Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Your 2017 Giants: Post-Mortem and 2018 Thoughts

The Giants had the second worse record in franchise history, going 64-98.  I've seen many in the media, including some talking heads who I don't have a lot of respect for, excoriate the Giants for not planning on pursuing power, necessarily, when the annual post-season press conference was held.  The Giants senior management emphasized improving outfield defense, looking for an upgrade at 3B, and perhaps bullpen help.

FYI, all stats from the great Baseball Reference resource.

ogc Final Thoughts on 2017 Season, Plus Thoughts on 2018

Pitching is the Better Power:  the Power to Win Championships

The people focusing only on power may not be aware that they are not up with the latest in baseball analysis, which has found that power is not needed to win championships.  As I referenced in my business plan, link to the right side, two separate studies found that offense is not the key to championships, defense is, both pitching and fielding.  If you know differently, please let me know, but the last I've heard, there has been nothing refuting these findings yet.  The talking heads sometimes like to go for the easy and obvious kill, and use the reasoning that since everyone else is hitting homers, the Giants need that too.  But that's just facile analysis given this evidence.

Not that more power would not be nice.  It would be very nice, and if they pick up JD Martinez to play RF (unfortunately, his fielding is not all that great), I certainly would not denigrate that move.  Or better, somehow trade for Giancarlo Stanton (and I've seen some people reason out a way to pick up Dee Gordon, as well, with Panik and others creating a package, along with taking more of Stanton's salary than other teams would), that would be very cool!  Well, assuming the Marlins give us enough salary coverage on Stanton, that is one scary contract!!!  We all love the long ball.

But as I've shown in my PQS playoff studies (and I'm sure if I were to expand it to full seasons, it would still hold, but I don't have the time to collect all that data), DOM starts win, generally, and at worse, counters the other team's DOM start.  It is obvious and yet nobody ever seem to emphasize it (in fact, one study denigrated and mocked the fact that the Giants "pitched their way to victory";  apparently that's a way of being sneaky, using one of the key skills in the game) , perhaps because it's a one-trick pony that don't really bear repeating, I mean, really, of course, a well pitched game means that you have a better chance of winning.

What nobody seems to address, though, is that there are two other dimensions regarding well pitched games that are rarely discussed.  One is that there are pitchers who are capable of throwing a lot of them.  We have had examples of that recently on the Giants in Schmidt, Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner, and of course, pitchers like Verlander, King Felix, Kluber, and Kershaw.  The other is building up a rotation of them, at least three of them.

Of course, no pitcher is a machine, even the best fails in the playoff, for whatever reasons, like when the Giants had to skip over Bumgarner in the 2012 playoffs.  Or just fails and fails, like Peavy.  But the idea is to build up a rotation where you remove as much chance as you can, where you can throw out a Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, plus a Sanchez or Zito, who can sometimes give you a good or great start.

It don't always work, like when the Phillies copied the Giants for the 2011 season, acquired all that starting pitching, and while they pitched well, the other team pitched well enough too, and the BABIP gods took over and they rolled craps.  That's the part that Billy Beane and others like to use to excuse their poor playoff record, that it's all random, and so it don't matter what you do, as long as you win.  Wrong, kemo-sabe!

There is the old saying that "fortune favors the prepared mind".  Or the better one, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."  Sure, the Giants "lucked" out when the error gave them a run, or a random guy hits a homer (or a bunch of them), and the Giants win by one run.  But if the pitching had given up two more runs, none of that would have mattered, the error would have been forgotten.

People forget, but had Russ Ortiz had not given up 7 runs in Game 2 of the 2002 World Series, for example, had Baker stemmed the bleeding earlier, taking him out in the first, instead of waiting (unlike Bochy in the 2014 World Series, when he yanked Hudson), the Giants would have won 10-9 or better (assuming the extra pitcher would not have given up as many runs, say if Baker had took out Ortiz at Fulmer's or Spiezo's single, with only 3-4 runs scored), and they would have ended up winning the World Series in five games.  Those two runs ultimately meant everything, especially in a 11-10 loss.  Any sort of mediocre pitching would have won that game, let alone a DOM start.  But people find it easier to focus on what the batter "does" to the pitcher, and only focus on what the pitcher does to the batter when there is a K.

