Monday, March 26, 2018

Your 2018 Giants: Big Six Questions A.B.I. (After Bumgarner Injury)

Normally this is done earlier in Spring Training and I would forget to do them as well, but after losing Samardzija and Bumgarner on successive days, seems like the thing to do now.

ogc thoughts

I believe that the Giants right now is capable of staying in contention while the two, and particularly Bumgarner, are out of service.  Whereas before, I felt that we were in great shape to be contending for a playoff spot, it is not longer a given, there are certain questions that need to be answered in the coming two months in the positive for the Giants to make it.

1:  Is Cueto 2016 Back?

Looking at his spring training stats, you get mixed messages.  His ERA is 4.20 (4.40 FIP), which is high, but he had a 9.6 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9, for a great 4.00 K/BB ratio, which are all great.

I think one needs to focus on the peripherals more than the ERA, mostly because of small sample sizes, but also because most veteran pitchers in spring who are secure in their job will be experimenting to a certain extent, and most certainly will not be doing the pitching sequences they might do in the regular season.  ERA's can be blown up for a variety of reasons:  throwing a pitch you normally would not throw in that situation because you want to throw that pitch in a game; the relief pitcher inheriting your runners throws a pitch they don't normally throw in that situation because they want to work on that pitch; BABIP's luck and SSS again.

I think he's back and we will need him to be back, leading the rotation.  KInd of like KD and Curry, when one goes down, the other can step it up and head up the rotation.

2:  Is Stratton Late 2017 Back?

As I've been noting, Stratton had a great ERA and peripherals in the last 9 starts of the 2017 season:  he had a 2.42 ERA/3.78 FIP, 1.433 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 2.15 K/BB.  People focus on his high 4.0 BB/9, but don't realize that when you have a high K/9, that covers for a lot of extra walks, though obviously it would be better if he walks less.  In addition, his curveball has elite spin rate that he was able to generate elite results with.  And his BABIP was .317, suggesting that some of his stats were hurt by bad random baseball luck (and probably also a lot of poor outfield range and defense). 

It would be great if that 3.78 FIP is back, which would help to stabilize the rotation.  He has a 4.03 ERA, but 10.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 4.17 K/BB,  1.209 WHIP, oh and 2.68 FIP this spring.

Obviously, it would be ideal if that 2.68 FIP was real, given our situation, but I think all we need is a high 3 ERA to back up Cueto as the ace in the rotation.  He basically takes Shark's place in the rotation during this period.

3:  Can Holland and Blach Duplicate or Improve on Their 2017 First Half?

Holland had a good enough first half, though mainly good first ten starts:  10 starts, 2.37 ERA/4.47 FIP, 1.236 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9, 7.7 K/9, 2.17 K/BB ratio.  We could use a 4.47 FIP in the rotation right now, as that's around league average, which in the NL in 2017 was 4.34.

Holland has had a nice spring as well:  4.20 ERA, 1.467 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 10.8 K/9, 3.60 K/BB, 5.20 FIP, however.   So that's very mixed message.

Blach was similar, having a good first half as a starter, before it all went into hell:  4.59 ERA, 1.355 WHIP, 1.9 BB/9, 4.3 K/9, 2.28 K/BB ratio, 4.02 FIP.  Again, we could use a nice, average-ish starter in the rotation to start the season.

Blach has had a better spring overall:  3.63 ERA, 1.212 WHIP, 0.5 BB/9, 7.8 K/9, 15.0 K/BB ratio, 3.25 FIP.  If he can maintain that strikeout rate, it would mean that he has taken a great step forward, but given SSS and the mixed reality of what spring training means for each player, taken with a huge amount of salt, but at least something to note to watch out for in the regular season.

The Giants need two #4 starters from Holland and Blach, to complement an ace Cueto and #3 Stratton, which will be stronger with another #3 in Samardzija, assuming he's healthy when he returns and pitching well.  We just need them to produce mid-4 ERA while Bumgarner is out.  That would bridge us to Bumgarner's return, if all of the above questions are answered to the affirmative.  At least in the starting rotation.

4:  Can the Offense Perform as Projected?

If the Starters can do as hoped for above, the starting rotation will be roughly like the rotation we used to win a lot of games before, having three good starters, and two average-ish starters.  But to do that, we need an offense that is not poor, as it was during much of the early Golden Era teams, but one that can be at least average.  Average in 2017 in the NL was 4.58 runs scored per game.  Can the Giants do that?

