Sunday, January 31, 2010

Shortstop

The black hole of death for the San Francisco Giants is located between second and third base. Oh, I've no doubt we'll hear lots of Spring Training stories about how Edgar Renteria "looks great" and is "fully recovered" or, the worst of all, "is in the best shape of his life." Let's just hope FSanchez gets healthy so we can slide Juan Uribe over to start those 6-4-3's. You can tell I'm not expecting much--a wRC+ of 68 and an OPS+ of 66 will do that to a fellow. Interestingly, Bill James and CHONE are more optimistic, with a .710-.718 OPS and a 92-93 wRC+ for 1.3 WAR. That would be an gi-normous upgrade for the 34-year old, and I suppose the odds are pretty good that he will creep back towards his career line (.288/.345/.401)--ZiPS thinks there is a 23% chance he'll hit .300! Of course, ZiPS also says Ryan Garko will be our 2nd best hitter and that Fred Lewis will match Mark DeRosa's production. (Those pencil-pushing Strat-O-Matic stat-geeks have obviously never played real baseball with real men, otherwise they'd know Veteran Savvy Clutchness when they saw it.)

Troy Tulowitzki is the class of the NL West. The Rockies have a genuine superstar in the making, and only Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins can deliver more with the bat. Tulo's .297/.377/.552 (134 OPS+) was good for 5.4 WAR. He projects as a 135 wRC+ and 6.4 WAR player for 2010. That's insanely valuable at shortstop. And he's only 25! The former 1st-round pick was the 7th player selected overall in 2005, behind the likes of Ryan Braun, Ryan Zimmerman, and Justin Upton. Arizona moved young Upton to right field (he was a SS in HS) because they had the previous year's 1st-round pick (#15), Florida State's Stephen Drew, to play short. The 27-year old had a bit of a drop-off last season, but still projects as 103 wRC+ and 2.8 WAR player. His OPS+ has varied wildly in three full seasons (71, 109, 89), so there is some uncertainty there. Still, it is nice to have a young buck with some pop (.445 career SLG, .175 ISO***). Young Everth Cabrera of the San Diego Padres ran out an impressive rookie line of .255/.342/.361 (98 OPS+) in 103 games. He's a little guy, 5-9 and 170, who is fast and lacks pop, and only projects as a 1.0 WAR (98-101 wRC+) player. The 22-year old Rule 5 pickup (from Colorado) filled a huge hole for them. Whether he can be a consistent ML-player remains to be seen.

Over in LA 32-year old Rafael Furcal held down the starting spot in 2009 and will most likely be the man in 2010. In 1300 games he sports a .284/.350/.408 line (96 OPS+), and still projects as a 3.0 WAR (99-100 wRC+) player. He was hurt in 2008 and is reaching that point where a decline is probably inevitable. It is a good thing the Dodgers are run by Ned Colletti, as their promising young prospect Chin-lung Hu probably won't get much of a chance. At least they HAVE a major league-ready guy if Furcal pulls a Renteria. Our depth chart still shows Kevin Frandsen on it, and our non-roster invitees don't quite look ready to contribute. We should keep an eye on the 20-year old Ehire Adrianza who will likely start the year in AA, and the 23-year old Brandon Crawford who will (I hope) get the bump to AAA despite a tough year (.659 OPS) in Connecticut.

We avoided arb with Brian Wilson. That's good. Let's hope we can get Tim's business done, too.


***ISO is "isolated power" and is simply slugging percentage minus batting average.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Third base

It's fun to get to the hot corner these days--we all know the Kung-Fu Panda is the best in the West. The NL features the likes of Ryan Zimmerman and David Wright, both exceptional ballplayers, but our guy is right up there with them. Zimmerman is highly prized as a fielder, and his 7.1 WAR includes a huge boost from his league-leading 18.1 UZR***. Sandoval rated as the best hitter--his wRC+ of 145 was tops for third basemen, and his 5.2 WAR put him among the top 10 of all hitters in the NL. Wright, after four straight great seasons, racked up more strikeouts and fewer homers than ever in 2009, and his wRC+ plunged from his four-year average of 148 to a career-low 128. I only point that out to remind us all of the inherent variation in performance that even All-Stars experience. And who wouldn't like to have a player whose 123 OPS+ was a disappointment?

The LAtriners acquired Casey Blake mid-season 2008 from the Indians, and he performed adequately (102 OPS+) on that playoff team. Last year--at age 35--he had his best season in terms of WAR (4.2) and OPS+ (123), and second-best in wRC+ (119). His career OPS+ is 108, and he's projected as a 101-106 wRC+ (3.0 WAR) player for 2010. His fielding is considered average for the position, and that improves his value quite a bit, especially compared to the two young mashers I'll look at next. The Dodgers may regret having him signed through 2011, though, as it's hard to believe he will produce as well this year and next.

