Monday, February 28, 2011

Pressing Giants questions...

… like: What’s Buster Posey’s favorite food? And: Why doesn’t Barry Zito throw harder?

These questions are particularly burning because people sought answers to them and found my site in lieu of what they were seeking. At least that’s what my fancy Blogger “Stats” told me. Unfortunate, I know.

I guess I’ll give it my best in the event these two – unless, it was one person with each of these pertinent, brilliant questions – return for the answer. You know, because maybe each of them is a glass half full type.

So, what is Buster’s favorite food… in the whole wide world? I think this is fairly obvious, but we’ve already headed down this path so…

Posey’s favorite food is belt-high fastballs on the outer half of the plate. As Brian Wilson would say: Posey finds them particularly delicious.

Finally: Why doesn’t Zito throw harder? Great question. Simple answer. He can’t.

Ok, so maybe those weren’t the answers they were looking for. You just can’t please everyone. But for those of you that found this an utterly ridiculous waste of time, I do have some recourse.

Brandon Belt had three hits in his first start this spring today. He punched a single to center to score Travis Ishikawa. Then, directly following that and displaying his athleticism, he scored from first on a hit-and-run double by Brad Eldred. Later, he smashed a three-run double to right center field. For an encore, he clubbed an opposite-field double off of the base of the left-center field wall. So there’s that. Delicious.

Notice how I didn’t say he “belted” any of those pitches? I’ll refrain for now. Personally, I prefer to hear Duane Kuiper bellow that when he hits his first big league home run.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Buster Posey anchors Giants’ offense

First, the rules…

The rule is that every conversation about the Giants’ offense starts and stops with Buster Posey. The second rule is that the rules will undoubtedly change and they’ll change at the time of my choosing. Glad we have that squared away.

I said I might do a follow up post about players’ projections following my previous installment at Paapfly: Baseball Prospectus is bullish on Giants. I’d like to make good on that promise here and now.

As you might expect, rather, as you would expect – this is assuming that you were paying any attention to the ever important rules I’ve outlined above, while also assuming* they have not changed – we start with Posey.

*Rule of thumb: Don’t assume anything.

Posey took home the Rookie of the Year award in the Senior Circuit for the 2010 season, edging another eminently talented fellow named Jason Heyward. I’m happy to report that Baseball Prospectus (BP) again expects Posey to perform at a high level.

They are projecting him to hit .289/.358/.462 – meaning average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage – which isn’t far off from his .305/.357/.505 line from a year ago. What you can take from that is they don’t expect Posey to hit for as much power as he did a year ago (given the 43 point drop in slugging), but do expect him to draw a few more walks. Over 500 plate appearances (PA), their guess is 16 home runs for Buster. For what it’s worth, he hit 18 in 443 PA in 2010.

Baseball Prospectus has their own way of doing things and project 3.6 Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP) for Posey. To be honest, I’m not very well versed in their system because it’s not free and I grew up on (read: learned about a year ago on) FanGraphs. But I don’t think anyone on their site would be upset if I said WARP is more or less their version of Wins above replacement (WAR). In any case, you might assume a 3.6 WARP isn’t much, but it’s pretty darn good considering their only projected 5.0+ WARP position player is Albert Pujols.

Before you ask, allow me: Will Posey really lose long-ball power, not hit .300 and walk more? Maybe, maybe not, but I certainly have no problem with what they’ve provided. I think him drawing more walks is an excellent bet. I also think he’s likely to hit in a band around .300, meaning perhaps a bit higher or lower. In terms of pop, I can see it going either way. He could hit about as many home runs, a few more, or a few less. None of the three would shock me.

He’s an excellent hitter but he’s not likely to be a 30 home run guy in my opinion; he’s more likely to fall in the high-teens to mid-twenties if all is going as we expect. With the quality on-base percentage (OBP), ability to hit for a good average and the simple fact that he’s a catcher and they traditionally don’t hit at all, that’s excellent production for a catcher.

