Thursday, March 29, 2018

Your 2018 Giants: Chances Are

The way I wear my silly grin, I liked the Giants chances before the injuries, but with the injuries to Bumgarner and Samardzija, it is all hands on deck, but still, I like our chances.


ogc thoughts

I generally try to be more measured in my posts, as I've learned over the years that things don't always turn out the way I hope.  Plus, I'm tired of arguments over things that really don't matter.  But in this post, I'm going to talk about my hopes for the 2018 season, since that is what our reality is today, given the two devastating (to us) injuries.

It was already a tough job to get into the wildcard spots for the 2018 season, when we had both Bumgarner and Samardzija.  So obviously it's harder now.  But how much harder?

Something to Ponder

Bumgarner is expected to miss roughly 2 months, Shark 1 month.  Per Fangraph's projections, soon after the Longoria trade, Bumgarner was projected at 3.4 fWAR and Samardzija at 3.6 fWAR.  By that, we will lose 1.1 fWAR from Bumgarner's absence (leaving 2.3), per their system, and 0.6 fWAR from Shark's stay on the DL (leaving 3.0).  That's a total of 1.7 fWAR or roughly two wins.

Another way to look at it is they were expected to produce 6.9 fWAR, but now projected at 5.2 fWAR.   But he produced 5 fWAR in the two prior seasons, which should be his talent level then, which the projection system does not recognize because of his 2017 down season, and taking off a third of that instead, would mean that he should produce 3.3 fWAR, not 2.3.  That plus Samardzija's 2.9 gets us to 6.2 fWAR, or a loss now of 0.7 fWAR.

Now Cueto was projected at 2.5 fWAR, but again, like Bumgarner, his projection was hurt by his bad 2017.  He produced at a 4.7 fWAR rate the prior three seasons, 5.5 fWAR in 2016 for the Giants.  And put up 210+ IP in those seasons, whereas he's projected at 179.0 IP.  If he can stay healthy and productive during the season, that's an additional 2.2 fWAR added, covering the loss of Bumgarner, relative to the Fangraphs Depth Chart system that had the Giants coming in as a wild card contender.

They also had Strickland at 0.3 fWAR when he had consistently produced 0.8 fWAR the past 3 seasons, for another example of how far under estimated the system could be judging the Giants.  Plus, looking at the current projections, somehow McCutchen fell 1.1 fWAR between the time we acquired him and today, but he hit really well last season, so I don't see why he would regress so much, plus his defense should be improved in RF.

These are all variances that are related to the methodology involved, and understanding how reality should look like allows us to get a better view of where the Giants stand.  That's why I was okay with the low expectations given by these projection machines that had the Giants battling for the wild card position, because I feel pretty good that the above should happen, which should give us strong wiggle room for disasters to happen, and looking at the above, appears to have been borne out, the Giants still look good for battling for a wild card spot.

Hope and Fears

There are also other possibilities that would boost the Giants this season, and why I don't get into much because it is all about scenarios where I have no idea about the probability.

For example, I've been beating the drum about Chris Stratton all off-season regarding his curveball and the excellent results he had last season.  Stratton is projected at 1.2 fWAR, and 157.0 IP with 4.52 ERA.  In 2017, his 3.68 ERA in 58.2 IP generated 0.6 fWAR, though, and at roughly 3 times the IP (176.0 IP, which he should be able to handle, he threw 161.2 IP in 2016, 138.0 IP in 2017), is 1.8 fWAR, if he can duplicate his 2017 exactly over a full season.  The 3.68 ERA is close to his FIP over his last 9 starts, when he was placed in the rotation and not just taking a start.  That's an additional 0.6 fWAR.

Then there's his last 9 starts.  He had a 2.42 ERA, and the .317 BABIP means that he suffered some bad luck with the ball bounces there.  What cost him in his FIP (which accounts for the high BABIP) was his high 4.0 BB/9.  His BB/9 in AAA, though, over 3 seasons:  3.0 BB/9.  And 2.5 BB/9 last season.  So he has been improving his walk rates with experience in the minors, and so it would make sense that he would reduce his walk rate in the majors.   If he can get his walks down to 3.0 BB/9, his FIP drops down to 3.45.

Looking through starters around 3.45 ERA, I found Lance Lynn and Jimmy Nelson.  Neither are like Stratton (more like two extremes), but when you combine their stats, I get 3.46 ERA, 3.2 BB/9, 8.8 K/9, which is around what Stratton would produce if he gets his walks down.  That works out to an average of 3.2 fWAR, or an extra two wins over his current projection.

Another that I've been talking about lately is Derek Holland.  Talk about a Hail Mary!  But as I noted, he has started the past few seasons since he's been injured as a very good pitcher who hits the wall and is crushed by hitters and/or another injury.  He has been putting up a low-2 ERA for the start of the season, apparently while he's healthy and rested.  He's projected for only 0.4 fWAR, but let's say he also produces similar to Stratton above at 3.45 ERA, over a half season, that's 1.6 fWAR, compared to the 0.4 fWAR he's expected to produce.