In Arizona they will be expecting a lot from 26-year old whiff-artist Mark Reynolds. After a disappointing 2008 (.239/.320/.458, 95 OPS+) and a huge 2009 (.260/.349/.543, 123 OPS+) where he blasted 44 HRs, the young slugger is certainly someone to watch. He's a funny one, striking out (556 K/1689 PA) almost a third of the time he comes to the plate, yet managing a career-high 73 walks last season, and surprisingly fleet of foot as well, with 24 SB (9 CS). He's not known for his glove, but he is projected by CHONE as a 125 wRC+ and 3.3 WAR player for 2010. Bill James is more generous at 140 wRC+.

The Rockies finally parted ways with Garrett Atkins and his 2009 66 OPS+ and installed Ian Stewart as the everyday third baseman for 2010. Stewart isn't quite 25 and has a career line of .238/.328/.455 in 263 games, good for a 97 OPS+. He projects, though, as a 116-120 wRC+ and 3.0 WAR player. Nice to have a kid with some pop and some upside.

The Padres will likely start Chase Headley at third after trading away Kevin Kouzmanoff. Headley has a career line of .263/.340/.400 (106 OPS+). Bill James projects a break-out (121 wRC+) for the soon-to-be 26-year old, but CHONE is less optimistic (108, 1.3 WAR). He did manage 62 walks in 612 PA last season, which was better than every Giant. Pablo Sandoval led the team with 52, just ahead of newest-Yankee Randy Winn's 47.

Speaking of Sandoval, CHONE expects him to drop off a bit from his exceptional .943 OPS (to .883) mostly due to a power fade (.556 to .517 SLG), and that he'll only contribute 3.3. WAR. Bill James thinks he'll produce at about the same level (149 wRC+ and .934 OPS). He's an interesting case, our Panda. I imagine his fielding is under-appreciated, and his free-swinging ways create some doubt that he can sustain a high batting average. I, however, expect his glove work to improve (as long as the Giants leave him alone and let him play), and his plate discipline to get better as well. After all, he got half his walks in the last third of the season, with 26 in August and September (234 PA). He's a unique athlete and a great entertainer, and certainly one of the most watchable players the team has ever produced. He'll turn 24 in August and it will only be his second full season in the bigs. For all of the Giants over-reliance on grizzled greybeards, the team will be counting on the Panda to be not only its number three hitter but its most marketable (non-pitcher) star. That's a big burden--do you think he's up to it?


***UZR is a fielding stat called "Ulitmate Zone Rating." I don't claim to understand or appreciate this new tool, and merely bring it up because that's what's out there. Here's more on UZR if you are interested.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Second base

The keystone corner is not the most exciting position in the NL West. We are going to trot out Freddy Sanchez--no, wait, I mean Juan Uribe. Now Uribe had a great season for us last year, he was very valuable despite his hack-meister approach. There's nothing in his career line (.257/.298/.430) though, that suggests he's a 111 OPS+ player, and he projects at 89-90 wRC+. He's a great guy to have around because he can play all the infield positions. Clearly he was acquired as FSanchez/Renteria insurance. I think our Brian Trust knows that old guys break down and they plan the team accordingly. A healthy FSanchez (.299/.334/.417, 97 OPS+) would be damn useful. Bill James and CHONE project him at 93-94 wRC+. CHONE says that's worth 1.1 WAR, but he's been a 3+ WAR player in the past (4.8 in 2006 when he hit .344). We'll see--I'll admit I'm not expecting much.

The Dodgers face an interesting conundrum with their youngster Blake DeWitt. He's a 1st-round draft pick (2004, #28), and was mostly a third baseman in an impressive rookie season (2008) where he had a .344 OBP (45 walks!) in 117 games. He has no pop (.384 SLG), and is better suited to second (especially with Casey Blake on the team). Orlando Hudson somehow played his way off the team despite a fine season (109 OPS+), and Torre got enamored with grizzled vet Ron Belliard instead. Ned Colletti learned at the feet of the Master, after all, and I hope the Dodgers stick with RonnieB instead of giving Mr. Upside (CHONE says DeWitt is good for a 94 wRC+) a chance to develop. They also got rid of infield prospect Tony Abreu, now a Diamondback. Speaking of Arizona, they decided to sign Kelly Johnson when he was non-tendered by the Braves. This guy was excellent in 2007 (116 OPS+) and 2008 (109 OPS+), but crashed in 2009 (.692 OPS. 83 OPS+). He's an interesting pick-up, turning 28 next month with a .264/.346/.430 career line. The projections are bullish (115 wRC+ and 3 WAR), so he seems a good risk for the Snakes (and they have Abreu in the wings). The Rockies will stick with Clint Barmes, who hits home runs. Last year at age 30 he got his first full-time gig, and his .245/.294/.440 line with 23 HRs was good for an 84 OPS+. Very Juan Uribe, wouldn't you say? He projects at 85-87 wRC+ and 1.9 WAR. We close our look at second base with the Padres David Eckstein. Mr. Intangible is so scrappy, and has so much grit and hustle that his career numbers and projections are irrelevant. He makes everyone around him better, and that's something the Padres can take to the bank.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

First Base

Whether Aubrey Lewis Huff is an upgrade over the options facing the Giants before his signing is moot at this point. He's our guy and we're stickin' with him. So--what are we getting and how does he stack up against the other mitt-men in the division? Let's take a look at his 10-season, 1322-game career numbers:

.282/.340/.472, (203 HR) 113 OPS+

How do the statheads project the 33-year old's 2010 season?