The key thing to remember is that pitching controls the game.  If the pitcher is in control, then there is not much the other team can do.   Great hitting can be neutralized by good pitching.  And great pitching is repeatable for an elite class of pitchers.

Given this, as a GM, this means that you need to stock your rotation with pitchers who throw more quality starts than other pitchers, ideally ones who do it very regularly, 3-4 of them every 5 starts.  Get at least two of them, and ideally three of them, plus a reliable fourth starter.  And a bullpen of guys who can also shut things down.   This way, even if one of them, for whatever reason ("choke"), happens to fail regularly in the playoffs, you have others who can deliver.  This is how you change your "luck" in the playoffs and stop blaming randomness for ruining your successful regular season record.

On top of that, look for players who have a lot of mettle.  Gamers who are not cowed by the immensity of the big moment.  Better, guys who want the big moment.   This is something that sabermetrics has not been able to measure yet.  And just because it can't be measured does not necessarily mean that it is not a factor, and that it don't exist.  These kind of touchy-feeling metrics are the Pluto's of sabermetrics:  it exists, we can tell that something is there, but we are not able to verify it without addition tools and technology.

Thus, I believe that the Giants would be better off focusing on pitching and fielding defense, boosting that as much as possible, given their budget and penalty situation (3rd straight year over the threshold, hoping to avoid a 4th unless right situation, like a Stanton apparently...).  As I showed in my business plan, defense is a cheaper thing to buy than offense, because of the exponential equation of Pythorean that goes into expected win/loss based on runs scored and runs allowed.  You get more wins from reducing your RA by 0.1 than you do by raising your RS by 0.1, it is all in the math.

Giants 2018 Starting Pitching

As was noted in the post-season presser, the Giants actually went through a lot of problems with their starting rotation (as well as bullpen).   They lost Bumgarner for nearly half the season, and they basically lost Cueto for half the season, as he struggled with his blister issue while on the DL and while starting, before finally shutting himself down and healing things.  But even then, he wasn't his usual great self.  And Moore struggled all season with losing his mechanics for all his pitches when he added a new pitch (cutter) to his repertoire, but then throwing that pitch screwed up his mechanical consistency that he needed to throw his other pitches.  He spent the second half of the season trying to find back his old mechanics, and had iffy success doing that.  Any team that loses their top three starters for significant amounts of the season, whether by injury or poor performance, they can pretty much kiss their season good-bye, I don't care who they are.

Meanwhile, Samardzija was still tinkering with his repertoire, and made a huge breakthrough in terms of control, at one point only walking one vs. striking out 59 in 48.1 innings during the middle of the season.  However, great control like that apparently meant he was hittable.  Once he figured out a happy medium, he was pretty good for the rest of the season, with a 3.40 ERA in his last 12 starts, 67 K vs. 17 BB, in 79.1 IP and 65 hits.  Still, his overall ERA was in the mid-4's, which would have been fine if Bumgarner, Cueto, and Moore had done what they did in 2016, but a disaster in 2017.

For the season, the Giants overall had a 4.58 ERA.  Bumgarner missed 17 starts, most of them going to Blach, who had a 4.81 ERA over 24 starts.  Madison had a 2.86 ERA over his previous four seasons.  Cueto had a 4.52 ERA in 25 starts.   If you take his last three seasons, including good 2016 and bad 2017, he has a 3.47 ERA.  But from 2012-2016, he had a 2.80 ERA.  Samardzija has had a 4.12 ERA as a Giants pitcher, 100 ERA+, 3.72 ERA as a starter in his last three seasons (excluding White Sox year when he was tipping pitches).  Moore should be able to duplicate his 4.08 ERA from 2016.   Together, that's a 3.37 ERA average, lower when you consider how many more IP Bumgarner and Cueto should have.