This is an excellent place for me to say something that I’ve been meaning to. For those of you who think Posey should move to shortstop – I’ve seriously read or heard this a number of times, believe it or not – to third base,  or to first base: stop. I mean it: please stop.

After Posey, BP is particularly optimistic about Pablo Sandoval. This is excellent news. It’s also a great time to drop a wonderful nugget from the awesome Craig Calcaterra, who just so happens to be watching the Giants’ first spring training game this morning:

It’s been written several times already, but seeing Pablo Sandoval up close really brings home how much damn weight he has lost. He doesn’t merely look good for a fat guy. He looks good. And it’s not just fat. His shoulders and arms are fairly awesome. And it may or may not be worth noting that he love, love, loves to sing aloud and dance some to his iPod.
Please do read the whole post from Craig. It’s funny. It’s about the Giants. What’s not to like?

Not knowing just exactly in how good of shape Pablo would be for the season, BP has Sandoval at a 3.0 WARP with a line of .299/.346/.464 with 17 home runs. That’s far better than his 2010, though of course not near the production he had in 2009. Here’s the thing with Pablo though: the sky is sort of the limit. With his lost weight, added strength and no doubt improvement in agility, he should improve in all facets of the game. I want to curb my optimism some, but I’m feeling extremely encouraged about this young man right now.

If his bat once again plays in the middle of the order with Posey and at some point, Brandon Belt – more on him later – the Giants’ offense shouldn’t have too much trouble accomplishing what’s needed to win: mediocrity. That’s right folks, when you have stellar pitching in both your rotation and bullpen, you win a lot of games by merely scoring a league average number of runs. You can even win a World Series.

I won’t get into too much detail, but others of note are Andres Torres, projected to hit .251/.320/.412. The projection isn’t a surprise, but I’ll take the over on that. He’s also the only player projected to steal double-digit stolen bases (20). They see a sharp decline in Aubrey Huff (.263/.336/.431) – no surprise there, he’ll have to prove 2010 wasn’t a fluke. They aren’t expecting much from Mark DeRosa after two wrist surgeries. In short: 127 lack-luster plate appearances. Rounding out the rest are Pat Burrell (.232/.342/.418 and 1.0 WARP), Cody Ross (.259/.313/.429 and 1.6 WARP) and Miguel Tejada (.269/.306/.375 and 1.4 WARP).

I know, I know, it feels like I’m rushing. That’s because I am. I want to get to Brandon Belt. I hinted in my previous piece that Belt is projected to produce the second best line on the Giants. They have him at .269/.359/.456. That there’s good stuff. Belt put up a prodigious minor league campaign in his first as a professional last season. It was huge. Anyway, if you want a real life example of how a season with a similar line and excellent defense at first base might look, look no further than Ike Davis’ 2010. He was a down-ballot Rookie of the Year candidate last year. He’s not a star, but he’s better than James Loney.

Davis hit .261/.351/.440 with a .345 weighted on-base average (wOBA) and was worth 3.4 wins because he was also playing excellent defense at first base, just as Belt is expected to do. What’s more, he’s another tall left-handed hitter at 6’4”. Belt’s projected line is slightly better than Davis’ and probably worth something like a .350 wOBA. That’s not great for a first baseman – it is better than league average – but when coupled with very good defense is perfectly playable. Also, it’s a lot more than you should ever ask from a rookie.

It’s worth pointing out that what BP is saying is essentially that Belt should be a better player in 2011 than Aubrey Huff. It’s far too early to know that for sure. Belt is still nothing but a prospect, though a top one, and Huff is still a player that had a resurgent season in 2010, though he’s not getting any younger. What’s probably assured in all this is the fact that Belt would be a defensive upgrade from Huff and that Huff would be no worse in left than Burrell; he might be better. Food for thought.