Bill James: .267/.334/.445, (20 HR) 107 wRC+***
CHONE: .263/.327/.438, (19 HR) 103 wRC+

Huff had a great year in 2008 and fell off a cliff in 2009. It's a familiar refrain and not worth re-hashing. This is a "quick-and-dirty" survey just to get the talk started. (I threw in the HR numbers because we all know the G-men are a bit short in the Dingerz Dept.)

Around the West, the class of the division is clearly Adrian Gonzalez in San Diego. This guy had a .958 OPS last year (166 OPS+, 6.3 WAR) and his career line is .281/.362/.506. He's a beast, he turns 30 in May, and there is no reason to expect him not to be one of the best players in the NL this season. Good thing he's on a weak squad! James Loney, the youngster (26 in May) in LA is seen as something of a disappointment due to his lack of power (.399 SLG in 2009). His career line is .295/.354/.451 with a 112 OPS+, and he projects a 115-116 wRC+. We all know Dodger fans are whiners and crybabies--if they don't like Loney they can always ship him our way. Todd Helton in Colorado is a genuine star, with a career .994 OPS (140 OPS+), but after 13 seasons of wear-and-tear there is some concern about the 36-year old's continued productivity. The projections say he's still a 3.0 WAR, 130 wRC+ player, which would be quite impressive. The Rockies would be smart to rest him a lot and pencil in a capable backup now and then. The Diamondbacks have a young slugger named Brandon Allen at AAA, but they decided they needed Adam LaRoche to man the bag for 2010. Giants fans thought we'd be seeing this fellow, but he is going to a park better suited to his power. He's an .834 OPS (116 OPS+) lifetime (6 seasons, 838 games). Bill James thinks the 29-year old will produce a 122 wRC+, but CHONE disagrees and only rates him at 110.

There you have it, mates. What are your thoughts on first base for 2010?



***wRC+ is scaled similarly to OPS+ (see this blog post for a nice primer on offensive stats), so 100 is "average."

Monday, January 25, 2010

How the West Was Won: 2009

Are you an optimist or pessimist? Dreamer or skeptic? The 2009 Giants drew a line right down the middle of the fanbase with the "glass half-full" folks and "glass half-empty" folks picking sides and lining themselves up for 2010. How can this be? Easy--take a good look at last season. The 3rd-place Giants (88-74, overperforming by 2 games) scored only 657 runs (13th) but allowed only 611 (T1st). They had 18 team shutouts and a fantastic MLB-best 123 ERA+. Unfortunately, their hated arch-rivals in Chavez LAtrine also had great pitching, also allowing only 611 runs (T1st, 116 ERA+) while scoring 780 (4th). That was good enough for a West title (95-67, underforming by 4 games). The 18-28 Rockies fired Clint Hurdle at the end of May and surged into the Wild Card under Jim Tracy, going 21-7 in June and 74-42 overall to finish 92-70 (overperfoming by 2 games). They did it with the bats, of course, their 804 RS was second only to league champs Philadelphia, but their improved pitching (only 715 RA, 7th, 108 ERA+) was the difference. We've seen poor offenses win the West in our look back, but rarely do we see poor offensive squads beat out well-balanced teams. Both LA and Colorado present formidable obstacles to the G-men's chances of winning the West in 2010, as both have a core of young, talented players on both sides of the ball. San Diego (75-87) overperformed its Pythagorean percentage by 8 games--their RS/RA (638/15th, 769/12th) numbers were truly awful, they were lucky not to finish last. Their abysmal 84 ERA+ is hard to believe in their cavernous home yard. Arizona got the last spot (70-92, underperforming by 5 games), scoring 720 runs (8th) and yielding 782 (14th). Their ERA+ of 103 is likely a reflection of their hitting-friendly park.

The Giants finished 7 behind LA and only 4 behind Colorado, and their 88 wins were more than both Atlanta (115 ERA+, 86 wins) and Chicago (117 ERA+, 83 wins). Tim Lincecum nabbed another Cy Young, Matt Cain was an All-Star, and Jonathan Sanchez threw a no-hitter. Even Billion-Dollar Boy Barry Zito was reasonably effective (108 ERA+). Pablo Sandoval burst onto the NL scene with a .943 OPS (142 OPS+), thus proving the organization can produce a hitter. It was a great year, marred only by the front office and their idiotic trades of top prospects Tim Alderson and Scott Barnes for Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Garko. FSanchez was too hurt to play, and Garko, slumping in orange and black, never got a chance and was non-tendered in the off-season (while broken-down Freddy got a 2-year, $12M deal and won't be suited up for Opening Day). It is hard being a fan of this organization. The pitching is world class and screams for the complementary pieces to round out the club, and the Brain Trust tosses us bones like Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa. One of the top prospects in all of baseball, Buster Posey, got a cuppa-coffee-call-up in September and spent his time on the bench watching the final season of the old, slow, hackmeister catcher he was groomed to replace. Oh, wait, we re-signed that guy and Buster will have to wait some more. If there is one single thing the Giants did this off-season to empty my glass, it's that. Hotshot young'un Madison Bumgarner also made his debut, he's pencilled in as the 2010 5th starter despite being much younger than Posey and having under 300 IP of professional experience. Hey, I'm all for MadBum, but the illogic of that decision makes me question the Brian Trust's competence even more than I already do.

