Monday, December 25, 2017

Your 2018 Giants: Spin Rate Spinning Stratton into #4 Starter

Merry Christmas!

As was noted in one of my recent posts, the beat writers noted that with the trade of Moore, Stratton, based on what he did at the end of 2017, will be the #4 starter.  And the stats do support that, in black and orange:  last 9 starts (I see others using his last 8 starts, which has a higher ERA, but think it better to include his whole "part of the starting rotation" experience), basically after he was placed in the rotation, 2.42 ERA, with 43 strikeouts in 44.2 IP, though also 20 walks, high, but doable if he can get that down a little, 2.15 K/BB is becoming pretty below average in today's strikeout happy world.  His BABIP was a bit high, as well, at .317, so he could improve there if he can get that down to the league mean.

There is a great Pavlovic Giants Insider Podcast on November 9, where Stratton is interviewed and discussed afterward.  Alex noted that Stratton's spin rate was elite in THE MAJORS in 2017, among pitchers with at least 100 pitches thrown:
  • 2nd in all of baseball in curveball spin rate to Garrett Richards, shows how tough
  • 22nd in fastball spin rate to Aroldis Chapman
  • 21st in slider spin rate (FYI:  Crick was 1st!)
As noted in the podcast, the higher the spin rate, the lower the batting line against the pitch.  Also notes that a fastball with a high spin rate rises (one of Matt Cain's bread and butter, once upon a time, with his high rising fastball) and is very effective up in the zone.  Hundley and Federowicz told him to keep the ball up because hitters weren't handling the pitch and he said that he would continue until hitters adjust, at which point, he'll adjust. 

I found an SI article that touted Stratton as a breakout candidate based on his spin rate (article was noting Astros success with spin rate analysis), similar to Morton:
The problem: Stratton has a mediocre four-seam fastball (91.8 mph) and, if you lower the bar to 100 curveballs thrown, the fastest-spinning curveball in baseball (3,105 rpm). Batters hit .292 against his fastball, but only .100 against his curveball. But he’s stuck in an old-school way of pitching: 61% fastballs and only 18% curves. 
The symptoms: Lefthanded hitters crushed Stratton, lighting him up for a .811 OPS, while he held righthanded hitters to a .670 OPS. Stratton throws his curveball even less often to lefties (17%) than to righties (21). 
The mechanics: They need work. Stratton has poor arm deceleration, meaning his arm and hand brake too soon after release. He can improve velocity by working on better deceleration. He also can throw harder by driving his head and torso more toward the plate; he has a tendency to drift toward the first-base side of the mound while releasing the ball. Bottom line: there’s more in there. 
How to get Morton-ized: Increase curveball percentage to lefthanded hitters, work the high fastball/curveball tunnel more often, and tighten mechanics.
The problem the article noted was that the Giants are one of the leaders in the majors in using the cut fastball.  It also noted how some pitchers were talked into using their better pitches more often and their fastball less.

His coaches have been very positive about his chances.  Bochy was very complimentary of him.  After the last game of the year, he said, "He's made a really big statement, I think, if you look at his body of work.  Just watching him pound the strike zone, he's got two good breaking balls and a changeup. He's locating well and he finished up on a good note tonight."  Gardner was reported to say that he thought Stratton has good stuff.  And Bochy backed his feelings up by not removing Stratton from the rotation when Cueto returned from the DL, noting that "he's throwing the ball to well for that", as he has "deceptively good stuff" and "He's doing stuff that elite pitchers do. It's good to see him pitch at this level."

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Your 2018 Giants: Going Long on Longoria

Adios Arroyo, we hardly knew ye!  As announced by the Giants and various beat writers, the Giants have traded for Evan Longoria.  For him, the Giants traded Christian Arroyo, Stephen Wood, Matt Krook, and, to allow the Giants to stay under the CBT penalty threshold, Denard Span, who by DRS methodology, was beyond horrible in CF last season.  The Giants also get an undisclosed amount of cash, which has no effect on CBT, but basically is the Rays buying the prospects.

Nicely, both Arroyo and Span are returning to their homes in Florida.  It is something the Giants try to do with trades.