Unfortunately, here’s an enormous stick in the spoke, gum on the roller blade, sugar in the gas tank. Will Belt make his way to San Francisco at some point this season? BP says he’ll only take 100 plate appearances, but that seems ridiculous to me. No, while I don’t believe Sabean will dare give Belt a start on opening day, I do believe he’ll be up just as soon as one of three things happen: 1) his service time is no longer an issue, i.e. around May, 2) the Giants’ offense is running on fumes and needs a bump or 3) he’s obliterating the ball so absurdly in Fresno that Sabean has no choice but to cave to the cries for his summon.

I prefer option three, personally. Sounds awesome. But we’ll all just have to wait and see. Baseball Prospectus is about as optimistic about the Giants as they have been in years, so I’m told. So I’m told, last year they recommended Brian Sabean’s dismissal. Right or wrong, their enthusiasm for this year’s squad seems genuine and far less obligatory given their status as defending champs. It should be another exciting year. That’s really all you can ask for.

Finally, the rules have not changed and we’re still technically talking the Giants’ offense. So: Buster Posey.

I’ll make no promises here to dabble in BP’s projections on the pitching. I won’t say I won’t take a look at them either. But it’s just not as interesting to me, for whatever reason. Suffice to say, the holistic take on the pitching staff is that it’s very, very good.

Baseball Prospectus bullish on Giants

I hadn’t spent much if any time looking at Baseball Prospectus’ (BP) 2011 projections, that is, until now. Guess what: There’s another reason why it’s great when your team wins the World Series: their “Depth Chart” appears free to all at BP. This is also the case for the Texas Rangers, who in case you’ve forgotten, lost to the Giants in the Fall Classic. In five games.

They call their projections PECOTA – Pouring Endlessly and Cleverly Over These Algorithms. I made that up, but that’s because I don’t know what it actually stands for. Your turn to try.

For those Giants fans that are already worried the Giants are being underestimated, don’t be. For starters, you should never be worried of that because it doesn’t really matter. No, really, it doesn’t matter. You also shouldn’t this year because it’s simply not the case.

Baseball Prospectus is currently projecting the Giants to win the NL West by three games, besting the Dodgers. They have the Giants winning 90 games (two less than 2010) and the Dodgers winning 87. Beyond that, the Rockies grab 83, the Friars fall to just below .500 with 80 and the Diamondbacks… well their still in the cellar, though 74 wins is a nine game improvement.

But there’s more. BP also is projecting the Giants to have 1) the second best run differential (RD) in the National League at +86 runs and 2) the second lowest figure of runs against (RA). First is of course the Phillies. Just kidding. It’s the Dodgers. What?

Actually, this makes perfect sense. A couple reasons: the Dodgers have a solid rotation which includes Clayton Kershaw – a budding ace – to go with Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla, as well as a very good bullpen.

I guess Padilla is having some issues with a nerve in his forearm. I guess we could start singing a jingle like Jonny Gomes, but we won’t do that here. But only because Padilla’s no ace. I mean, if Kershaw goes down I reserve the right to celebrate. Rob Neyer said I could.

I said a couple of reasons. I meant a few. I always thought a couple meant two, a few meant three and some meant four. That’s just me, but I digress. The other reason is the ballpark the Giants, Phillies and Dodgers play in. The Giants and Dodgers play in more neutral, less offensive parks. Actually, the difference isn’t what some people make of it because the Citizens Bank Park is regarded as a more neutral park when you really get down to it than is generally perceived (or portrayed) by most fans and the media. But when push comes to shove, Chavez Ravine (LA) is the most pitcher friendly, followed by AT&T (SF) and then Citizens Bank Park (Philly).

There’s also the fact that despite the Phillies’ wunderrotation – new word – their bullpen probably isn’t as good as the Dodgers’ and Giants’. They are all close though, at least in terms of RD: 637, 640, 657.