There you have it--How the West Was Won. Next up--How to Win the West: a position-by-position look at your 2010 Giants, followed by an appraisal of our Division rivals. Pitchers and catchers report in mere weeks!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How the West Was Won: 2008

The Dodgers had a shiny new manager in 2008, bringing in the Old Wise Man of east coast ball and fitting him out with a surfboard, convertible, and a pair of Bermudas. It worked. They won the West by two games with an 84-78 record. With 700 RS (13th) and 648 RA (1st), they underperformed their Pythagorean percentage by three games. You can bet the brainiacs at 24 Willie Mays Plaza got excited about a crap offense winning the division! Boy howdy, that's how to build a club! That's not to understate the importance of good pitching. The Central-winning 97-64 Cubs led the NL with a 119 ERA+, followed by the 82-80 D-backs (116), 92-70 World Champ Phils (113), and the West-winning LAtriners (113). The second-place Snakes (720/706, 10th/5th) came back down to earth after their wild-&-flukey 2007, matching their 82-80 projection exactly. Third-place Colorado (747/822, 8th/14th, 98 ERA+) finished ten games out at 74-88, also Even-Steven with Pythagoras. I remember predicting that the G-men would lose 100. Cy Young was on the team, though, and he rescued us from some of our well-deserved obloquy by going 18-5! The Bhoyos by the Bay scored 640 (15th) and allowed 759 (9th)--let's hear it for Bonehead, he beat the Greek by four games and finished 72-90 and fourth place. The Padres fell off a cliff (63-99) after four straight winning seasons, losing the Ty-D-Bol Cup to the hapless Nationals (59-102). A RS/RA line of 637/764 (16th/10th) will do that for you, and owing the Pythagoreans five games can't help either. A bad team AND bad luck--the gods are cruel. Here's the thing: the Giants had a 101 ERA+, and the Padres an 86 ERA+. The Pads allowed 100 more runs on the road (432) than at home (332), the Giants only 43 (401-358). You have to take your good pitching with you when you travel, eh?


p.s. The Park drew fewer than 3 million (2,863,837) fans for the 1st time since opening, and attendance wasn't any better in 2009 (2,862,110) despite the winning record. Still, that's in the top third for all of baseball.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

This Day In Giants History


January 23, 1979

Willie Mays is named on 409 of 432 ballots and elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Twenty-three people thought Willie Mays didn't belong in the HOF?

How the West Was Won: 2007

Timothy LeRoy Lincecum made his debut on May 6th, 2007. We all know now that this call-up started his "arb clock" early, thus making him a "Super Two" this off-season. The decision to bring him up, at the time, seemed a no-brainer. He was absolutely obliterating the PCL (31 IP, 12 hits, 1 run, 46 K), and it seemed silly to waste his Bonds-like talent in the minors. Sabes & Co. had probably convinced themselves that the team was "competitive" and thus needed all the help it could get. At 16-13, 1-1/2 games back in 3rd place, perhaps we were. As it turned out, we weren't. The Giants went 8-12 the rest of that month, utterly collapsing in June (9-18) and finishing last (71-91), 19 games back, underperforming their Pythagorean record by 6 games. It was also Ol' Boch's debut as skipper. The team scored only 683 runs (15th) but allowed only 720 (3rd). Interestingly, our 107 ERA+ put us among the top five in the league.

2007 gets even stranger when you look at our competition. The 90-72 Diamondbacks won the West even though they allowed (732--5th) more runs than they scored (712--14th). Their 115 ERA+ was tops, followed buy the Cubs (114) and Rockies (111). The Wild Card Rockies (90-73) needed a 163rd game to edge past the Padres (89-74) for the last playoff spot. Colorado (860/758, 2nd/8th) underperformed by one game. San Diego (741/666, 9th/1st, 107 ERA+, 20 team shutouts) matched their projection, and had to have been disappointed not to win the West for the third straight season. The Rockies finished the season winning 14 of 15 and rode their hot streak all the way to the World Series. The 4th place Dodgers (82-80) matched their projection with 735 (10th) RS and 727 (4th) RA, and an ERA+ of 106. It is always nice to be reminded that outcomes in sports are not entirely predictable, and that improbable things can occur. We fans tend to discount luck and happenstance, as we like to attribute good results to pluck, grit, and clutchness. Failure is seen as a reflection of character, and variations in performance are explained away with a panoply of clich├ęd sportswriter-isms. If I've learned anything in a lifetime of watching games, it's that random chance is the Great Umpire in the Sky, that "winners" and "losers" are often separated by a hair's breadth, and that separation is mostly unexplainable by rational analysis. The best you can do when building a squad is muster all the talent you can and then find ways to maximize the success opportunities for the unique skills each individual brings. The rest is up to the gods.

