Thursday, September 20, 2018

Your 2019 Giants: Pitching Staff Primed for Championships

Continuing on my thoughts regarding the starting rotation, I look into what we can expect and why I feel optimistic about the 2019 season.

ogc thoughts

Many people are unhappy and not optimistic about the 2019 season.  I disagree, much like I did in 2008, and that's because of the pitching.

Pitching Wins Championships

As I've noted and analyzed, pitching wins championships, with a lot of help from defense, and just enough from offense.   You want a strong rotation, a strong bullpen led by a strong closer, and the pitching staff to be dominant in striking out a lot of batters.

And the Giants Classic Rotation that brought winning back to SF, hit their prime time from 2009 to 2012 and was comprised of these roles:  Co-aces for #1 and #2; a slightly above average SP by ERA (or better) or middle rotation; a slightly below average SP by ERA (the Zito Role); and the #5 role could be filled by 1-6 starters, who are eating innings for the team, but not contributing much in terms of keeping runs allowed down.

So I thought I would examine each of the current Starting Pitchers and what the ranges of possibilities are for him in 2019.

Bumgarner

Not a lot needed here.  He has a 3.14 ERA/2.75 FIP for the truncated season.  That is basically what his career numbers were before his accident.  After returning from his accident, he had a 3.43 ERA but 4.36 FIP, so 2018 is a great sign that he has returned back from both injuries in peak career form.  He's our #1 ace starter.

D-Rod

For the season, he has 18 starts, 2.30 ERA/3.35 FIP.  Obviously would love the ERA, if replicated, but just getting something in the range of his FIP would be very welcome as well. He has performed at the level of a #2 starter, per his FIP, if not a co-ace, given his actual performance.

His Statcast expected results mirror his ERA/FIP.  He allowed a .211 BA or it was expected to be .239, based on the contact he allowed.  Also, his wOBA was .273, but his xwOBA was higher as well, at .299.  However, while both are expected to be higher, the expected is still very good, very low (NL SP wOBA is .316 right now).  In addition, he has been having luck with hard hit balls, as his SLG was .346, but was expected to be .370, which is higher, but mostly due to the jump in BA, as his ISO was 135 but xISO, based on these expected metrics, is 131.  And that compares to the major's 162 ISO and 177 xISO, and .410 SLG and .427 xSLG.  He has been great at not only preventing hits, but keeping the damage done when hit. 

Of course, he never performed this well in the minors, so a regression type of year would not be surprising.  But as long as he's within the ballpark of the numbers above, low-ish 3-ERA, he'll still be a worthy #2 starter.  But there's some risk of regression, just due to the unknown of whether he can repeat this performance in 2019.  But his Statcast data suggests that it has been real, with just a slight regression expected.

Dutch Holland

He has had a 3.57 ERA in 32 appearances, 28 starts, FIP of 3.79.   The average NL starting pitchers has a 4.02 ERA (FIP 4.09), so he would be a great middle of rotation starter in this configuration.

His Statcast stats are pretty much in line with his ERA/FIP.  He allowed .237 BA, but xBA was .246.  And SLG was .400 but xSLG was a bit higher, .428.  And hence his wOBA, a great .306, but his xwOBA was .325, which is now above the wOBA for starting pitchers of .316, so he's below average in that aspect.

So, some stats have him better than average, others below, that's roughly what one would expect from a #3 middle of rotation starting pitcher.  But in the Giants Classic Rotation, he'll be a risk for being more of a 4 than a 3.

Andy Suarez

He has had 27 starts with a 4.24 ERA and 4.33 FIP.  Just slightly worse than the average NL starting pitcher, which is roughly what one would expect out of the #4 starter, about average but slightly below.

His Statcast stats are remarkably similar.  His BA is .237 and xBA is .246, his SLG is .444 and xSLG is .467, wOBA is .324 and xwOBA is .339.  And not that far from what the NL Pitchers had on average.

So he already looks like he can fill the Zito Role in the Giants Classic Rotaiton.