As I mentioned in passing earlier, the Giants have the second best run differential. First place does go to the Phillies with their +94 and 91 wins, but that’s just eight runs and one game in the standings. They win the East, in this projection. Rounding out the National League (NL) is the Cardinals with a +62 RD and 87 wins, despite losing Adam Wainwright. Make sure to mark your calendars for the Braves versus Dodgers one game playoff – they’ll fight for the last spot with 87 wins each.

Please also take note of the fact that the Brewers are the next in line with 85 wins. This shouldn’t come as a big surprise to anyone. They added Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke this offseason and already had a very solid offense anchored by Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Standings are very fungible, a little luck (bad or good), an injury here or there, and voila: the Cubs win the Central. This stuff happens.

Personally, I’ll take the Brewers in the Central right now on a whim. I have the right.

That’s the standings, kids. I’ll give you some thoughts on the player projections in due time. Probably. Hint: Brandon Belt is projected to be the second best hitter on the Giants in 2011, but won’t really play enough for it to matter.

Update: BP ran the numbers again and the Brewers are now on top in the Central, although in a virtual tie in the standings with the Cardinals. Waino's loss to Tommy John surgery figures to make a tight race in the Senior Circuit's weakest division.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Giants' expiring middle infield

Andy Baggarly's indispensable "Extra Baggs" blog went up yesterday, as usual. A nugget from the 941 word missive to "us"...
Freddy Sanchez will be cleared to swing a bat on Friday, Bochy said. Sanchez is just tracking pitches for now, but he’s swinging against coaches and in the cage. Bochy said if you saw Sanchez swing, you’d never think he had another left shoulder surgery in the offseason. I’d expect Sanchez will miss perhaps a handful of Cactus League games until he’s cleared to participate in those. There’s still optimism from all sides that he’ll be 100 percent and ready to be the Giants’ second baseman on opening day.
It reminds me of something. I say me because it probably won't remind you of the same thing, and that's assuming it'll remind you of anything. It just so happens to remind me of second base. 

The position is of particular interest to me because Sanchez's contract is expring at seasons end and I don't particularly expect management to bring him back. I mean, he's a good little player and he sure was a key to the 2010 World Series with his solid defense. That being said, he's not exactly the second baseman you're going to dream on. He's not Dustin Ackley who the Mariners have on the cusp. He's no Chase Utley, that's for sure. Also, Giants fans, he's no Jeff Kent.

Freddy will be 33 in 2011 and, if re-signed, would make the Giants the culprits of signing another over-the-hill middle infielder next offseason should they choose to go in that direction. I hope they don't, and don't forget they'll be in the exact same position at shortstop as they will be at second come December. Tejada will be a free agent too and surely won't be retained for everyday duties at the position. He'll be no more equipped than Freddie Prinze Jr. or Keanu Reeves to man a critical Martin Scorsese role -- he's not well equipped to play the position today as it is. But I've digressed from second base.

Sanchez was worth 2.7 Wins above Replacement (WAR) in 2010 according to FanGraphs. Unfortunately, his three-year average is just 1.8 wins. What's more, his ability to play solid defense has always been a significant factor in keeping him a solid player given the fact that other than 2006, in which he won a batting title, he's never carried a huge stick. As his defense slips, so will his utility, and it might not be particularly pretty.

Sanchez had a .327 weighted on-base average (wOBA) in 2010 which was very nearly, exactly in line with his career mark of .326. As I said, he's not much of a hitter. His career .335 on-base percentage (OBP) and .414 slugging percentage (SLG) won't get anyone excited. So we're really looking at about a two win player at best in 2011 with a swing of more than a win either way pretty unlikely.

Recently over at MLB Trade Rumors our friend Ben Nicholson-Smith went over next seasons crop of free agent second basemen:
Robinson Cano ($14MM club option), Brandon Phillips ($12MM club option) and Aaron Hill (series of club options) could all hit the open market, though it seems likely that their current clubs will retain them, at least through 2012.