Speaking of talent--the great Barry Bonds played his last baseball game in 2007. At 42, he still led all of baseball in OBP and walks and slugged .565! We we were lucky to have seen him in orange and black for all those years. He was cut loose by Magowan & Co. in the off-season ("fired" was Barry's term), and the sporting press, talking heads, hand-wringers, moralists, and casual fans all though it was a fine idea. Lots of chatter about "moving on" and "new directions" and etc. smothered over the obvious fact that the man could still play, and, in fact, should have kept playing. He finished his career 65 hits short of 3000, 4 RBI short of 2000, 12 IBB short of 700, and 24 TB short of 6000. I can't think of any player who was so close to such historic milestones and who could still play at a high level who was denied the opportunity to keep making history. Thanks, Bud, you're a douchebag. Magowan at least had the class to step down after giving Barry the axe, but bungled horribly the transition to the Neukom era by retaining Brian Sabean as GM. Giants fans, if we want to win in 2010 and beyond, we'll have to hope for some damn improbable good luck and some other-worldly talent that will overcome the cluelessness of the front office. Hey, I won't say it's impossible, especially with the emergence of The Franchise. But it won't be easy. But who said being a Giants fan was easy?

Friday, January 22, 2010

How the West Was Won: 2006

If the 2010 Giants are looking for inspiration, a gander at the 2006 NL West standings would serve them well. The Padres, 2005 winners with a pathetic 82-80 record, repeated their feat in 2006 but managed to win 88 games. That Bruce Bochy is a hell of a manager, eh? The team exceeded their Pythagorean percentage (86-76) by two games. The Wild Card Dodgers were also 88-74, exactly matching their projection. It was a funny year--the World Series champion Cardinals won the Central with an 83-78 record, beating the 97-65 Mets in a thrilling LCS and the 95-67 Tigers in an anti-climactic Series.

Pitching was not the story in the NL. The best teams in terms of ERA+ were the Astros (109), Dodgers (106), Rockies (105), D-Backs (105), Mets (105), and Padres (104). The Padres RS/RA (731/679) put them 13th and 1st. The more balanced Dodgers RS/RA (820/751) put them at 4th and 4th. It never hurts to be number one in something, eh? And if you have to pick something, pick pitching, at least if you play in the NL West. We Giants fans can get behind that. Speaking of the G-men, they finished 3rd, 11-1/2 back, with a 746/790 RS/RA line (11th and 8th). They--like LA--matched their projected record. Felipe Alou would get booted upstairs at the end of the season and Ol' Boch would get the call. Funny how the Padres got rid of him after back-to-back titles. It almost worked for them as they won 89 games the next year under Bud Black, and the Giants finished in last place. I remember thinking then that the Pads got the better man. They played .389 ball in 2008, so perhaps not. But that's something for another post.


p.s. Did you see this shite? (Hat tip to BCB.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

How the West Was Won: 2005

Matthew T. Cain made his debut on the 29th of August in 2005. He was only 20 years old and was the youngest player in the league. Barry Bonds only appeared in 14 games that season. Randy Winn, a late-season acquisition, went .359/.391/.680 in 58 games.

The San Diego Padres won the West with an 82-80 record. NL teams averaged 721 RS and 732 RA. The Padres were 13th with 684 RS and 9th in RA with 726. Under the guidance of Bruce Bochy the Pads exceeded their Pythagorean projection (77-85) by five games. Jake Peavy was the pitching stud, and they had a tremendous bullpen (Hoffman, Linebrink, Otsuka, Saenz, Hammond). The only hitting star was 34-year old Brian Giles (.301/.423/.483). They got appropriately smoked in three games by the combined score of 21-11 by the 100-61 Cardinals in the NLDS. The Wild Card Astros (609 RA, 120 ERA+) and the Central champs St. Louis (634 RA, 121 ERA+) had the best pitching.

The second-place D-Backs, 77-85 under Bob Melvin, overperformed by 11 games (66-96). With a lopsided 696 RS (10th) and 856 RA (14th), it is almost impossible to imagine them finishing ahead of the Giants. The third-place 75-87 Giants acccomplished this by being 15th in RS (549) and 11th in RA (745). Felipe Alou deserves some credit (don't you think?) for the Giants overperforming their projection (71-91) for the 3rd year running. And this was without Barry! We all knew that Alou was a placeholder until a younger, hipper manager would get the nod. Most of us were hoping long-time assistant and organization man Ron Wotus would be selected. Alas, Ol' Boch got the call in '07 instead of "Wot."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How the West Was Won: 2004

The 91-71 Giants fell agonizingly short of the title by two games. Again, they overperformed their projected (88-74) record. I suppose having a guy go .362/.609/.812 helps a bit. The Giants were 2nd in the league in RS with 850, which was 100 more than the NL average. Unfortunately they were 12th in RA with 770. That rated a 100 ERA+. The Dodgers had only a slightly better staff (102 ERA+) but were 4th in RA with 684. They were 9th in RS at 761. I suppose if you lack balance, it pays to have better run prevention than run scoring. That should give all of us hand-wringing, teeth-gnashing, and sackloth-wearing Giants fans some hope. The Dodgers also overperformed their Pythagorean projection (89-73). I can only assume Jim Tracy was a genius.