Plugging in the Fangraphs projections for the expected Giants lineup, but using Duggar's projection as the worse case scenario (as Jackson is projected to be a better hitter), the Giants lineup - which I currently is using Panik, Belt, Posey, McCutchen, Longoria, Pence, Crawford, Dugar (but we can sub in Jackson #8) - works out to 4.73 runs scored per game, which is above average relative to 2017.  And, more importantly, should be above what even our back of rotation guys, Blach and Holland is hopefully producing as starters.

Given all of the above questions being answered well, the Giants should be at or slightly above .500 while Bumgarner is out of the rotation.

5:  Can the Bullpen Perform?

This is actually covering many different sub-questions.  Can Melancon return back to his prior All-Star closer form?  Can Dyson return to his prior closer form?  Can Watson return to his prior set-up form?  How improved is Strickland with his new slider?  Can Osich return to his good 2015 form?  Can Fernandez develop on the Giants MLB roster?  And who are the last two relievers, as only seven are clearly on the opening day roster:  Melancon, Dyson, Watson, Strickland, Gearrin, Osich, Fernandez?

Melancon gave everyone a fright earlier with his open talk about his discomfort, but he hasn't said anything since (the Giants probably silenced him, though, I would bet).  His perhiphals speak pretty loudly:  1.9 BB/9, 7.7 K/9, 4.00 K/BB.  Plus only 1.286 WHIP.  But he had a 5.67 ERA/4.85 FIP.   I think he's looking in good enough shape to be our closer in the regular season.

Dyson has been all over the place, working on returning to his mechanics previously, when he was throwing more with his legs.  His numbers have been ugly and up and down.  We will see, but he needs to be at least the pitcher he was mostly for us in 2017, when he had a 2.95 ERA/3.68 FIP in his first 36 games with us, before two horrible blowups at the end.

Watson has been horrible this spring, and yet nothing has been written about him.  The Giants need at least one lefty reliever who can get out hitters in 2017, something we have been missing for a long while now.   His FIP has not been good for two seasons now, but he did well with a 2.70 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, and 3.00 K/BB ratio with LAD last season.  He needs to be good again, but his FIP suggests that he might not be all that great anymore, which is probably the reason the Giants were able to sign him to such a low contract value overall, with usage bonuses which will happen if he's pitching well, and not happen if he's not pitching well.  We'll see.

Strickland has a new slider, courtesy of John Smoltz, who helped him over the offs-season.  He has been amazing with it so far in spring.  He has a 0.00 ERA, 0.474 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, 9.9 K/9, 3.50 K/BB ratio, all great.   If he can keep up the great slider into the regular season, he could become the closer-level talent that was thrown out with his name when he was coming up our farm system.  And if he does that, makes Melancon's question less of an imperative to be answered to the positive, Dyson too.

Osich is not as big a question, but more crucially, if he can return to his 2015 low ERA form, then that would cover for any of our other bullpen questions, but Watson in particular, as we have been without a great lefty reliever, who can get out both sides, left and right, since Affeldt's hayday. 

6.  Can Our Best Players Stay Healthy?

This needs to be answered yes going forward because we have already lost Samardzija and Bumgarner.  We can't be losing 2 to 3 of our best hitters now, in a similar fashion, and hope to be playoff competitive.  We need most of them to be healthy, though I think we can survive one hitter being in a funk or DLed. 

Giants Can Be Competitive

Overall, if the Giants get the above, they can be competitive.  I think most of them are going to happen, but if we only get 4 or 5 of them happening, then I'm not sure.  The margin for additional loss is pretty slim right now, but the offense is greatly improved and the bullpen right now looks pretty much shut down, so we need the starting rotation to hold up, particularly Cueto and Stratton, if we are to have any chance of winning enough to stay in the race until Bumgarner returns. 

3 comments:

  1. the giants schedule will be difficult the first 33 games. If they can stay around 500, they will be okay. If they do better than 500 it will be great, however if they go significantly below 500, that will mean that some of our competitors will have good starts. the dodgers did fine last year during a stretch without Kershaw, the giants need to do the same.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jarrett Parker has been officially DFAed, with the Giants hoping to stash him in AAA, in order to open a spot for Derek Holland on the 40-man.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Also, not sure if I mentioned, but Blach is now taking Bumgarner's rotation spot, and pitching against the Dodgers twice, as well as the Giants home opener. He has a career low-2 ERA against them; we are going to need it.

    ReplyDelete

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