Two Bay Area second basemen, Mark Ellis and Freddy Sanchez, are set to hit free agency after the 2011 season. So are Kelly Johnson, who just avoided arbitration, and Rickie Weeks... Clint Barmes, Omar Infante and Jose Lopez are on track to hit free agency after the season and early non-tender candidate Ryan Theriot could also hit the open market.

Some of the players above will sign extensions or see their options exercised, but teams looking to add proven players should have a deeper than usual class of second basemen to choose from next offseason.
As Ben points out, Phillips, Cano and Hill are all but off limits. Weeks already signed an extension and is now scratched from the once seemingly fruitful basket of options. That leaves Ellis and Johnson -- becacuse I want nothing to do with any of Theriot, Infante, Barmes or Lopez for what I feel should be obvious reasons -- both of whom I actually wouldn't mind on shorter deals.

I like Ellis a lot. He's an extremely similar hitter to Sanchez but there's reason to like him a bit more. For one, he's been playing in the tougher American League and playing half his contests in a serious pitchers park at that. But, even more than that, Ellis is the better defender of the two. Truth be told, he's an excellent defender that's deserved a whole heck of a lot more Gold Glove consideration than he's ever gotten. When you consider the fact that he's actually older than Sanchez, though, my interest in him comes close to disintegrating.

That leaves... just Johnson. If choosing the free agent route, he's my instant favorite. It's actually pretty wild when you consider he was non-tendered by the Braves in December of 2009. In hindsight, which is always 20/20, that looks like a pretty significant blunder.

He posted a 3.4 WAR in 2007 and a 2.6 WAR in 2008 for the Braves. He had a terrible 2009 which produced a WAR of just 0.6 but perhaps the Braves' brass didn't pay close attention to his .247 batting average on balls in play (BABiP), which appears to have punished his value that season. His walk rate was still solid and near 10% and his isolated power remained within career norms at .165. So, when he arrived in Arizona at a real hitters park, he flourished. It could have been predicted. No, it was.

I suppose the Giants have an interesting prospect or two that might push his way into the picture. Charlie Culberson in particular comes to mind. The Giants liked him enough to send him to the Arizona Fall League where he hit 366/.394/.591 after his 2010 breakout campaign in Single-A Advanced, San Jose. Keith Law ranked him the Giants' fifth best prospect (ESPN Insider). FanGraphs had him ranked seventh. He stole 25 bags there with 16 home runs and a .355 wOBA in his first season in San Jose. There are reasons to like him, including the fact that he'll be just 22 next season when he'll face a serious test in Double-A, Richmond.

Other than he, I don't see a middle-infield prospect ready to contribute at second. Plus, the fact that his glove remains very much a work in progress may gum up the works even further.

I hate to say it already, but the only real attractive option at second next offseason is Johnson. We also know the Giants will be looking for a serviceable shortstop -- I have not yet looked, but the pickings are usually pretty slim on that front. Needless to say, the Giants could use a kid or two from the minors to break out and join the ranks of "solid average regular" at the middle infield position. Because we know the Giants' front office has a flare for the geriatric... I mean dramtatic.

Anyway, I suppose this discussion is a bit premature but it's already stirring about in my brain which is always bouncing around baseball, especially as it pertains to the Giants. 2012 is a long ways away, but it'll be here before we even know it. And I'll bet Sabean is thinking about this already too.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brian Wilson's WAR still exceeding his shenanigans

After Brian Wilson took a load off from camp this Friday – not the kind Dusty Baker spoke about recently – by taking Charlie Sheen’s private jet to Los Angeles in order to consult about the next installment in the “Major League” franchise, he raised more than a few eyebrows.