The Cardinals were the best club, number one in RS (855) and RA (659). The Braves and Cubs led with a 115 ERA+, the Cards were 2nd at 114. Their 105-57 record was five better than projected (100-62). That pesky Tony LaRussa!

It gets ugly from here on out, boys and girls. 294-353 (.454) for the next four years ('05-'08). That's what made 2009 so surprising and so special. Of course, it also inflated our expectations for 2010! After all, if you win 88 games one year with a mostly young club, you expect to improve. In other words, it is natural to assume that 88 wins reflects accurately the talent level of the club, and so some minor tweaking should get you to 90+ wins and a fair shot at the title. That kind of thinking is a little sloppy in my view--it doesn't account for luck and circumstance. It expects that all the things that happened in the previous year are perfectly repeatable. It does not account for normal random variation. It does not account for changes in the schedule and the quality of the opponents. I tend to believe that the competition in MLB is pretty fierce, and that advantages gained one season can disappear the next in the blink of an eye. I've said it before--the gods are cruel. Check out the Bonds Giants from 2000 to 2004. Look at the variation in wins, and in RS and RA. This was when we had the Greatest Player of All Time! The 2010 Giants may have the stuff to win the West. I sure hope so. I'll admit I don't like the squad (well, the lineup) much. Too many Sabean-types for my taste. But what the hell, I'm "all-in" at this point and I'm going to root like hell that the gods will smile on us.

GO GIANTS!

How the West Was Won: 2003

The wire-to-wire West winners got a new manager in 2003, thus proving the importance of managers in the grand scheme of things. The 100-61 Giants overperformed their Pythagorean record by SEVEN games (93-68) and crushed the 2nd-place Dodgers by 15-1/2 games. By league standards, it was a fairly pedestrian offense, only 755 RS, good for 6th place. The NL average was 747 or 4.61 R/G. I guess when your big bat fails to get an .800 SLG% you are in for some disappointment. The pitching, on the other hand, was superb with only 638 RA (2nd), good for a 113 ERA+ (tied for 3rd best). The 85-77 Dodgers had a tremendous staff, allowing only 556 runs (128 ERA+, league-best) and racking up 17 team shutouts. They scored only 574 though, worst in the league, but still overperformed their 83-79 projection. The 3rd-place Diamondbacks were 84-78, matching their projection exactly. They had excellent pitching (5th with 685 RA and 2nd with a 122 ERA+) but only managed 717 RS (10th).

The Florida Marlins (751 RS--8th, 692 RA--6th) won the Wild Card at 91-71, overperforming their 87-75 projection. The perennial playoff-losing Atlanta Braves scored 907 runs to lead the NL (the 2009 Yanks scored 915!), but allowed 740 (105 ERA+) to finish 9th. They overperformed by five games due to Bobby Cox' managerial wizardry.

Next up: 2004!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nightmares do come true

BENGIE MOLINA RE-SIGNS WITH GIANTS.

How the West Was Won: 2002

The division winning Diamondbacks over-performed their Pythagorean record (95-67) by three games, finishing 98-64. The wild-card Giants finished two-and-a-half games back at 95-66, under-performing their Pythagorean projection (98-63) by three games. AZ led the NL in RS with 819, and finished 5th in RA at 674. SF was 3rd in RS with 783 and 2nd in RA with 616. (It is interesting to note that the 2009 Giants and Dodgers led the NL in 2009 with 611 RA.) You want to talk run prevention? How about the 2002 Atlanta Braves only allowing 565 runs to lead all of baseball? Wow! That was good for another impressive ERA+, this time 133. The Snakes took the second spot in the league (116) and the Giants the third (109). Those were two well-balanced clubs fighting it out in the West that season.

The Braves, on the other hand, had a mediocre offense, despite an outfield of Chipper Jones (153 OPS+), Andruw Jones (127 OPS+), and Gary Sheffield (138 OPS+). They scored only 708 runs (10th), below the league average of 720, yet they went 101-59, over-performing their predicted 96-64. That ought to give Giants fans some hope. A 27-year old super-sub by the name of Mark DeRosa put up a .768 OPS in 72 games for the Braves that year, and was 3-for-7 in the NLDS against the Giants. Y'all stand up and gimme a "V-S-C" chant!


p.s.
Take a look at this piece on Tim and arbitration.
(A wink-and-a-nod to Giants Win for the link.)


UPDATE Monday 0850: JSanchez avoids arb and signs for $2.1M. Good!