Per press conference, as reported by beat writers (I'm referencing Andy Baggarly's twitter feed):

  • The Giants were CBT-neutral with the trade for 2018
  • The Giants are not done, that this sets up another trade that is just as significant (!?!)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Your 2018 Giants: Hundley Signed for $2.5M

Per report from Chronicle and other beat writers, Nick Hundley has been re-signed to a one-year $2.5M contract to be the Giants backup catcher again.  His signing was expected as the Giants only had one other catcher on the 40-man roster (Aramis Garcia, who was recently added), plus, Hundley had a good time with the Giants and wanted to be back.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Last Refuge for Naysayers: OF Development

The impetus for this post was the ravings of a relatively well-known (notoriously infamous to some) sports media "expert" that the Giants have not produced a starting OF in 30 years and therefore the front office is not doing its job.  Hank Schulman fought the good fight, bringing up basically what I'm writing below, but that's the beauty of having your own blog, I get to rage when I want to on a topic near and dear to me.

I say "expert" because he certainly presents himself that way.  Also, he is smart and seems to be nice, on-air, so I don't know how he can keep on spouting all these "facts" about the Giants and not have one co-worker push back on him, there must be other Giants fans there.  He apparently don't like people who don't agree with him publicly, as he blocked me on Twitter when I made a factual statement to one of his comments, he attacked me, then I calmly explained to him where he got my statement wrong and what exactly I was pointing out.  I was surprised to find out soon afterward that he blocked me, but that's OK, he spouts mis-information about the Giants so much that I can't bear to listen to him talk about the Giants. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Your 2018 Giants: No Moore

In a surprising (to me; Schulman noted on Twitter that he's been telegraphing it for weeks now) move, the Giants traded Matt Moore (whom we traded the $6M man and Duffman for) to the Rangers for two prospects, right-handed relievers Sam Wolff and Israel Cruz, both hurlers capable of 100 MPH.  It was noted as a salary dump to free payroll money for free agency spending and in order to stay under the CBT penalty threshold.

Andy Baggarly, newly of The Athletic (behind paywall, generally, though some were free before I started subscribing; only way to get Baggs now), noted that there are some good benefits to resetting the CBT penalty this season.  It is so important that the Dodgers just unloaded a ton of contracts onto the Braves in order to get themselves under the limit.  Apparently they did not view Stanton worth going over with, and, instead, prefer to reset their penalties (five years now) so that they can spend big after next season on the big free agent market, starring Bryce Harper and, most probably, Kershaw as well, if he opts out.

Per MLB Pipeline, Sam Wolff, although not on the Rangers Top 30, ends up 27th on the Giants list.  Julian Fernandez, the RHP reliever we picked up via Rule 5 the other day, is ranked 28th (I don't think he ranked on the Rockies list either).   Wolff has had trouble staying off of the DL, suffering significant injuries in the last three seasons, and in fact, probably won't be available to the Giants until mid-season 2018.  He sounds like a more experienced version of Julian Fernandez.

Per MLB Pipeline profile on him, he's another 3-digit hurler that the Giants add:
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Slider: 55 | Curveball: 50 | Changeup: 40 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45
Wolff has a quick arm that produces consistent mid-90s fastballs when he works in relief. He can touch 100 mph and has some armside run on his heater. His hard slider is his best secondary pitch and he'll mix in a curveball as well. He also has a changeup from his days as a starter but doesn't use it as much coming out of bullpen.
The Rangers made Wolff a full-time reliever in 2017, and he was pushing for a big league promotion when he got hurt again in August. His control has slipped since he began dealing with the rash of injuries, but he could fill a late-inning role if he stays healthy and delivers more strikes.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Your 2018 Giants: Rule 5 Draft: Lose One, Gain One

In the Rule 5 Draft today, the Giants selected the Rockies flame throwing RHP, Julian Fernandez, who has been recorded as hitting 102 MPH before.  Just 22 YO, the Giants are paying $100K to find out if this right-handing can jump to the majors from A-ball, where he did pretty well.

Meanwhile, the D-backs grabbed Albert Suarez from the Giants.  He was valuable in 2016, and the D-backs clearly hope to return him to that for 2018, after a poor 2017 season.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Your 2018 Giants: Post-Setback Post

With the embers of being rejected by both Ohtani and Stanton wafting down around us like the major fires that has been damaging California homes over the past month (hope you and your's are safe), the Giants head into the Winter Meetings bent but unbroken, with the goals of the off-season still to be addressed, basically in this order:
  1. Improve CF defense
  2. Find a 3B starter
  3. Improve the bullpen
Some have worried that these two setbacks had affected their efforts to address the three objectives, but as the Giants are wont to do, they like to multi-task, as nothing is ever guaranteed until someone signs the dotted line.  So while they were meeting and greeting Stanton and then Ohtani, they were also burning the phone lines talking with clubs and agents about their defensive CF, 3B, or bullpen upgrade.  If Stanton and Ohtani were Plans A and B, they were also working on Plan L, M, N, O, P, as well.