Here are Andy Baggarly’s thoughts in a nutshell:

If Wilson keeps racking up saves, then his off-field activities will remain nothing more than what we in the newspaper business call “brite” stories. But if he doesn’t’ get the job done, then it’s a  different story altogether.                                                                                                        
Baggs is right about those saves. Wilson has saved more games in baseball since 2008 (three seasons) than any reliever in baseball. His 127 is five ahead of fist-swinging Francisco Rodriguez and 11 more than Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon. But let’s set those saves aside for now, you know, because they don’t tell us much (if anything).

There are only four relievers over that period ahead of Wilson in Wins above Replacement (WAR) according to FanGraphs – he’s posted 5.7 wins these past three seasons. They are Rivera (6.9), Matt Thornton (6.6), Jonathan Broxton (6.2) and Papelbon (6.1). In 2010, Wilson’s 2.7 wins trailed only Mr. 15.99 strikeouts per nine innings in WAR, aka Carlos Marmol, who was worth 3.1 wins to lead all relievers.

Of those relievers who have thrown at least 150 innings in that span, his 10.45 strikeouts per nine is twelfth best. There are 20 relievers with an ERA lower than his 2.97 since 2008, but only eight boast a FIP (fielding independent pitching) better than his 2.82. That bodes well for his ability to continue doing exactly what he’s been doing: spending his days as an elite reliever.

So as long as he keeps throwing his well-placed, 96.1 mile an hour fastball (on average), as well as mixing in that cutter he used to dispatch Ryan Howard in the 2010 NLCS and to cut down Nelson Cruz in the World Series, Bochy isn’t going to care if he’s visiting Charlie Sheen, arriving in Scottsdale in an unmarked police cruiser or showing up dressed as a sea captain on The George Lopez show.

I wouldn’t spend too many hours worrying about Wilson. He conditions his body like a Navy SEAL. Call me when his save situations start giving you flashbacks of Matt Herges, Tyler Walker, Dustin Hermanson and Armando Benitez.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Best in the NL West

If I had a nickel for each time Rob Neyer inspired me to write something, well, let’s just say I’d have quite a few nickels. Recently, he’s been publishing (in weblog form, silly) a series which aims to determine the very best players at each position through the conclusion of the decade. It’s ambitious. It’s also doomed to failure, unless he’s learned a thing or two since the last time he tried. Anyway, I’d like to do something similar, but pare it way, way back.

We will start by including only those players who play in the National League West and trim if further by aiming for the best players now, not necessarily worrying so much about their future. To do this, I’m simply looking up the Fan Projections from FanGraphs, grabbing each player’s projected Wins above Replacement (WAR), and completing the circle by commenting on each selection. The fans projections seem a decent place to start to find some impartial (if also biased) judges. Sound like fun? Too bad. One final note: I’m doing position players now with the hopes to do pitchers later – just don’t hold your breath.

After the jump, we start with the most important position on the diamond, the catcher. We’ll continue in order of positional scarcity – meaning the relative supply of “good” players at each position. There are fewer good hitters that can also be good defensive catchers than any other position. Next is shortstop, and so forth.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lincecum not complacent

There should be quite a few exciting storylines in Giants camp this spring and that’s leaving aside the most obvious one: it’s their first as defending champs (as San Francisco Giants). One of the most exciting among them will be the progress of a promising young first baseman named Brandon Belt. I say first baseman knowing that his road to the big leagues might be left field, though if I had my way, given the plus first baseman that he is, I might stick him at first and push Aubrey Huff to left. If you have not heard of Belt yet… where have you been?

Another story that’s likely to get plenty of play is that of the husky third baseman, Pablo Sandoval. Panda has been snapping pictures of himself all winter and showing off his slimmer figure; this is wonderful news for Giants fans to be sure. Whether or not that translates into on-field results remains to be seen. My gut feeling is that he is going to have a big year and will once again be a serviceable third baseman defensively. I won’t say a .330 average and near .400 weight on-base average (wOBA) is necessarily in the cards, but I think it’s a safe bet he recaptures some of that promise he catapulted onto the seen with in 2008 and 2009.