For the fifth starter, between Stratton and Blach, they had a 5.55 ERA in 34 starts in 2017.  That's a 3.80 ERA or roughly 4.08 RA/9.  That would have been roughly good for 3rd in the majors in 2017 (assuming the bullpen brings that number down;  generally, relief is better than starting for ERA/RA, at least if the team management is stocking it right, as the MLB level, relievers had 0.44 better ERA and at NL Level, 0.26 better ERA).  With bullpen adjustment, they would have been close to second in the majors.  That was their formula for 2010 and 2012 Championship teams, being near the top in RA/9.

The fly in the ointment, for the moment, is the rumor that there could be a three-way trade between the Cubs, Marlins and Giants, where the Giants send Cueto to the Cubs, and Arroyo and Seth Corry to the Marlins, in order to get Giancarlo Stanton.  I think while that would be a huge boost to the offense and OF defense, it would be a huge blow to the starting rotation.  The Giants would need a huge add to make up for such a loss, not likely if they are trying to limit spending.

Bullpen Better, Getting Close to Prime Time Ready

The bullpen has been through a transition period from the Core Four era of Affeldt, Romo, Casilla, Lopez (in that order) and it has been a bumpy ride.  It is not unlike the period after Bonds was let go, as one of the hallmarks of Sabean teams is the generally stout bullpen he would stock up, and he have been good at picking up other teams leftovers (like Eyre, F-Rod, Casilla) and finding a good to great reliever.  It was pretty bad in the wake of Nen's retirement (part of the reason was his huge $9M per season sunk salary that meant they couldn't invest in players they actually needed).  Dyson is different from the rest, as he had great credentials from his prior performance, but appears to be the next great success pickup.

With Dyson, it looks like (assuming good recover from surgeries) we have a great back of the game group of relievers in Melancon, Dyson, and Will Smith.  I thought that Smith would be the Affeldt replacement, but with Dyson in there, Bochy could go with either, depending on the predominant leaning of the batters coming up, without having to switch out for the platoon advantage.   It is too early to see whether they will be up to Core Four playoff standards (which is a very high benchmark), but in their limited playoff appearances, at least there are mostly good performance, mixed with the bad.

That was the great advantage of the Golden Era, having Affeldt, who could legitimately be the closer, be the set-up guy that Bochy felt free to bring in when he could shut down the other team, from the 6th to 8th inning, depending on the needs of the team at the time.  Casilla was effective enough, but he probably was the 3rd best reliever on the team, behind Affeldt and Romo, and perhaps behind even Lopez, depending on how Lopez was throwing.   That's a saber's dream situation right there, being able to use your best reliever when needed, and delegating the closer duties to someone capable enough, but not necessarily the best.

Dyson has closer abilities, and Bochy will be able to put him out there at key points earlier in the game with Melancon back.   And Smith should have closer like ability, he is similar to Affeldt in that he's a lefty who can get out both righties and lefties.   So the other team will find one or the other coming in with the game on the line during the set-up innings before the 9th.   That will add turbos to our bullpen when there is a lead, unlike the unsteady situation we have had for two seasons now.

In addition, we still have guy who insiders had long ago called our closer of the future, Hunter Strickland, in the mix for the end of the game, and surprise of the season, Kyle Crick, somewhere in the mix.   Plus Cory Gearrin, that's six good to great relievers, with Gearrin the bottom of the bullpen, and he had a 1.99 ERA last season (though I'm probably over-estimating Crick's capabilities here, but I'm riding his hype wave right now).

And that is not even considering all the other relievers in our system who could legitimately wrest a role from one of these three, in Law, Okert, Osich, Snelton, Moronta, and Slania.  Particularly since there is currently only one lefty in the above six, could see Okert or Osich force their way onto the roster with a great spring, as they need a loogy to pair up with Smith.

I can see the Giants perhaps trading away either Strickland or Gearrin, to free up space at some point  In addition, especially since good relievers are at a premium in recent seasons, they might pick up some good prospects in return, or even an interesting potential starting player, a guy on the edge needing an opportunity, or a guy about to become very expensive for his old team.   That could help us with 3B, LF, CF, or RF, depending on the situation.