Chris Stratton

Stratton had a very up and down season, but his overall numbers are not that bad for a back of rotation starter.  While one would want a consistent starter, during their peak years of competition from 2009 to 2012, the Giants had a model of 3 good starters, one about average starter (the Zito starter), who provides value by eating a lot of innings, and then the 5th starter was typically not a single starter, but a composition of a handful or so of starters, as the Giants cycled in one starter after another, trying to find a good starting pitcher.  For example, in 2012, Cain had a 2.79 ERA, Bumgarner 3.37, Vogelsong 3.37, Zito 4.15, Lincecum 5.18, where the average NL starting pitcher had a 4.04 ERA average.  Stratton would fit right in that last rotation spot, with upside.

2019 Starting Rotation Configuration

We got the basics of the Giants Classic Rotation that makes them capable of winning the World Championship.  Bumgarner and D-Rod has performed at the level of the co-aces that led the teams in that prime 2009-2012 period.   Possible regression for D-Rod, but Statcast data has his abilities still ranked pretty highly per expected results, so I think the risk is not that high, but not insignificant either.

The above average #3 starter in that period had a 3.43 ERA, but 2011 was an oddity, and without that data point, the average was 3.61 (vs. NL league average of 4.08).  Holland is right in there, being better than average by a bit, but with some risk for regression, only because his 2018 was so much better than since his surgery long ago.  And as I showed in my analysis of his recent past, when he's rested and healthy, an under 3 ERA is not unusual, and if you look at his last 25 starts, he has a 2.84 ERA/3.37 FIP, which would fit right in as a #2 starter, so he would help mitigate the risks that D-Rod regresses for some reason.

Suarez fits the Zito role well:  slightly below average NL starter.  However, pitchers in their first year will have ups and downs and, in particular, a tough first start when nerves and adrenaline are live wires, affecting their performance.  From starts 2 to 16, he had a 3.55 ERA/3.44 FIP, which would fit in well as a #3 starter in the Giants Classic Rotation, helping to mitigate the risks that Holland has a poorer season than in 2018.  The question is whether he can stretch himself out to pitch well deep into the season, due to his slight build, and he has readjusted, and in his last 7 starts, he has a 3.19 ERA (though 4.81 FIP).  Having Holland and Suarez means that we need one to fit the middle rotation role, one to fit the Zito role.  And both could potentially pitch as well as a #2 starter, and helps mitigate the risks that D-Rod falters in some way (see Stratton's 2018 vs. end of 2017).

For the 5th starter, the Giants usually had a rotating combo of starters, except for 2012, when it was Lincecum.  Excluding the good ERA in 2010, when Bumgarner joined the rotation in place of Wellemeyer, the average 5th starters had a 4.93 ERA overall (simply average across the seasons, FYI, not each individual performance), which is actually not that bad for a 5th starter, but not a really good MLB starter either (hence why most don't usually get to pitch a full season at that high ERA).

Stratton for the season has a 4.66 ERA/4.31 FIP, which would be pretty good compared to classic amalgam of starting pitchers that populated the rotation during that golden period.  However, I would note that when he's on, he's a co-ace level starter:  last 9 starts of 2017 when he was finally put in the rotation full-time, he had a 2.42 ERA/3.79 FIP; first 5 starts of 2018 before he went on paternity leave and lost his mechanics, he had a 2.32 ERA/2.65 FIP; last 6 starts to now, after Vogelsong helped him learn what his mechanics are when he's at his best, he has a 3.13 ERA/3.57 FIP.  And over those 20 starts, he has a 2.63 ERA/3.40 FIP, which is co-ace material.

So Stratton could fit into a number of top roles in the Giants Classic Rotation, depending on how consistent he is during the 2019 season. The average co-ace had an ERA of roughly 3.00, and at his best, he's performing like an ace, not just a co-ace.  And I would note that once he figured out his best mechanics for results, he has done well overall, which is related to his elite curveball spin.  With the average #3 starter had a 3.61 ERA, that's roughly around where his FIP has been when he's got his mechanics going well.  And the average #4 starter had a 4.21 ERA, which is not far from his current 4.37 FIP.  And he's currently fine as a #5 starter in the classic rotation.  He could help mitigate the risks that Holland or Suarez has any regression on their parts, he really can only go upward.

