Friday, December 24, 2021

Bitching About Pitching: Imporrtance of Finding Ace SP

I've been complaining about Zaidi's strategy so far for preparing for the NextGen Giants.  Our hitters will be matriculating in the next 1-2 years, and as we all know, developing pitchers (or any prospects) usually take about 4-6 years, unless you hit the jackpot, like we did with Lincecum and Bumgarner, even Cainer took 4 years, we drafted him at 18 YO, he made the majors at 20 YO, he had his first full season at 21 YO, his first good season at 22 YO, and was 24 YO when he had his first ace level season.  

Meanwhile, Zaidi drafted only one pitcher in the 2019 draft, and used three of his best four bullets in the 2020 draft on hitters, but at least picked up Kyle Harrison next, which values him in the 26-33 range. And now in 2021, finally drafted pitchers with his first 9 picks, and 14 of the 20 rounds. But is it too late? Because prospects take 3-6 years to develop, so these 2021 draftees won't be reaching the majors until 2024-2027, on average.

So that got me wondering:  how have teams found an ace level pitcher over the years?  So I compiled from Fangraphs the top 30 pitchers. FG ranked by WAR for qualified pitchers, which is what I wanted to examine, pitchers who were not only good but good enough to pitch what is considered a full season.  So I collected all that data, then supplemented by determining which team acquired the pitcher, as well as when and how (draft, IFA, FA, trade), to get a view of how teams have been acquiring these players. 

Then I combined together the ranked pitchers to get a consolidated view of the universe of starting pitchers who ranked among the Top 30 (I used only the Top 30 showing on the first page of Fangraphs leaderboard, there might be pitchers who have the same WAR as #30, but to simplify my data collection, which probably started weeks ago, I went only with who were on the first page), as that's then roughly the ace pitcher each 30 teams could have theoretically had, if they were allowed to draft by top pitchers each season.

This post shares my analysis and conclusions.

And Merry Christmas to all! I wish you all a safe and healthy holiday period!

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Your 2021 Giants Post-Mortem: The Subtle Art of Shoving it up Their Butt

As Clay Bellinger indelicately put it after the Dodgers, ugh, beat the Giants in the 2021 NLDS, the first time the long-time rivals met in the Divisional Playoffs era, Logan Webb "Huge props to Logan Webb ... he shoved it ... up our butt, twice"

Twittter Video Link

Monday, December 06, 2021

Your 2021 Giants Post Mortem: Zaidi Talent Acquisition Streak Continues

I'm going to write a series of post mortem articles covering the Giants 2021 season, which was obviously one of the greatest seasons ever in SF (only lacking the World Series).  This happens to be the first I finished, I actually had started with a critical one, which will come out at some point (with the stupid looming lock out, might not matter much; I was pretty done with baseball after the last shutdown in 1994, let's see if I return this time...), but this was easier to finish.

As I captured in a prior post, Zaidi as Dodger GM had a streak of adding prospects or young veterans at low cost (either in money or prospects or both), and still in their 20's, who contributed at least 1.0 bWAR at some point during Zaidi's time there, and he was able to continue that into 2019, whereas the Dodger's streak ended in 2019.  This post will look at his record in 2020 (honestly, wasn't too interested in an exhibition-like season, nor the nonsense of putting a runner at second base in extra innings) and 2021.

ogc thoughts

In 2020, the streak continued, with Yaz being the star pupil again.  These players, who were all originally acquired when they were in their 20's, and were not all that good before, added at least 0.4 bWAR (with a 60 game season, this is equivalent to 1.0 bWAR) in 2020 for the Giants:

  • Mike Yastrzemski (29 YO): 2.6 bWAR
  • Kevin Gausman (29 YO): 1.4 bWAR; a great contribution by a young acquisition who was acquired for minimal salary (though I admit $9M is debatable as minimal, but that's not a big salary in MLB; in addition, his 4.62 ERA for the prior 3 seasons and 4.32 ERA since becoming full-time starter, and especially only 0.1 bWAR for 2018-19 show that he was not a significant contributor before, so expecting 1.0 bWAR from him on a seasonal basis is not a risk-free proposition), and more importantly, no prospects given up. 
  • Wilmer Flores (28 YO): 1.2 bWAR; a really minor contract signing
  • Mauricio Dubon (25 YO): 1.0 bWAR
  • Alex Dickerson (30 YO): 0.7 bWAR
  • Jarlin Garcia (27 YO): 0.6 bWAR

There were a number of negatives as well, but nobody is perfect. The point is that he added players who produced well, at least at a 1.0 bWAR production rate (with a 60 game season, we can multiply the above by 2.5 to get a full season equivalent) and together produced roughly 18.75 bWAR seasonal rate addition to the team. 