In addition, the Giants, as noted in recent Sabean interviews, are focused on solidifying the bullpen, and returning it to its prior heights.  Recent news/rumors noted that the Giants are kicking the tires on Brandon Morrow, who was great with the Dodgers last season (could just be driving up LA's costs, as Morrow has stated he wants to return to LA; he is a SoCal native, after all, though he did go to Cal too), and will to talking to other relievers.

That leaves the long reliever role to be hashed out by the group of starters vying for the last starting pitcher rotation spot, which currently includes Ty Blach, Chris Stratton, as well as dark horse candidates Tyler Beede and Suarezes, both Albert and Andrew,  plus the borderline starters that the Giants always seem to find on the free agent market, like Wellemeyer in 2010, who would provide some competition to the youngsters.

Offense Is the Wild Card Currently

Will Posey be able to hit for any power in the second half?  Will Crawford return to prior power-hitting goodness, or was 2017 his decline year, leading to a really bad looking contract situation?  Will Panik be able to put together a full season of goodness?  Will Belt be able to avoid the DL list and reach the high 20's in homers (he was on pace for 27 homers, all the complainers forget)?  Will the Giants get much of anything from Pence and Span?   Will the Giants get a legit starting 3B and CF?  More importantly, for many Giants fans, can they really make the trade for Stanton without gutting the farm system?

Lots of question marks.  Lets start with an obvious one:  Panik.  He mans a key lineup spot, 2nd, which some studies have found to be one of the key batting lineup positions, up there with leadoff and cleanup (and some have it as the most important).  He was pretty bad the first two months there, hitting .243/.298/.341/.639 on May 29 (.268 BABIP), then he hit .311/.372/.462/.834 (.317 BABIP) the rest of the way, and the team, with its ups and downs (Posey no power second half, Belt gone much of second half), still averaged 4.21 runs per game from June to the end of the season.  When you look only at the period between Panik starting hitting and Belt out for the season, the offense averaged 4.50 runs per game.

So even with all those question marks, we still averaged 4.21 runs when Panik is hitting, and that covered over two-thirds of the season.  At 4.21 RS and 4.08 RA (which is conservative, as it does not bring in Bumgarner's and Cueto's extra IP load, nor bullpen improvement) that's already an 83 win team, from the players we already got in 2017.  Accounting for their extra IP load, that should drop it  to roughly 3.90 RA, which gets us to 86-87 wins.   The expected 6 relievers had a collective 2.90 ERA (including Melancon bloated ERA, though minus Dyson's bad first appearance), and since Smith didn't pitch, I would note his last three seasons had a 3.24 ERA.  Assuming overall bullpen ERA of 3.50, and roughly 2/3 SP and 1/3 RP IP split, that puts RA at 3.77 runs per game, which per Pythagorean puts us at 89 wins just with the players we currently have, and the hitters hitting like they did in the last two-thirds of the season.

On the high end, if the Giants averaged 4.5 runs scored when both Panik and Belt were in the lineup and Panik was producing.  With an RA of 3.77 runs allowed per game, that works out to a 94 win season.  So at the upper end of the scale, if everyone can stay healthy and produce like they can, the Giants can be in the mid-90's win range.  Of course, belief in any of this means that you believe that Panik is normally a good hitter and that he can put together a full season of hitting goodness and that Belt can stay in the lineup for most of the season (or that he won't get traded to clear salary as well as to get a defensive CF or starting 3B).

Obviously, this will improve if Stanton or Bradley are acquired, or anotheroffensive CF that appears to be available, Ian Happ of the Cubs.  If Hamilton is acquired, the offense is probably about the same. 

NL West Competition

One of the worries about the Giants getting back into the thick of things in the NL West is because the West sent three teams into the playoffs in 2017, with LA winning the division, and Arizona and Colorado getting the Wild Card game.   So it is not just climbing over one team, but up to three teams.

However, something not noted anywhere, part of the reason the NL West teams did so much better in 2017 was because the Giants were that much worse.  In 2016, the Giants were 45-31 against the NL West, but in 2017, they were only 29-47, a 16 game swing.   If you took each team's 2017 record and changed their record against the Giants from 2017 to 2016, LA would have been 101-61, Arizona 87-75, Colorado 84-75.   And the Giants would have been 80-72.