So, in the best scenario, all five starters are pitching like co-aces, and the pitching staff just rocks and takes the league by storm.  Much more likely, there will be regressions and would need one of each to take on one of the various roles in the five man rotation.  Given that each can make the case for more good performances than bad, it looks likely in my eyes, in spite of the relative youth of the rotation, the Giants should have a Giants Classic Rotation in 2019, with a good probability that there could be an extra co-ace or middle rotation starter.

With health for the lineup, and some development on the part of Duggar to be Bochy's steady leadoff hitter, the lineup should be able to generate 4.0 runs per game, which is the minimum runs scored for a Giants Classic Rotation to win 90 games with.  And after a poor start against the Dodgers at the start of the season, from April 2 to July 1, 3 months, in 81 games, the Giants averaged 4.38 runs scored per game, so at their peak, the current offense (assuming we can pick up a Cutch or better in FA) is good enough.  For example, if the worse RA from 2009 to 2012 happened, 4.01 RA, then this team would win 87 games in a season.  With the 3.77 RA in 2009, which was the second worse, this offense would win 92 games.

Or looking another way, in the peak years, where they had roughly 3.60 RA, the team only had to score 4.08 runs per game to win 90 games, showing how a great Giants Classic Rotation could lead to wins with a poor offense.

Shark Wild Card

Then there's Samardzija.  He's the enigma, and a wild card.  This season, he's a 5th starter type.  But in 2017, he was fine as a #4 type.  And in 2016, he was a fine #3 starter type, in the Giants Classic Rotation.  And in short half year stretches, he could be a #2 co-ace type.  Or he could be injured again and largely ineffective.

There is no talk of surgery, so we have no idea what's going to be going on with him in 2019.  It could be another lost year.  If the rest helps, and they can right his ship, then he would provide good risk mitigation that Holland, Suarez, or Stratton do not fill their role in the Giants Classic Rotation.

And as I noted in my just prior post, a 6-man rotation would help the team manage the issues that Holland, Rodriquez, Suarez, Stratton, Samardzija, and even Bumgarner might be having in terms of pitching too many innings in one season, since each of them have either had issues going deep into a MLB season or has had past injuries that could affect their stamina in 2019 or just plain (Bumgarner) has thrown so many innings in his career.

Bullpen Playoff Form

And the 2019 bullpen looks good overall.  Just looking at the whole bullpen, the Giants have an overall 3.58 ERA, which is great compared with the NL average of 4.07 ERA.   That's currently 4th in the NL, a good outing away from tying for 3rd with Arizona at 3.57 ERA, and a bad outing for the Padres to catch them, and they are currently at 3.53 ERA.  By FIP, the Giants 3.57 FIP is 2nd in the NL.

Now consider that in 2019, we don't (currently) have relievers who are coming back from injury mid-season, so we already have Melancon (who likely regains his closer role), Smith and Watson (peak young and old Affeldt), Dyson and Strickland (good former RHP ex-closers)and two young bucks in Moronta and Black.   Their collective ERA is 2.80, with a FIP of 3.13.  That ERA would rank 1st among bullpens this season, FIP rank second, behind only Astros (Yankees second with 3.20 FIP right now).

And given the probable necessity to trade off one or two relievers, Strickland and perhaps Dyson could be on the trading block, and as former closers, could net an interesting prospect or three.

And across the majors, the Giants are 8th, but not that far from 5th place Padres at 3.53 ERA.  Top 4 are:  Astros 3.01 ERA, Yankees 3.26 ERA, Cubs 3.28 ERA, and A's 3.34 ERA.  And by FIP, the Giants bullpen overall is 4th with 3.57 FIP.  If these 6-7 relievers are a good composite of what we'll see in 2019, we would currently rank 1st in ERA, 2nd in FIP.   Without Strickland, the ERA would be 2.67 and FIP of 2.97, and rank the Giants 1st in ERA and FIP.

Of course, few teams can go a whole season with just their core six guys.  Assuming Strickland is the one traded, if we add in Blach, who has had a nice 3.06 ER/3.52 FIP as a reliever, the bullpen would rise to 2.72 ERA/3.05 FIP good for 1st/2nd again.