As one person noted on the Internet, the Giants signed Samardzija within 24 hours of losing out onPit Greinke, and from what I remember, Cueto was not that far behind, maybe a week after.  Let's see how they do this time.  (unfortunately, it was the Marlins who started first, having the Yankees jump in and work out a deal in a matter of days, a deal structured much like the rumored Panik for Stanton deal, which as been reported by Hank Schulman as nothing but rumors; he's digging around to see who was in the deal, but most of the well-known names appears to not have been part of the deal)

I had thought I'll be writing something new, but it turns out I'll be referencing my post on 2017's Post-Mortem.  And my business plan as well, though that's a given with most things I post.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Ohtani and the Magnificent 7

In the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, it is down to seven finalists, which was leaked out over the weekend, and confirmed by meetings this week.  The Good (Giants), the Bad (Dodgers and Angels), and the Ugly (Padres, Rangers, Cubs, Mariners) will have met with him by today, Thursday, leaving him roughly two weeks to make his decision, though some reports notes that he might, in deference to other free agents, make his decision before the Winter Meetings begin next week, so as not to impede the market any more (a more agent driven thought is that he would make the decision in order to make a big splash next week; I lean more towards the latter based on what I've read).

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Oh Oh Oh Ohtani: His Magic

With the owners approving the new posting system, the race for Shohei Ohtani is on!

Shohei Ohtani (his preferred spelling, not Otani; which should have been obvious:  that's the name on the back of his uni) is a very talented Japanese player - not only a great pitcher in the Japanese League, but also a great hitter there as well, a modern day Babe Ruth.  There is a nice article talking about him on the MLB, highlights:
  • Humble but athletic upbringing:  rural background
  • Koshien arrival:  excelled in key tournament
  • Decision Time:  The Nippon Ham Fighters win his heart with long-term strategy for his MLB dream, as well as supporting his two-way ambitions. 
  • The Two-Way Game:  Precocious pitcher whose stout hitting came to the fore in last couple of seasons.  "Recurring and nagging leg injuries" in 2015 and ankle injury in Feb 2017. 
  • Ohtani Revealed:  "All-around great guy" who is the total package Athlete, with a "A", 6' 4", 215 lbs, who can run 3.80 sec home to first (Dee Gordon average max effort home to first per Statcast is 3.81 sec).  Lives in team dorms so he can get to training facilities quickly, and is diligent about exercise and nutrition.
Only 23 YO, he could wait two years and enter the majors via the usual posting system and he was projected to get a $200M contract had he took that route.  Instead, he wants to be a major leaguer sooner than later, and because of his age, is covered by the international free agency rules instead, which means that teams are limited in the bonus that any team can pay him (Giants are limited to $300K) and could offer him only $545K in his first MLB season.  So, clearly, money is not driving his decision.

Though money will be coming soon enough.  As this Fangraph article analyzed, he is covered by our usual arbitration system, so while he'll get minimal salary for his first three seasons, if he got the highest arbitration awards up to now, he would make $36M over his first six seasons (team's total commitment would then be $56M, as they would have paid a $20M posting fee to the Japanese team.  Looking at a Giants example, Lincecum got $64M (Giants signed him to a contract before meeting with the arbitrator; since he earned two Cy Youngs to get these contracts, call this the true max he might get), and if Ohtani reached that height, $84M team commitment.

In addition, it could be coming even sooner with endorsements.  An article I read noted that endorsements was a specialty of the agent Shohei hired from CAA to represent him.  A Bob Nightengale tweet notes that marketing agents believe Ohtani could be the top endorser in the MLB, making over $20M per year from endorsements.   So Ohtani will not be hurting for money by coming over now, and in fact, might be accelerating it by coming over now.

What is driving his decision is complicated.  Mostly, he wants to play both ways, he wants to hit as well as pitch, which is his more interesting talent (I've read that he can get up to 100 MPH).  Still, he's a top hitter on top of being a top pitcher.  DH has been his main way of being in the lineup (only has 62 games experience in OF and none in the past few years).