After the jump, here’s my favorite piece of info from camp so far, via Extra Baggs:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lincecums and Poseys report

It’s pitchers and catchers day. Needless to say, that means today is a fantastic day.  In about one month’s time, my brothers and I (the proprietor of this weblog) will head to Scottsdale for my brother’s bachelor party. When we first made plans to do this trip, whether or not the Giants would even quality for postseason play was very much up in the air. Then the Giants won it all and the anticipation for our trip went from that for Cars 2 to Scream 4.

A couple of things of note – calling it worth mentioning is highly debatable – so far this spring are that Pat Burrell has switched from number nine to number five, Brandon Belt claims number nine and Miguel Tejada number 10, leaving number 35 for Travis Ishikawa. Yup, it’s clearly day one. I suppose it is also worth noting that Belt has arrived and thus is four days early. Also, when you walk into the clubhouse it is decorated with this.

I also wanted to provide a fantastic link to a piece written by Royals Review of SB Nation: Success and Failure Rates of Top MLB Prospects. Why? Because Brandon Belt will be vying for a job – this may or may not be true, as Sabean may want to store Belt in Fresno for financial reasons, or at least until the offense needs a boost – this spring and there’s an abundance of hype surrounding him.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cubs fans can dream

Sorry, Cardinals fans, this is going to be painful.

Jason Rosenberg of It’s About the Money (IIATMS) recently had his day as the SweetSpot Czar. For one of his posts he chose to look at those teams with the financial wherewithal to sign Albert Pujols should he ultimately become a free agent after 2011. We’ll actually know the answer to this question very soon. If by February 16, when Pujols intends to arrive at spring training, the Cardinals do not have the best player in baseball locked up long term, he will in fact become a free agent five days after the 2011 World Series.

The list he puts together makes a lot of sense and I have my favorite from it. It might not be who you think.

After the jump, a look at the possible future (Warning: it will please some and incense others)...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Team WAR and team wins

So, the first time I did this, I made a little mistake. But I'm no quitter. I inadvertently only included postional player WAR the first time around, but now I've fixed it. But after fixing it, everything I said previously still pretty much stands. Keep reading:

Rob Neyer answered some questions today for Camden Chat. It's all good stuff, and I just happened to file something for the Hardball Times on the Orioles before I read this. But something in particular piqued my interest:
Camden Chat: Newer statistics, particularly Wins Above Replacement, cause a number of disagreements on our site. What are the cracks in the WAR metrics that would allow a team to substantially outperform (in the win column) their total WAR over the course of a season?
Rob Neyer: Do they? I've actually never seen team WAR compared to team wins. Just off the top of my head, WAR doesn't account for baserunning (except for steals). Nor does it account for luck. And that's the big one. The vast majority of fans simply don't understand the degree to which luck impacts wins and losses, even over the course of 162 games.
As luck would have it, I was doing the equivalent of artist doodling a few weeks ago, otherwise known as screwing around with baseball stats and excel. Well, I did something that relates exactly to Camden Chat's question: what are the cracks in the WAR metrics that would allow a team to substantially outperform (in the win column) their total WAR over the course of a season?

You can check out what I did below  for the 2010 season (I'll also add it to my tool on the right hand side, so you can get your hands on the actual spreadsheet). Basically, I looked at win and loss records, run differentials, pythagorean wins and losses and ... WAR. I grabbed each teams WAR from FanGraphs, figured out what replacement was (basically 81 wins minus the average team WAR, which ends up being 45*), then added their team WAR plus replacement to find out how many wins their WAR totals would have predicted. I then calculated the delta between their WAR and actual number of wins -- this is essentially the question Camden Chat was asking.

*Note that the first time I did this a replacement level team would win 60.79 games. That's too many, and I knew this. But I forged on. Now that it's 45, I'm very comfortable I've done this right -- until someone tells me I'm wrong, of course.