Next up for the bullpen would be Steven Okert and Shaun Anderson (SP for AAA this season, but career reliever and talk about him in swing role).  Okert's numbers look horrible in AAA, but if you look at his stats after he returned from the DL, and subtract the appearance against the Isotopes where he gave up 6 runs in 0.1 IP, he had a sterling 1.73 ERA/2.29 FIP in 28 appearances, with great 11.8 K/9 and 4.25 K/BB ratio.  He has continued it into the majors, with 3.0 IP and 4 K vs. 0 BB, no R/ER.

There are other interesting candidates for the bullpen as well.  Both Sam Coonrod and Logan Webb have done well per their peripherals coming back from TJS, and should be in AA to start 2019, so they could be ready for MLB action by mid-season.  They were considered good prospects before TJS and, with their success in returning, are back in the spotlight.  Particularly Webb.Both are still being used as starters, but the Giants have moved starting pitchers into the majors as relievers, as needed.

There are some other interesting names, who are not as well know in the farm system as those two, and the Giants have not been shy about jumping pitchers when they are ready and when they are necessary.  Pat Ruotolo has been great in SJ/Richmond, and only 23 YO, he could be ready by mid-season as well, as he should be in AAA next season, he's probably ahead of Coonrod and Webb right now, though we'll see how they all progress by May/June 2019.  John Russell is another guy who could be ready, but more like end of season, as he just dipped his toes into Advanced A this season, and so probably start 2019 in San Jose. 

There are others who could help in a pinch.  Derek Law has been up and down, and will be 28 YO next season, but would be an able backup should the team need one.  Beede has not been pitching well, either as a starter or reliever, but I have read that he's been better as a reliever , so he could be a possibility here, and be like Crick at some point.  Dan Slania is still around, though he is running out of time, as he'll be 27 YO next season.

I see some people upset that Tyler Rogers has not been given a chance as a reliever, but he has a low 8.1 K/9 and a high-ish 3.1 BB/9 for a low (for minors) 2.61 K/BB ratio.  The BB/9 should go higher in the majors, which results in a poor K/BB ratio (made even worse because he's probably striking out less as well).  He has really struggled to strike out hitters in AAA, and struggled to keep his walk rate down, which do not bode well for MLB success.  And his MLB ERA is probably not like his 2.13 ERA, and is more like his 3.37 FIP, which gets only worse if he rises to the majors.

If the Giants had 40-man roster spots, I think they probably would have given him a chance but the 40-man roster is very impacted right now, and he's 27 YO, which is getting old to be doing okay in AAA.  Not that he can't be that submariner who could translate to the majors, but if the Giants didn't give him a chance yet, they probably see something that would hurt him against MLB hitters.

Long relief has some good candidates.  Blach obviously could absorb some starts (particularly against the Dodgers), and I would expect him to be the long reliever on the 2019 Giants, though I think he still has an option, and if so, they could go with 7 short relievers and be more aggressive about leaving them in for two innings at a time.  Beede could take a start, but he's lower on the depth chart because of his lack of success so far.  Webb should be allowed to go deeper into games in 2019, and probably could handle long relief okay, same as Coonrod.  If we are able to retain Casey Kelly, I think he would be an okay stand-in when one of our relievers (or starters) need a blow for a 10-day DL. 

Giants Should Use the 10-day DL to Rest Pitchers

Speaking of which, one of the benefits of having a 10-day DL that was touted when it first came out was the ability to being able to place a reliever who's not 100% on the DL, so that he can rest, while the team brings up someone to soak up innings while he's out.  I have not really seen that with the Giants.  Pitchers like Watson and Moronta were obvious candidates for that, as well as Suarez, probably in the July time frame, after seeing how well D-Rod and Holland has done after they got about two weeks of rest in July.

Good timing for those would be when the Giants are facing a bunch of non-NL West opponents and who are not NL division title contenders, as well as AL teams., whenever the schedule affords that.  As is noted often, by the end of the season, players are feeling it, and dealing with aches and pains, and instead of allowing them to bring down the team by playing while subpar, they should get their rest, as needed, so that they are able to compete at a high level late in the season.

Giants Classic Rotation + Great Bullpen = Winning Seasons

So, I've made the case for another Giants Classic Rotation, and overall, the bullpen look in prime shape to be a huge contributor to a great rotation in 2019 for creating a low runs allowed team.  What about the offense, how bad/good can it be and still win?

