draft. For example, Evan Longoria was slotted for our pick one but did so well that he moved up to 3. We were lucky to get Lincecum instead. And BCraw was a preseason top ten pick, then fell to us deeper in the draft, fourth round if I recall right. Lots can change, injury, poor performance, superb performance, like Gary Brown, which jumped him to us.

  5. FWIW, based on what Sandoval looked like in May, then early July and now... He hasn't learned his lesson. He was in good shape this year for the Red Sox. He was in good shape when the Giants signed him.

    Now he's got a gut and he's ranked 30th on the Giants in defense (FanGraphs).

    As far as draft choices... Everyone's got their favorites. But there are a number of pitchers that show up in the Top-5 a lot. Hankins, Singer, Rocker & Kower.

    Of them, Singer seems to be the #1 pitching prospect. But a lot can happen between now and then. So we'll see.

    1. Thanks for sharing!

      That's the big worry, that he's the Peter Pan he was when he was with us before, and add weight. I'm ok right now if he's a bit overweight (or even a lot) as I want a top 5 pick, and poor performances will help ensure that.

      My hope is that he continues to work in earnest in the off season and get into better shape for 2018. You can't fix two years of adding weight in one off season, that's a long term project, at least for people like him who can't control themselves. It's like an inflated ERA after a huge blowout, it takes a lot of good starts to get it back into good shape. So 2018 is when I have expectations for him.

      That, to me, is when he needs to show that he is willing to pay the price for goodness. Can he work diligently and eat healthily? Or will pix of him and sundaes show again?

      In any case, nothing is guaranteed him from us other than min vet, and if we need to send him down, at this point, I can't see any team "stealing" him from us via waivers. It is all on his shoulders, and costs us little to see what he can do. And if he can get even to MLB average, that's a huge boost for us.

      But that's the fear, and too bad he doesn't seem to get it, per your observation, all we can do is wait and see.

      Thanks for the names, you and DrB have given us some names we can dream on and follow next season.

    2. Well, I"m not hopeful he'll change. He got a second, frankly undeserved, chance with the Giants and has put on weight.

      But for all that, he is hitting .275 (though with little power) for the Giants. So at least he's not completely failing.

    3. At the MLB minimum, for me, really a no brainer to keep him around just in case he ever figures it out, regarding his weight and playing.

      Baseball is not and has never been about fairness. If it was, that Dodger pitcher (Steve Howe?) who got thrown out of baseball for drug abuse would not have gotten, like, 7 chances to pitch again in the majors.

      As I've been opining, failing would be fine with me, as that would help ensure a Top 5 pick in next year's draft. Hitting with little power would do the job as well as not being able to field all that great.

      Basically, he's an essentially free lottery ticket, and another team would have given him the chance if we turned him down. If he finally figured it out and does great for another team when we could have signed him would have killed me. :)

      I'm not happy about what he said after leaving nor will I ever be fully happy about him returning until he returns that ball, but he can be a valuable asset, which could prove useful at some point, so I'm willing to accept him on the team (not like not accepting him, on my part, would result in anything happening :).

      Happy 3-day weekend (except that we are all melting in the Bay Area, this has got to be a record for SF in recorded weather history!).

  6. Pablo Today:
    .211 .268 .289 .557

    Range - Nope
    Arm- Erratic
    BR - Cover Your Eyes

    The last position player on every ML team has at least one useful baseball skill - Pinch hit, Pinch run, Def replacement, Something!

    Not Pablo!

    He's the placeholder that that either falls out of the book, or glues all the pages together.

    Calling him even useless is an unfair upgrade.

    1. If I thought he was slowing a good prospect, then I would be more upset. But Belt's injury means that Jones can start at 1B, while Pablo played 3B, and I don't think Kelby or Calixte are potential starters, they look like they are adequate utility middle infielders.

      And even if Belt was around, Ryder has had an interesting and intriguing minor league performance, but certainly not a clearly superior prospect who is forcing his way onto the 25 man roster.

      And it works either way. If he's horrible or just so-so, then we continue to sink and keep our good draft position for 2018. If he's average or better, then we have a starting 3B talent level for a minimum salary, at a position we then don't have to worry about filling in 2018.

      And I'm under no illusions that he will figure things out. I just trust that the Giants brain trust, who saw the talents of the team enough over the past 10 years to build it up, even though most/many fans denigrated Sabean's ability to evaluate baseball talent in the years prior. Which shows how good most fans are at evaluating talent, else they would not have been complaining, and instead talking positively about the future from 2008-2012.

      The way I see it, whatever bad habits that Sandoval got into with Boston, it will take longer than this season to fix all the kinks. I see the Giants fixing one part then another, like they did with Belt in his early years. If they think that he's no longer worth the roster spot, even at a vet min, then I trust that they will dump him, like they dumped guys like Rowand and Tejada, even though they had big money on their contracts still. While keeping guys like Renteria and Zito, who looked like they would not be big contributors, but ended up saving our butts.

      So if the Giants think he's worth keeping around, I'm OK with it since he's being paid so little. If he was paid more, then I would have a problem. But vet min is nothing. If we had a prospect who was a sure thing to start in 2018, I would have a problem. But Arroyo got hurt and he wasn't ready before, so he will need more time in 2018 to get there, but that's OK, he's very young. Plus, we need a starting 3B, and there is no budget space for that, especially if Cueto ends up staying with the team. Remember, we are over, only Cain leaves, and Belt and Crawford get big raises, if I recall right.

      So we will need to be creative to find a starting 3B, especially if the Giants are looking for a starting CF who is young and speedy. If it were me, I would try to trade Span to a team that needs what he can do (and he can do some things well), then take the savings to help get a starting FA CF, perhaps via trade (from team trying to save money). Problem with that is then who our leadoff guy is, as Nunez and Span were our guys. But one problem at a time.

      Who knows, if the Giants can get him back to his prior goodness in terms of getting on base (.340+ is pretty good still) but his power doesn't return, he could lead off for us, assuming his defense is able to be average. He was a good baserunner for us, even when rotund, and smart as well. So that won't be the worse thing.

      Unless we resign Nunez to be lead-off, and then use him as a super utility guy who plays somewhere while giving someone a rest.



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