So part of the reason the NL West rose was because the Giants sank, like a stone.  But returning to prior goodness on the Giants parts would bring the others down, in particular the D-backs, as the Giants went from 13-6 against them in 2016 to 7-12 in 2017, a six game swing.  And per my analysis above, the Giants look like they have the talent (assuming return to prior goodness for the injured players, particularly among the pitchers) to get back into the think of things, most likely getting into the Wild Card playoff game, again.

So the strong NL West does not scare me, though I won't dismiss them either, they appear to be good teams.   But I would note that Arizona needs JD Martinez to return if they hope to win over 90 games again, and the Dodgers are going to be desperate if Morrow signs elsewhere or succumb to injury again,  it was not like the other NL West teams do not have good performances that helped them in 2017 that might not get repeated in 2018.

Player Acquisitions

87-89 wins could get the Giants into the playoffs as wild card, with some possibility of 94 wins, and based on the above, it looks possible for the Giants to be roughly in that range with the same players as we have now.  But things can go wrong, as it did last season.  So acquisitions will be key to getting our expected wins into the 90+ win range, and improve our overall changes of at least being a wild card team.

Perhaps a starting 3B like Moustakas, who is a free agent.  He not only hits but also plays great defense at 3B (or at least did previously, he was rated very negatively in 2017 by baseball-reference DRS and Fangraphs UZR).   He'll only be 29 YO next season, and MLB Trade Rumors has him at a 5 year contract in the $85M range, or $17M per season.

That seems very reasonable, except that despite his 38 homer season, because of his bad defense, he only had 1.8 bWAR and 2.2 fWAR.  MLBTR notes that it could have been rustiness due to his ACL injury in 2016, but you never know.  It could be a bad contract very fast if that is his base and 4.4 bWAR/3.7 fWAR he was in 2015 (he was out injured for most of 2016, another warning signal).

He also don't walk much, while striking out a lot, things the Giants had been looking for lately.  If the Giants can get him back to average defensively though (and with Crawford covering for him some), this would be a good deal.  However, from the press conference, the Giants don't appear to be going deep into the free agency market, talking over and over about being creative.  Unless that was a smoke screen...  Plus, looks like defensive starting CF is a greater need than starting 3B, since we at least have some interesting internal options in Arroyo, Ryder, and Sandoval.

Another slugger often tied to the Giants, probably because he's an OF, is JD Martinez.   He is expected to get a 6 year, $150M contract, or $25M per year.  That makes Moustakas look like a deal, and Martinez isn't even that good defensively.   Great homerun hitter, but you can get that power for $10M less per season, plus some hope of perhaps getting defense in there as well.    However, Martinez does take walks, and hits for average, so he produces a lot more WAR than Moustakas, so perhaps that will sway the Giants more.

Or trading for Stanton, as we are rumored to be very interested.  Unfortunately, our money is our best feature, not prospects.  But that could work in our favor, as Stanton can opt out the contract, which will scare away other teams from trading much prospects, making a money deal more likely, with secondary prospects and players going Miami's way.  He would also be a big load of salary, depending on how much Miami wants the Giants to take on, plus cost prospects.  Though one rumor has the Giants trading Cueto to the Cubs and prospects to the Marlins, to get Stanton.  Could be worth it too, but long large deals like these scare me silly.

Clearly their main target, other than making sure they can't convince the Marlins to trade Stanton to the Giants, is a defensive CF.  Players mentioned as potential trade targets of interest include Billy Hamilton of the Reds and Jackie Bradley Jr. of the Red Sox, both strong, proven defensive CF.  Bradley also is a good hitter to boot.   One of the free agents mentioned is Jarrod Dyson, among others. 

Speaking of being creative, the Giants might be staying in contact with Eduardo Nunez as a possible FA target.  I say this because the Giants talked so much about being creative in the final press conference of the season.  He would help fill their need for a 3B as well as for speed on the team.  MLBTR forecasts a two-year, $14M contract, which is much more affordable, and especially if they are trying to stay below the CBT penalty tax threshold.   He would be the super-utility guy if Sandoval figures out how to hit and field again, at a decent performance level, and if Pablows it out again, Nunez would be the starting 3B.