The offense was poor overall throughout much of the season, and generated only 3.72 runs scored per game in July (that's what happens when our best hitter develops appendicitis).    However, with the peak Giants Classic Rotation, this poor offense would have still won 83 games.

Of course, hopefully the Giants can get through 2019 with more runs scored.   To do that, they will have to improve their offense.   

As I had noted in my analysis of the offense this season, it was hurt a lot by the fact that Bochy had made the wrong choice at leadoff for most of the season. In fact, right after I noted it, he put the right guy in, McCutchen.  He hit .244/.376/.422/.798 in the month of August, making a huge contribution to the lineup.  With Duggar in the lineup, they averaged 3.82 runs scored, a little better, so that's probably a start right there.  But they will have to do more.

But more is hard when contracts are already there for many positions.  Posey, Belt, Crawford, Longoria, and Duggar are pretty set, barring any horrible Brian Wilson-ish bad spring on Duggar's part.  That leaves potential upgrades at 2B, LF, and RF.  What will the Giants do?

Lineup Upgrades

The Giants have usually gave a young player another try (Panik) or kept an open spot in the lineup for young players (LF), so the most obvious area of upgrade would be signing a RF free agent.  The most obvious choice there would be Bryce Harper.

Another Bondsian Moment

The need and his youth (only 25 YO), as well as his California roots, leads me to believe that the Giants will try to go all in on Harper.  As disappointing his season might be to some observers, he's still having a great season, and would immediately become the big bopper in the Giants lineup, and replacing Longoria's current bat at clean-up would boost run production by nearly 50 extra runs, or 5 wins, roughly.  This is Baer's Bonds moment, similar to how Magowan's signature move was to sign Barry Bonds, I think Baer will want to go all in, particularly in light of his recent comment that they are going to "shake things up."  Harper would shake things up, he would be the new face of the franchise, if signed to a ginormous contract.

But it comes with huge risks.  Harper, as great a hitter as he has been, is not all that good a fielder, and he got really bad this season, costing his team almost all of the benefits of his bat.  The Giants might want to push him to LF (which he has played before), though it is unknown how much that would help him because he was really horrible in CF and RF this season.  Thus, while having a 10 WAR season in 2015, he has actually had 3 out of 7 seasons where his WAR was under the 2.0 WAR that is considered average, by definition of the methodology.  On top of that, he has played under 120 games in 3 of his 6 seasons, so he's plenty injury prone.

I expect the Giants to offer that player option that is popular in contracts nowadays, like Cueto, probably giving him a player's option to opt out after 3 seasons, at which point, he'll entering his 29 YO season, and ready to cash in again, but probably a 10 year contract in total.  This is a good thing for the club, because then there's the expectation that he'll be leaving in a few years, and not be a drag on the payroll forever.

Of course, there are risks, as we saw with Cueto, that he'll be around for a long time.  But he's been a productive hitter and entering into his prime physical shape, as well as having a more steadier brain (as it finally matures, apparently that's a physical thing with guys and why they make stupid mistakes up to their mid-20's.

So I expect the Giants to try to outbid teams.  The unknown is whether he'll give a hometown discount to teams close to his home area, Las Vegas, NV, and if he has a number at which he'll tell the other teams to shove off.  There was a hitter who the Giants pursued and was willing to go higher, but he had a big ranch in Texas, which also has no income tax, and once he reached his price, he told the Giants to stop bidding.

But his price tag is probably too big for San Diego or Arizona to bid on him.  The Dodgers has the money, but they'll be dealing with Kershaw's extension at the same time, and they already have a full outfield already, so while they are capable, I have no idea how badly they want him, especially with a sabermetric front office, which is aware of the bad history with dealing with free agents you don't know.  But you never know, maybe they decide it's better to sign him and then trade away a good OF for a discounted price (like Kemp, again).  Also, as much as people talk about ATT as a big negative for him, you have to think Dodger Stadium is even bigger then, because it is a severe pitcher's park, more so than SF.  The Angels, meanwhile, already got two $30M-ish contracts to handle, plus a $18M and $13M, and is thinking of working out a lifetime contract for Trout, so I'm not even sure if they are going to bid on him.  If anything, they need more pitching, especially with Richards out for the next year with TJS rehab.