Monday, January 18, 2010

How the West Was Won: 2001

The 2001 Giants lacked the pitching of the previous year's squad. The staff allowed 748 runs, 9th in the league, posting an ERA+ of 96. The Braves led the way with a 124 ERA+ (643 RA, 1st), the D-Backs just behind at 120 (677 RA, 2nd). The Snakes won the West by two games (92-70), underperforming their 95-67 Pythagorean record. With 818 RS, they were 3rd best, ahead of the Giants who were 5th with 799. The Bay City Boys finished 4 games better than their Pythagorean percentage (86-76), and missed out on the Wild Card by three games to the 93-69 Cardinals. The Giants did draw 3,311,958 fans, best in the league. This guy hit a lot of homers, and you know how fans like that sort of thing.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

How the West Was Won: 2000

The San Francisco Giants had the best record in baseball in their first season in the new ballpark at 2nd and King. The team was 3rd in the league in runs scored at 925, and 4th in the league in runs allowed at 747. It was an era of big offense--NL teams scored and gave up an average of 5 runs per game. At 97-65, the Giants exactly matched their Pythagorean projection, and smoked the 2nd place Dodgers by 11 games. Despite the lack of a truly dominant starter, the Giants led the league with 15 team shutouts. The Atlanta Braves once again had the best pitching staff, yielding only 714 runs (4.41 per game) for an ERA+ of 113. (The Giants were 8th at 101.) For comparison, the 2009 Giants had a team ERA+ of 123, the best mark in San Francisco history. You have to go back to New York's 1954 World Series champs for a better one (132). Of course, there were only 8 teams in the league then, and none west of the Mississippi!

This is the first of a series of posts about the NL West. I am interested in runs scored, runs allowed, Pythagorean record, and ERA+. I thought it might be fun to mine the vast info bank known as Baseball-Reference and see if we find out anything interesting. After all, we all want to win the West. Is their anything we can learn from the last 10 seasons? I decided to start with year 2000 because we had a great ballclub, the Park was brand-spankin' new, and the league and playoff configuration was the same as it is today.


n.b.
ERA+ = 100 * (lg ERA/tm ERA) with a park adjustment
Pythagorean W-L (Bill James' formula) = RS^1.83 / (RS^1.83 + RA^1.83)

Tim Lincecum filed for arbitration yesterday.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Yor-veeeeet!

My All-Name Team will always have a spot for Sr. Torrealba. I was broken-hearted when we traded him away. Now comes the news that we are interested in signing him. OK, news is a stretch. A tweet from Venezuela and something about an "industry insider" is a close as we get to news. Nonetheless, the Colorado Rockies' Mr. LDS (check out that 1.071 OPS) might be in orange and black again. I guess we aren't sure about Buster Posey. I mean, he may start. Or, he may not.

"At this time, we are prepared to go to Posey," Sabean said. "But we'll keep an open mind."

Yeesh. Let me tell you something--I'm not excited by Mark DeRosa. Really, I'm not. Or Aubrey Huff. Or Freddy Fecking Sanchez. I'm excited about Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez. I'm excited about Pablo Sandoval. We've got a bucketful of exciting young relievers like Wilson and Romo and Runzler.

And we have the Golden Boy, Gerald "Buster" Demp Posey III. I'm pretty fookin' excited about Buster Posey. Don't get me wrong, I have all kinds of Yorvit love, but this team obsession with Veteran Savvy Clutchness is giving me chilblains. How many greybeards does it take to win a Division title? Yorvit, if you are coming our way to mentor our young phenom, I'm glad to have you back. But don't take it personally if I yell "play Buster" instead of "Yor-veeeeet" every time you come to bat. If you think about the entire Yorvit saga, you get a real picture of our hapless, inept front office. I mean, we had Yorvit. He was an adequate part-time catcher. He could put up a .700 OPS with the best of them. But noooooo, he wasn't good enough. We had to go out and get a FULL-TIME .700 OPS catcher. You know, that guy with too many consonants in his name. Typical Sabes--trade away the future for a marginal upgrade when a cheap, available solution was already on the roster. But that's all water under the Bay Bridge, eh?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Run Prevention

That's what they call it in these sabermetric times--run prevention. We were good at it last year. No--we were very good. I expect we will be very good this year as well. (I've given up writing about run scoring--I expect we will NOT be very good at that.) Our Big Three of Lincecum, Cain, and JSanchez will, barring injuries, flukes, and Acts of Capricious Gods, be outstanding. There's enough depth and talent in the bullpen to keep things humming along in the late innings. But I can't help think of the other part of run prevention--fielding. (I hate saying "defense" in baseball.) What kind of a fielding club will we field in twenty-ten? Will FSanchez be an upgrade up the middle? Winn was a fine fielder, and I think we are lucky to have Olympic Nate to step into that spot. He seems like a fine fielder as well, and certainly has a killer arm. Rowand has good range and is competent as long as he doesn't have to make throws. Lewis scared the crap out of everyone last season but he was fast and athletic and was probably a net positive out there. Sandoval showed he could pick it at third, I expect he'll be able to pick it at first. Renteria is, well, older. Perhaps he can, uh, be, uh, healthier? Yeah, healthier. That's it. Uribe won't embarrass himself, he doesn't strike me as particularly impressive, but he's certainly capable of manning the infield. Ishikawa, as we know, is outstanding. But he plays first--only--and may not have the stick to stick around. We got DeRosa for his bat. I don't know what he looks like in the field. Like I said, we got him for his bat. (Tells you a lot about the ballclub, eh?) Posey will be an upgrade over Molina.