There is also talk about the Giants acquiring another bullpen arm.  I would think a lefty is on their shopping list because of the regression of Okert and Osich, though I still believe in the two of them.   Two lefty free agents who might get a kick in the tire are Minor and McGee.  As noted above, the rumor mills had the Giants kicking Brandon Morrow's tires (seem like more a move to drive up the final price for the Dodgers to resign him, but you never know; flip side is that Morrow had his first non-injury year 2017 since, like, 2011, and the Dodgers overused him during the playoffs, so there are injury danger signals on his arm for 2018), so there is that too.

A proven 5th starter might be on the list too, since both Blach and Stratton have question marks still, but more on the level of Wellemeyer, who we signed for a similar role for 2010, but more on the level of minor league invites than MLB contracts.

Budget Left To Spend to Get to CBT Penalty

The CBT penalty threshold is at $197M for the 2018 season.   Per Baggarly's article, the Giants have $169M in payroll for 10 players from existing contracts, and then another $15M for 5 arbitration eligible players.   That's $184M, leaving only $13M for the last 10 players on the 25-man roster.  And with the MLB min at $545K, that's a minimum of $5.5M right there.

Altogether, the total of the amounts above leaves the Giants only $7.5M that they can spend on free agents before going over the CBT penalty threshold again.  Unless they can renegotiate a contract with someone to backload expected salary from 2018 to 2019 or 2020, like Bumgarner or Moore, signing them to a longer term contract, perhaps giving raises to their guaranteed amounts for 2018-19, by pushing down 2018 and bumping up 2019, plus perhaps adding a big contract year in 2020.   Or do something like that with one of the arbitration guys.  Otherwise, the Giants barely got enough to sign a Nunez or a nice lefty reliever, unless they severely back-loaded these contracts into 2019.

Per Sabean's recent interview, however, another option is possible:  trading away a large contract.  He noted that beyond Posey and Bumgarner, they can't ignore trade possibilities with other teams (I've seen Crawford included in some lists of untouchables).  Of course, he has said that before, when the rumors surfaced on Toronto wanting Lincecum for their young OF, that you can't ignore others, but it don't mean that they will deal, just to deal, they will need to be overwhelmed.  And a reported asked Evans if he might move Bumgarner, and Evans said that the Giants have no plans to, which reporters ran with that he's on the block, but I believe falls in the "I'll believe it when I see it" bucket for Giants management, that if you want our top guys, you better be willing to pony up an offer that we can't refuse.

Still, it opens up the possibility that Brandon Belt might be available for the right starting CF, as he's the only player of value who isn't coming off a really down year (otherwise Shark and Moore might be just as good to trade, Cueto and Melancon would be possible as well, depending).

I also forgot to include the possibility/probability that the Giants will bring back Hundley as backup catcher, as he was a reliable defensive backstop with HR ability that Bochy trusted to start in Posey's stead.  That would take up $2M, unless the Giants sign him to a two year deal and backload into a $1/3M deal.

Got to be Creative

Given this lack of spending space, it does not look likely that the Giants will be able to sign the players to fulfill their needs at CF, 3B, and bullpen (which I presume to be a lefty, as the right-handers all performed well, aside from Melancon, but he's going nowhere; Dyson had good ERA if you skip over his first appearance after the Giants picked him up from the Rangers, where he was still scuffling, he was good after that)  without making trades or waiver wire pickups.

Could it be?!?  Shohei Otani!

A far far far out possibility is Shohei Otani.  He's Japan's Babe Ruth, a great pitcher who also hits for homers and well overall as well.  The Giants were asked about him, and, of course, they are interested, and Bochy even said he would not be against letting Otani play a position when he's not pitching, so that he can bat more often.

He's a unique Japanese free agent - assuming he can get posted, as there are some contract issues to be worked out with the Players Union, as the last contract is expired - in that he's allowed to negotiate with every team, but since he's an international free agent, those rules and restrictions apply, and thus the Giants, having spent all that money on Lucius Fox previously, can only pay him a bare minimum salary, whereas other teams can pay him millions more.