So then it becomes a big money team environment once we get beyond his home area.  Boston has a great young OF already plus an expensive DH who they love right now in JD Martinez.  The Yankees probably will be bidding hard for Harper, as Gartner can be replaced in LF, plus Judge and Stanton are injury prone too, it seems.  But I would have to think between NYY and the Giants, as long as the money is the same, Harper would prefer to go to California, which is much closer to home than NY.   And with SF, he would be the savior coming in, whereas in NY, he'll just be an accessory bling to accentuate Judge and Stanton. 

The Mets have the money, but has been mismanaged for years, plus they have plenty of outfielders, and would probably have to trade off someone good and young to fit Harper on their roster.  And again, NY vs. CA.  The Cubs have young OF galore, and probably would have to play Harper in CF, but, per a betting venue, Cubs are the odds on favorite to sign him, for some reason (Giants are 8th), perhaps because he's buddy with one of their stars, but I don't see that swaying enough to pass on a larger contract. 

And, of course, the Nats will be trying to win his services as well, but I don't know how much money they have, but I do know that they are not happy with the revenue arrangement that was forced upon them by the MLB that gives the Orioles more money than they probably should (what happens when the Orioles owner is a big time lawyer, I guess). 

The Phillies is another suitor who could offer the same amount of money as the Giants, and probably their biggest challenger, if the price gets high enough to drop out the Dodgers and Yankees (not that they can't afford it, but rather would they want to spend that much).  They need an upgrade in the OF just as badly as the Giants, and he would be the big star there, as well as have a great hitter's park, as well as a young team that's winning right now, whereas the Giants have the big question mark due to 2.5 bad years of losing.  The only negative would be how close to home does he feel the need to be?

Hard to tell.  I've read articles on him.  Seems like a goofy kid who gets misunderstood, and perhaps acting too immature sometimes.  It happens when you are in your early 20's, and especially when you are in the spotlight as much as he is.  Money is usually a huge factor, because you don't hire Scott Boras unless you want top dollar, generally.   And if it is money, the Giants won't get outbid for him, I believe, but if there are other factors, then we could be hurt.  I think he has a bigger ego where it appeals to him to be the top dog, and that would help the Giants in that case, but is it as much as or more than it hurts being a .500-ish team right now? 

Plan C:  Cutch

I don't expect the Giants to sign Harper, ultimately.   Odds are against them, and there are good reasons (one that some has mentioned is ATT, and he has done poorly there, but, of course, he's faced some great pitchers there as well, but it does hurt LH power hitters, which he is).   So the more likely scenario is that the Giants move on. 

While Boras likes to drag his negotiations late into spring training, in a professional game of chicken, I can't see him doing this with Harper, because his big price tag means that teams need to make a decision fast, so as to pursue alternatives, and some teams will spend their way out of being able to bid for him.  Hopefully he learned his lesson with Beltran when he was forced to sign a lower deal with the Cardinals because they waited to the last second.  So I expect it to finish up by the time Christmas rolls around, if not by the winter meetings at the start of December. 

And that would allow the Giants to pursue Plan C, or McCutchen.  I don't see any other available OF free agents, other than Pollock, who would be a better choice, most of them are even older than Cutch.  And he would want to stay in CF, which is where Duggar is (though I suppose they could move Duggar to RF if they do sign a CF).   He's still a good hitter, and with his poor season, he won't draw as big a contract as he might have once hoped.  Maybe a two year deal at $20M per, with a team option and buyout for the third season.  And while the power was down, he was still an excellent hitter in terms of getting on base, and would be an ideal #2 hitter (which is where Bochy mostly used him before realizing that first, you need a good leadoff hitter), if Duggar can hold leadoff. 

That lineup would be Duggar, McCutchen, Posey, Belt, Longoria, Crawford, then LF and 2B, probably.  I'm still hoping that LF is a competition between Slater, Williamson, and Shaw in spring training.   And if a good FA 2B is signed, it would change the lineup some as well. 

That's a good lineup, if healthy, which is the unfortunate situation we are in with our team, as injuries seem to derail too many seasons.  But getting younger don't mean getting better, always.  If it did, every team would be young.  We'll see if that works, in terms of staying healthy, but when healthy, as I noted above, it was okay. 