If he can continue that career trend of the past few years for the Giants, that would make up for the loss of Bumgarner while he's out, while Stratton covers for Samardzija.  Those three doing well would free up Blach as the average #4 starter (Zito-role), which he should be able to duplicate, and then throwing out Beede or whomever as the 5th starter until Samardzija returns would give us the rotation that can win, particularly with this good offense.  Best case scenario, no doubt, but I would not be surprised if the Giants surprise people by playing winning baseball while the two pitchers are out on DL.

But the thoughts in this section, while it makes some sense that it could happen, we don't know that they will most probably happen.  I'm pretty sure about Stratton's great 2017 ending, but can he repeat that in 2018?  One could think so, but Samardzija was pretty good in 2016, but was unable to repeat it in 2017 (though it does appear that he was experimenting then, as well).  And who knows with Holland!  So lots of fears to go along with all this.  I don't think we'll really know where this team is headed (unless the bottom falls out like last season) until the ASG break, and even then, that's when teams make deals for players or bring up hot young prospects.

NL West Competitors Should Fall Back to Giants As Well

The top NL West teams from 2017 should regress some back to the Giants in the standings.

For example, the Dodger's rotation was horribly lucky last season.  Their top 3 averaged 2.78 ERA but their FIP averaged 3.37, nearly 0.60 runs higher!  And over their careers, their FIP averaged 0.10 runs higher, so they benefited to the tune of 0.50 runs more per game.  They won 104 games but Pythagorean wins were 102 games, and if you added 0.5 runs allowed per game, that drops their Pythagorean to 92 wins.  So one should expect some regression on their part in 2018, both for their pitching as well as their young hitters, if you look at Bellinger's projection, it is a huge drop over what he produced last season, as his minor league numbers were good but not that good.

So while I expect LA to win the division, I would not be surprised if the Giants end up winning the division, because they have the personnel to make it happen, if they play to peak career values that were reached not that many years ago, and the hopes above happen. 

But I would be surprised if the Giants end up lower than second, it would take injuries again to make that happen, as the only reason the Rockies secured the last spot was because the Giants were relative pushovers last season, and the Rockies beat the Giants 12-7.  But their record against the Giants in the prior season:  9-10.  Take away those 3 wins and they fall out of the Wild Card.  And the D-backs were 12-7 last season, but 6-13 the season before, a swing of 6 wins.  And in prior years:  11-8, 6-13, 7-12, the Giants have owned them in recent years. 

Can add Dodgers too:  11-8 against the Giants in 2017, only 8-11 in 2016 (3 game swing, take it down to 89 wins or so; Giants with the above gains would be in the high 80's, hence why I would not be surprised), 8-11 in 2015, 10-9 in 2014, 8-11 in 2013.  Except for 2014 and 2017, the Giants have owned them in recent years too.  So I still expect a good season, but it would take some good surprises and almost all of the players delivering on expectations, we can't take many more bad surprises.

Go Giants!

P.S.  Melancon DL etc.

Melancon appears to be suffering from the same pain as he was experiencing last season.  It appears the Giants dodged the Romo elbow potential bullet (he had pains every year too, like Melancon) only to suffer from Melancon's annual pains actually turning into something worse.  Luckily our payroll is so large now. 

Appears that he will be placed on the 10-day DL, with the hope that inflammation will settle down.   According to reports, his arm has been in pain all spring (hence his early comment), but not unduly so since the doctors did nothing about it, but when he pitched on back-to-back days, it became abnormal enough to bring up to the medical staff, at which point the MRI found the inflammation.  Reyes Moronta is promoted to the 25-man roster, making his first MLB Opening Day.

Also, Fernandez was placed on the 60-day DL in order to accommodate Gregor Blanco being added to the 40-man roster.

FYI:  Giants ex-prospect alert:  Tommy Joseph was released by the Rangers today, whom they had picked up via waivers from the Phillies last week.  If he makes it through all the teams, I wonder if the Giants will sign him to the minors?  But, wow, really bad defense, so probably not, he looks more of a fit for an AL team who can DH him and occasionally play him at firstbase.  I had forgotten that he was also positioned challenged while with the Giants, hence why they kept him at catcher, to maximize his trade value.

In any case, I wonder if the Giants will take a flier on any MLB starting pitcher who are getting cut today, as a stop-gap measure when they need a 5th starter.  Unlikely, because their 40-man is maxed out, and thus would have to DFA someone (or 60-day DL someone) to accommodate adding anybody.  But you never know, might be someone they really like based on their good past. 

Right now it appears that Beede will get the call, as he would have gotten the call last season if it wasn't for all the injuries, plus he's the only starting pitcher prospect who is also on the 40-man roster, that I can recall right now. 

2 comments:

  1. I am hoping that Longoria, Cutch and Jackson, get as hot real soon as they are now cold.

    ReplyDelete

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