The key here is that any team can negotiate, not just the team that bids the most money for his posting.  And thus the Giants have nothing to lose to find out whether Otani is somehow interested in playing for the Giants, and perhaps negotiate things they are willing to let him do (like play a field position, or other non-monetary benefits).  Maybe other teams aren't willing to put up with his demands, we won't know until the posting is cleared up.  In addition, because of this delay, he might not be able to negotiate with teams until much later in the off-season, after teams had spent their money they might have been willing to keep aside for him, in order to fulfill other needs.  Will be interesting, even if the Giants don't sign him.

This could be where the possibility of trading Belt to get a strong defensive CF might be linked.  1B is a relatively injury light type of fielding position, and if the Giants can sign Otani, he could become our primary starting 1B (getting into maybe 100 games), with Posey taking most of the rest of the starts, with occasional starts for Sandoval.  And it don't have to be 100 starts, maybe they bring up a minor leaguer to get trial MLB experience (like Shaw).

And even if Otani (most likely) chooses another team (offering him starting 1B is probably the Giants best offer that they can make), we have Shaw who we could bring up potentially, if he continues hitting well in spring training or AAA, depending on how well Sandoval prepares himself for MLB baseball during this off-season.

Bochy's Time Might Be Past

As I've been documenting, Bochy, for his career has been stupendously great at being 8 games above .500 in one-run games. He had 9 such seasons in his first 18 seasons as a manager, including 3 of 6 as a Giants manager. However, in his last five seasons, he has been negative (i.e. below .500) in 3 of his last 4 seasons as manager, and it has been five seasons since his last season being at least 8 games above .500 in one-run games, which he did in 2012. And his last positive season (and only +1 at that) was in 2016.

So his time might be past, as Bobby Cox, had a similar pattern. I didn't count his one-run record, but I had analyzed his Pythagorean pattern, as too how many games won above Pythagorean he was, and early and into late of his career as manager, he was many games above .500, but in his latter years, and from what I recall, it was a pretty long period, he stopped beating Pythagorean.

Now, there is no study showing the value of these stats, so there is nothing definitive (and really, in baseball, there is no definitive way of determining goodness, to an exact degree, even WAR is off a lot because of the inability to properly measure pitchers, where most saber measurements are still unable to credit pitchers who are good at reducing BABIP, and properly measure fielding defense, both key abilities in baseball; you need a variety of stats, and you can feel around the target, but nothing definitive that I know of).

But I've studied the Pythagorean of a wide variety of managers who were active in the 2000's, and generally the managers considered good were above Pythagorean and those bad, were under. Interestingly, Lasorda was negative, pretty bad really. Also, Joe Torre was horrible in his early career as a manager, but really good with the Yankees. So talent is part of the equation, as he had bad teams early on, and great teams with the Yankees.

And I basically studied the NL Managers one-run records for the length of Bochy's career as a manager and I can say that few managers ever even have one season at 8 games above or better in one-run games, let alone multiple ones, let alone 9 in 18 seasons. And saber rules says that managers should be regressing to .500 in one-run games. Bochy currently is 68 games above .500, in 1,106 games where there was a one-run difference. He could be -10 games for the next 7 seasons before he regresses to .500, and most managers generally get fired after one of those seasons, let alone 7 of them.

But, he has been -13 for the past five seasons, suffering his worse record in 2015, going 19-28, or -9 games under .500 in one-run games. His previous worse was -7 in 2002, so the -9 is not that out of bounds, but that was his only one as Padres manager where he was worse than -2. While he only had one season out of twelve where he was worse than -2, in his eleven seasons as Giants manager, he has 3 seasons where he was -4 or worse. And if you are wondering if it has to do with good teams or bad teams, in 2008, when the Giants were 72-90, Bochy was +10 in one-run games that season, but in 2015, the Giants were 84-78, but Bochy was -9 in one-run games.  Looking another way, had Bochy been neutral at +1 in 2015, they would have been 89-73 that season, and had he had one of his good seasons, at +9, 97-65 would have been their record.