What say, mates? What kind of leather will the Giants flash in 2010?

UPDATE 0644 Monday: We sign Aubrey Huff to play 1B. I reckon that's our "lefty bat." Pablo stays at 3B, I presume. DeRosa will be our LF. Juan Uribe is insurance for Renteria (and FSanchez). Lifetime he has an .812 OPS (113 OPS+). He's 33 and this will be his 11th season and 5th club. I can live with one-year deals for guys like this "on the cheap." He had a .912 OPS in 2008 but a .694 OPS last year. Very Renterian, wouldn't you say? I suppose this means the end of Travis Ishikawa's tenure in orange and black.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Looking for a lefty

Seems we need a left-handed hitter. The article mentions Scott Podsednik.

Career line:

.277/.340/.381 which rates an OPS+ of 87.

Hey, couldn't Fred Lewis do that?


UPDATE 0958: The 2010 Giants ZiPS projections are available. (Thanks to Chris at BCB for the "heads up.") Also, FanGraphs now includes CHONE projections on their site.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dollars and Sense

I never thought much about money and contracts much when I was a younger fan. These days, I probably think too much about them. (Cot's Contracts is one of my favorite sites.) Unfortunately, we can't ignore the economics of the game anymore. The "dismal science" is a part of baseball analysis whether we like it or not. Good thing, then, we have FanGraphs to help us sort it all out.

Take a look at Jack Moore's recent post about Adam LaRoche, or Matt Klaassen's on the Holliday deal. Both stories have something to do with the Giants. Both make you think about transactions with an eye toward value. The San Francisco Sabeans are the poster child for bad deals, as we know. Who does their analysis? There seems to be no end of smart guys out there in cyberspace doing first-rate work. Do we employ these fellows? And if we don't--why don't we? I have to think we'd make better use of our dollars if we did.

Then again, we got some amazing value over the last two years out of Tim Lincecum for about a million bucks. Maybe I'm being too hard on The Three Stooges (Nuke, Sabes, and Baer). I suppose as long as our farm system can continue to produce talent like Jonathan Sanchez and Pablo Sandoval, we'll be OK.

Right?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Good things come in threes

When Aaron Ryan Rowand got his first full-time gig (2004 White Sox), he put up an impressive .361 OBP. He followed that with two less-than-stellar (.329 and .321) efforts. Rebounding with the Phillies in 2007--his second season with the club--he produced a career high of .374! Signing a nice, fat, comfortable contract with the San Francisco Sabeans after that great year, he's returned to less-than-stellar form with .339 (his career average) and .319 (ouch).

That can only mean one thing: he's poised for the "3rd-time's-a-charm" that's been widely established in the sabermetric literature. Check out the OPS+ sequence 2004-06: 130, 93, 86. Now check it out for 2007-09: 124, 94, 90.

Wow. It's like the Face on Mars. It's so obvious.

Aaron Ryan Rowand is poised for another career year. Right? It goes like this: studly, sucky, sucky. Then studly, sucky, sucky. This is a STUDLY year!!!!

Aaron Rowand should lead off next year.

It's all in the analysis, people.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010, here we come

Your 2010 Giants play their first spring game on March 3rd. The real thing starts on April 5th in Houston, and that's only 13 weeks away. So little time with all the work we have to do! We'll just have to soldier on manfully. David Pinto at Baseball Musings is doing an alphabetical look at major-leaguers called "Players A-to-Z." Yesterday he covered Matt Cain. There's a great Day-by-Day Database associated with the site that's easy to search, and you can get all your "splits" with a few clicks. Check out both links.

Later this month the arbitration figures will be exchanged, and the hearings will take place next month. Tim Lincecum will get a richly-deserved raise. For 2010, the Giants will spend $18.5 M on Zito, $13.6 M on Rowand, $10 M on Renteria, $6 M each on FSanchez and DeRosa, and $4.5 M each on Affeldt and Cain. That's $63.1 M. Brian Wilson and Jonathan Sanchez are, like Lincecum, looking at a salary case next month. I expect they'll get raises, too. They--together--cost about $1 M last season. Last year's payroll was $82.6 M, down from the 2005-2007 $90.2 M peak. If the three young pitchers come away with $20 M, that doesn't leave much to work with if you assume the Giants won't go over $90 million.

All the more reason to hope our young, cheap guys really deliver. They certainly did in 2009, with Pablo Sandoval joining the four aforementioned pitchers to give us an impressive Gang of Five. Breakout candidates for 2010 include Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner, of course, and we hope to get some impressive 'pen work from Sergio Romo, Waldis Joaquin, and Dan Runzler. We need a young batsmen, along with Buster, to step up and contribute some offensive value to the club. I don't see a free agent solution at this point, and the thought of Brian Sabean trading talent away for another FSanchez gives me the shudders. So it's John Bowker and Travis Ishikawa and Nate Schierholtz, my friends, unless I'm leaving somebody out. Our pitchers were the 4th best in baseball last year in FIP and 2nd best in ERA. They were 1st in ERA+ and 2nd in WHIP. Will they do it again? One thing for sure, we are certainly counting on it.

Happy New Year!