8 comments:

  1. I'm also excited by the 2019 rotation, even with losing Cueto. Rodriguez, Suarez, Stratton, and the bullpen all made big strides. They could be very tough next season especially if Bumgarner can be out there for 30+ starts.

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    1. Thanks M.C., yeah, I think people are missing on this aspect. We'll see if the new GM can do something with this good base.

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  2. Not too worried about the pitching, but I am quite worried about the hitting. I do not know what Posey, or Belt is going to bring to the table. As good as Crawford's stats were at the all star break, the regressed much more than I expected, all the way back to his career norms. Belt has yet to bring forward the seasons I expected of him. Panik started the season ablaze, and then disappeard. If fielding helps teams get to the playoffs, St.Louis certainly disproved that this year. Same pitching, giants score 100 more runs, at least this year they are in the playoffs. The giants strike out as if they had a team of power hitters, but they have singles hitters who strike out a lot. The guys like Panik that do not strike out a lot, or Posey, seem to strike out at the most inopportune times, and yielded no power. I hope Longoria will be better next year, because he was dead weight this year. Our best overall hitter was Cutch and we Jettisoned him, and we are not even trying out the shortstop prospect we garnered in return. I would like to see what he could do, because Crawford and Panik could be replaced by Avelino and Hanson. But that is unlikely. Dodgers in first today, and they played almost the entire season without their all star shortstop. Of course later in the year the temporarily replaced him with Machado. He is a guy I would like to have instead of Longoria. When the season starts we have to see how Posey, Sandoval, Belt, and Samardizjah are health wise.

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  3. I'ma gonna think about this some more...

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  4. Samardzija: He was erratic in 2017 but had 20 QS tying him for 10th in MLB. And it was more than the #1 pitcher in something like 24 teams as the Nationals had 3 Top-10. In 2016 he had 17 QS. That tied him for 35th.

    In 2018 had he had one of those performances, he would have put him somewhere tied for 9th to 17th. So, in reality, he's not a #4/#5. He's #1/#2 talent but with erratic stuff (mistake prone) which downgrades him to a #3.

    Bullpen: It's a hot mess of guys who blow saves. With a 55.45% save percentage, no team is worse in MLB. Even the 'positives' are pretty weak when you look at how they fail under pressure.

    Melancon's arm problems have robbed us of a closer.

    Strickland's FB is hittable and he has not been able to develop a 'put away pitch.' Add in that he has been losing velocity over the years and he needs to go.

    Moronata has developed a major 'walk' problem. 5.12/9 isn't going to get the job done.

    Dyson can't handle any sort of pressure. You can only put him in if you have a non-save situation.

    That leaves us with Smith, Watson & Blach. Not even a 'Core 4' as nobody else has impressed me with the ability to make it work.

    McCutchen: Not only no, but hell no. What little he brings offensively is off-set by his incompetent fielding. What he did for the Giants this season was a disaster. Put him on the 2014 team and he's the 5th OFer at best.

    Worse, as you can see by his Yankee/Road stats, he can't hit HRs at AT&T. He's an average-power, line-drive HR hitter and that doesn't work at AT&T. You need either serious loft or serious velocity to get it out of this park and he doesn't have either at 13.4 degrees and 90MPH.

    Heck, if we could get Slater to re-tool his hit-tool and get more loft, he'd have the same 'power' potential as McCutchen. Possibly more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks MosesZD, always love and welcome your comments. I trust that I won't get any B.S. past you.

      I'm actually on your side regarding Samardzija. I think he can be a solid contributor to any rotation. And I still have hopes that he'll be the ace I envisioned when we signed him.

      I know that one of my flaws is that I do not take into account the probability of injury, given the age of the team, so I know I was trying to err on the side of caution with Samardzija. In addition, I felt that with his weird 2018 injury, we can't really rely on him to replicate 2016-17, even though there is a good chance he will (and good chance he has other issues; again, I'm trying to be realistic).

      On top of that, I just had the seed of this idea when I was reading about the pitchers individually, about how good each had been, I've been obviously following them via my PQS research, and when many were coming down on the 2018 Giants, it made me think, what silver linings did we get from this season.