Add in the fact that he's been dealing with heart/health issues during this down period, you have to wonder if Bochy has lost a step. And baseball can be cruel, you lose just a little and it could cost you big. We'll see, but these might be his last two seasons as Giants manager. Hopefully he can retire and enjoy a healthy and wonderful retirement with his wife, that's the most important thing.

Lastly, I was wrong to say that he might have made his own power play, as clearly the hires are all management driven (though I would imagine he would have to give his blessing for management to make the hire).   Clearly the Giants used the happenstance of the horrible season as justification for clearing out the coaching ranks, and anointing an heir apparent to Bochy (though Meulens is apparently up for the Yankees' managerial opening, so we'll see what happens then).  But what Evans noted is true, after a while, a coaches word just goes in one ear and out the other with players (though I would note that of the 2017 players, only 8-9 out of the 25 man (depends on how you want to categorize Kontos and Sandoval) were on the team in 2014.

Evans Could Be On Hot Seat

I have not seen this anywhere, but Bobby Evans could be on the hot seat himself.  Perhaps that's partly what precipitated the coaching purge, he could have made the point that the coaches did not make his moves work, when pressed on the poor season by ownership, and asked to bring in new, fresh voices.  One of the worse losing seasons ever with a team built for contention for a newbie GM usually would result in very strong public questions on whether he should be retained.  Sabean was regularly pilloried among the Giants fans for less.

One thing that hints at this is something I noticed this off-season:  that Sabean is very much front and center again with the public.  He attended the season ending press conference this year (he did not make all of the prior ones once Evans took over), plus has made two significant interviews in the past week, in the week leading up to the GM Winter Meetings, one when the new coaches were introduced and he announced that the Giants were pursuing defensive CF, starting 3B, and bullpen strength, in that order, and then by The Athletic, where he said that everyone aside from Posey and Bumgarner are available for trade, that they will consider trades that they normally would not entertain in other off-seasons, trying to show the fans that the Giants Management gets the direness of the team's situation in the wake of the 2017 season.   Both were huge news regarding the direction the Giants were taking, and neither communicated by Evans, a duty that has been his for a while now, even when Sabean was still GM. 


  1. Of course, news came out already.

    First, Stanton reportedly named the Giants as one of three teams he would have to be convinced to join in trade. Plus that he was Dodger fan growing up. Looks like LA got inside road for him. That would not be ideal but I prefer that over Giants giving up a prospect like Ramos, another rumor on deal.

    Also, Giants like Duggar enough that short term options are preferred in CF.

    And one rumor has Giants in on Heywood, giving up Shark and Melancon.

  2. Should mention that the CBT calculations above might be incorrect. There are two ways of looking at payroll and the above is the normal way of calculating it that we all are familiar with.

    The CBT threshold requires a different payroll calculation using average annual contract value instead. This benefit the Giants because they have a number of contracts signed pre-arb, making that palyers impact on the threshold to be less than their impact on the payroll itself. For example, Posey's CBT is $3M less than actual, Bumgarner is $6M less.

    However, the CBT also accounts for payroll benefits that the players receive, which I've been using $20M based on prior season's announcements on what I know to be the CBT and Payroll numbers for the players, and whether and how much the Giants are past the penalty threshold. That has worked out to be between $20-25M in prior seasons ($20M last season; I usually insert the prior season as placeholder until the penalty announcements are made).

    I'm not sure what number Baggarly provided. He did not mention the payroll benefit factor, so it appears to not be right. But my spreadsheet right now is at $8.3M available, so it is very similar to the number I had in my post. I will use this number going forward.

    1. DrB has a much better CBT discussion (and another source of data on payroll): http://whenthegiantscometotown.blogspot.com/2017/11/hot-stove-update-thoughts-on-giants.html

      He says that with that data, the Giants have around $10-11M to spend, $2-3M more than what I've been saying.

      He also astutely pointed out that we now need a backup catcher, with Hundley a free agent and Federowicz released to be a free agent, and that the Giants will want someone similar to Hundley (if not Hundley again), and he signed for $2M last season, which means that $8-9M is available for other free agents/trades before passing the threshold, which is where we are again! Oy, weird how each way, even my wrong methods, end up around $8-9M. In any case, I trust his numbers, given the source.



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