He has asked each team to provide him with their plans for how they intend to use him, how they view him as a pitcher and hitter, information on the team's player development, medical capabilities, training facilities, organizational facilities, as well as other factors related to how he would fit into that team and city.

Here is the full list of the seven questions (from this Fangraph article, though this is the original source, and he would like both a Japanese, as well as an English, response):
  • An evaluation of Shohei’s talent as a pitcher and/or a hitter;
  • Player development, medical, training and player performance philosophies and capabilities;
  • Major League, Minor League, and Spring Training facilities;
  • Resources for Shohei’s cultural assimilation;
  • A detailed plan for integrating Shohei into the organization;
  • Why the city and franchise are a desirable place to play;
  • Relevant marketplace characteristics.
In this SI article on him, early this season, it was noted that the Nippon Ham Fighters used a similar method to get him to sign with them back when he was 18 YO and choosing between signing in Japan and signing with a U.S. team.  And the MLB interest was so strong that Japanese teams were not sure that drafting him was wise, as then it would be a wasted pick if he went to the U.S.  The Fighters wrote a "McKinsey-style presentation" with a plan for realizing his dreams, which was to play in the MLB, and convinced him that it was better to start his career in Japan and then move on to the U.S. when he was ready (which is good for Giants fans because he reportedly was close to signing with the Dodgers back then). 

Found a lot of recent info on Ohtani on a site called 2080 Baseball:  Part OnePart Two.   They have written extensively on him:  see all the articles from a search I did.  More than I can get to, I want to publish before he gets posted.  But this is probably the best source materials I can find that discusses in very detailed, scout-language terms, how good a hitter he is, as well as how good a pitcher he is.

Here is another great article:  Ringer provides a great sabermetric viewpoint of the great performances of Ohtani and calls him a "10-tool player", a play on the much coveted 5-tool player that scouts love.  Too much to list, a lot of stats regarding how great he is as a hitter, as well as a pitcher.  It emphasized the point that while he's been great as a pitcher, he has had his struggles with hitting, at least early on.  They referenced this older article from Vice, which mentioned that he almost signed with the Dodgers back when he was 18, before signing with the Nippon Ham Fighters (also has extensive interviews with a former scout, who wrote up scouting reports on Ohtani for 2080 Baseball, which I reference and link to below).

Also, two articles from ESPN:  Revolutionary, which discusses the difficulties of being two-way (good interview with and discussion of Micah Owings, last MLB pitcher/hitter), and a cautionary tale regarding two-way, with a nice discussion about the costs of using him as a hitter, as well as what a team might gain, which oddly ends on a positive note regarding trying, "Uncertainty shouldn't always have to lead to caution."

Also, the MLB released a bunch of articles:
There was an interesting interview with a former MLB player who was a teammate of Ohtani's, plus a note from a scout that he likes pitching more than hitting, as well as this interesting note by one of the authors:
Ohtani is coming now because he wants a transformative challenge -- on his terms. 
This is exactly what I've been thinking.

In addition, the Q/A interview with him was very enlightening, I would recommend reading that.  He noted that the most important factors in deciding which MLB team is:  "The people on the team and in charge of the team is what matters most. I need to have a feeling of wanting to play for them."  That's about as touchy-feely as you can get.  The teams' submissions in answer to his seven questions should be very interesting given this.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Your 2018 Giants: Arbitration Offers and Non-Tender

The Giants have announced their arbitration decisions.  Of course, they offered arbitration to Joe Panik, Will Smith, Hunter Strickland, Cory Gearrin, and Sam Dyson.  However, they non-tnedered Albert Suarez.  Panik, Strickland, and Dyson are arbitration eligible for the first time, Smith and Gearrin for the second time.

Players have a Jan. 9 deadline for filing for arbitration and the deadline for teams and players to exchange arbitration figures is Jan. 12, although the sides could work out agreements before then.

Matt Swartz, noted saber, has been publishing his arbitration projections every year now.  His latest projections are available.  These are the players projected arbitration salaries:

  • Joe Panik:  $3.5M
  • Sam Dyson:  $4.6M
  • Will Smith:  $2.5M
  • Hunter Strickland:  $1.7M 
  • Cory Gearrin:  $1.6M


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