And it really blew up even more, as more players produced, in 2021:

  • Kevin Gausman (30 YO): 5.3 bWAR; he was acquired at under 30 YO, so I included him, even though he made so much money, it was still a great contribution by a young acquisition who was acquired for minimal salary (though $9M is debatable), and more importantly, no prospects given up. 
  • Mike Yastrzemski (30 YO): 2.6 bWAR; some might view this as a decline, compared to last season, which had MVP talk, but Yaz has been MVP over two plus month stretches in 2019 and 2020, so it did not surprise me that his 2021 is similar to his 2019 season, where he was basically about to get sent back down but he then had a white-hot extended hitting performance.  
  • Tyler Rogers (30 YO): 2.4 bWAR; as I noted in the post link above, Rogers was added because the prior GM never gave him a chance.
  • Jarlin Garcia (28 YO): 1.6 bWAR
  • Wilmer Flores (29 YO): 1.6 bWAR; I include him because it was a relatively small contract.
  • LaMonte Wade Jr (27 YO):  1.3 bWAR
  • Zack Littell (25 YO): 1.0 bWAR
  • Thairo Estrada (25 YO): 0.8 bWAR; only got into 53 games, starting 27
  • Mauricio Dubon (26 YO): 0.4 bWAR; he didn't play much, spending extended time in minors, but still added some value, so I included, especially since he produced before, for continuity.

Overall, including others with positive and other with negative, these players, all acquired by Zaidi when they were under 30 YO, and not for much money or assets used to acquire, produced 16.9 bWAR in 2021, which is roughly what was produced in 2020, and both were about 3 times as much as produced in 2019, as prior acquisitions continue to contribute while adding in new producers.

And I didn't include Kris Bryant, who was under 30, and only cost a few prospects, who were not top prospects (though it hurt me to lose Canario, I really liked him as a prospect), and he produced 1.1 bWAR.  

Improving, Move After 51/49 Move  

As he stated in his introductory press conference, he was going to make one good baseball move at a time, with the goal of playing winning baseball every year, and he has been succeeding in doing this, building up a bunch of  contributors, big and small, and it all adds up, over time. 

These players above added the same production as the group in 2020, and when the veteran players produced more (Crawford, Posey, Belt, Longoria, Cueto had 14.9 bWAR), young homegrown prospects produced (Webb, Duggar, Slater, Castro, Baragar, Doval had 9.4 bWAR), and other acquisitions (DeSclafani, Ruf, Wood, Solano, McGee, Casell, Watson, Sanchez had 12.1 bWAR) as well, creating the perfect storm that led to 107 wins.

Zaidi changed the talent lacking Giants into winners after two seasons of these 51/49 moves. This matches up well with Sabean's excellent record as GM. He rebuilt the Giants over one off-season when he took over for the 1997 season, then had four losing seasons before being able to rebuild a winning Giants team in 2009 (though it should be noted that he had to deal with Bonds until 2007, so the real rebuilding didn't happen until after the 2007 season). 

I'm just impressed that Zaidi stuck to his word at his first press conference, that the Giants would be trying to win, and that he is not doing rebuilding, in the traditional sense of the word, which in baseball is tearing it all down to build the next winning team. It was not like he was all-in trying to win each season (though I give him props for pursuing Harper), but it was not like he was trying to throw away the season totally either (though starting the 2019 season with Connor Joe and Michael Reed was kind of close to that; he wasn't throwing it away, but he wasn't throwing any life preservers either, which was okay, at some point we needed to find the next wave of good players, and that meant giving opportunities to a lot of prospects).  

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