      That's something I've tried to do since realizing that good can come from bad. Nen's deal (then Benitez), AJP trade, Zito's deal, Rowand's deal, Renteria's deal, each contributed to the bad 2005-2008 period, either with dead money or loss of talent (losing Nathan), and yet each got us down to the draft slot that enabled the Giants to be in position to select Lincecum, Bumgarner, Posey in succession.

      And once I thought of the group as a whole, especially after seeing that the Giants led the majors in ERA from June 1 on (might not anymore after today, ouch!), which was a key component of the Golden Era of 2009-2012, that was the genesis of this post.

      So I wanted to see if I could make the case of the five guys we got, without relying on Samardzija contributing anything. And I think I did.

      So anything Samardzija contributes would be even better for the team, and I'm hoping that a 6-man rotation does happen, because that means that he's healthy and performing, and because that lessens the workload on all the young, as well as the old, arms.

      Delete
    2. I understand the concerns about the bullpen. I'm not confident that Strickland and Dyson can hold the fort as closers, and hence why I included them as tradeable relievers.

      But Strickland and Smith were at 78%, which is not far from what we got from Casilla and Romo when they were closers, basically the difference is one extra blown save.

      I still believe in the saber rationale that you want your best pitchers in when in leverage situations, so I've been okay with Romo and Casilla in there as closers, because I felt that Affeldt was our best pitcher in relief. I feel the same now with Will Smith, and even with Tony Watson in there.

      Melancon has the experience, and the history, as well as the paycheck, and while I don't think he's all the way back, I think that he was pretty good up to until September, at which point I think his lack of conditioning hurt his stamina, as his off-season was messed up by recovery from surgery, then he had all that weird stuff happening too.

      For the season, with 15 leads to defend, and he had 4 blown saves, which is roughly 74% Save%One less blown save puts him at 80%. So he's not the best, but we don't need the best to close, we need someone who can get the job done most of the time.

      I'm also hoping for a step up by Moronta, since it was his first MLB season, plus Black, and perhaps Okert, now that they seem to be over their issues with pitching, and has some MLB success that they can build upon. Particularly Okert, who was amazing in the upper minors, as I'm still worried about Black's health.

      It's not ideal, but we didn't get the full Core 4 bullpen until 2010 anyway, I think we are okay going into 2019 as a rebuilding team with a great overall bullpen (still very low ERA, and some of the blown saves are a result of a poor offense not giving the bullpen more of a lead to hold onto, you can only survive so long defending 1 run leads all the time.

      So I agree it can be better, but I think it's very doable with the starting rotation we got, and especially if Samardzija can return to normal.

      Delete
    3. About McCutchen, I get your issues with his fielding (yes, poor) and lack of power. I see him supplying something that we are lacking, however: ability to get on base and speed on the bases. Ideally, Duggar leads off, and Cutch would bat second, but if Duggar struggles, at least we have Cutch to lead off. As I tried to show with my post on the offense, the issue was the lack of a lead off guy that Bochy can trust, and Cutch provided that consistency in OBP.

      And the double killer was the leadoff guy followed by Panik, who struggled all season, to get on base.

      So Cutch would fill a vital role, and perhaps he'll be willing to play in LF where his poor defense would be hidden better. Let's put it this way: if the Reds can make Duvall very valuable playing LF defense, there should be some way to make Cutch just league average in LF.

      Of course, that would get in Shaw's and Slater's way of starting in LF. I'm okay with that, I'm not convinced yet about either, I would rather see Shaw prove he's learned something by mashing in AAA, then maybe the Giants might trade McCutchen mid-season, many teams can use a good OBP/OPS hitter, and AL teams could use him at DH.

      Williamson would be blocked, but again, if he's showing he can do his stuff, the Giants can trade Cutch, who would get a 2-year contract probably, given his ups and downs in recent years, and poor defense.

      But we need hitters who can get on atop our lineup, so even if we get a power hitter for RF, we need reliable guys 1-2, and Cutch can be one of them.

      And after his slow start in most of April, he had an .800 OPS for us until the trade, which is still a sign of a good hitter. But I'm not looking to him for power, I want a guy setting up the offense for the middle lineup guys.

      Delete

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