If you take a look, you'll find that the Diamondbacks really underperformed in the win column versus their WAR total. That is no shocker to me, as their bullpen was truly atrocious and that will cost you a ton of games. Another team that posted an excellent WAR but turned in a rough season was the Brewers. I'm thinking their additions of Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke may push them to the top of the pile in 2011. Finally, the Phillies were the team that were the "luckiest." I don't know what the implications are of that, but Rob mentioned base running and they've been excellent each season in that. Davey Lopes was one of the most efficient base runners around, and he's modeled the Phillies after himself. Unfortunately for them, he's gone next season.

Something I noticed after getting it right was the Rays. They are technically the second "luckiest" team. I think this jives with the fact that base running (non-stealing bases gained and lost) isn't accounted into the WAR caclulation. I know for a fact that Carl Crawford is a dream in that particular category, and I do believe the Rays were known for it in general. Oddly, it was this very thing that cost them big time against the Rangers when they were bumped in the first round.

I never really knew what to make of what I created, but here it is for your pleasure. I personally think it might give us some insight into which teams might be closer to contention. Also, I think it certainly shows which teams know there way around the bags. That said, draw your own conclusions.

Sources: FanGraphs for WAR

The difference between Ehire Adrianza and Jose Iglesias

Prospects may or may not interest the average baseball or Giants fan. That being said, the recent shortstop adventures of the Giants might make this a bit interesting. I mean, the Giants have been ancient at the position for a long while now.

They started the trend in 2005 when they signed Omar Vizquel who was 38. He was pretty excellent as far as near-40 shortstops go, though. He was worth 2.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2005, 3.7 in 2006 and 2.1 in 2007. He even won a gold glove in each of his first two campaigns (deserving or not, but at least more so than Derek Jeter’s 2010 honor).

But by the time 2008 came around, the jig was very much up. He got the bulk of the playing time, but his .550 OPS left something to be desired. Ivan Ochoa and Brian Bocock saw some playing time too, but their offensive abilities actually made Vizquel look like Alan Trammell.

Smitten with their recent success regarding prehistoric middle infielders, the Giants jumped on Edgar Renteria as if he were the greatest thing since sliced bread. He got two years, $18 million. The results were mixed – which is a new development. Up until about, oh, the World Series, Rent was the butt of many jokes – that happens when you’re worth less than half a win (0.3) the first year of your ill-advised contract and are injured the majority of the following season. But when Renteria took Cliff Lee just over the wall in Texas (not to mention C.J. Wilson in San Francisco): Boom! Sabean had instant validation.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Baseball, my fiancé and I

What you are about to read was inspired by a post from The Common Man of The Platoon Advantage. After reading the post and watching the xtranormal clip, my fiancé said:

Wait, is this about you? He sounds exactly like you.
Often times, I’ll ask my fiancé what her day looks like in the morning before I leave for work. When she’s done telling me, it strikes me that her day sounds more like that of a taxi driver. She goes to what seems like eight different places each day, most of which aren’t exactly a stones throw away. Rather, they are multiple cities away. And here’s the thing: it’s not like she gets to drive there, drop a drunken couple off, and then quickly pick up another. No. Inside those destinations, she’s training, studying, learning, and working – providing therapy for those that need it most. Also, she’s not paid.

What, you say? I’ll tell you. She’s not paid because my fiancé is training to be a doctor of clinical psychology. If you didn’t know or have not heard, becoming a doctor is hard work. It involves taking courses, writing and defending a dissertation, getting too little sleep, and giving up 40-plus hours of your week for little or no monetary compensation. In her case, it also involves playing Play-Doh with children while they talk about their feelings. Adults* too (minus the Play-Doh).

*I wish Jose Canseco would do some therapy. It could help him immensely.

Guess what, though? She loves it. More importantly, the people get better. They get better because she has the time to listen and care. I take great pride in being attached to someone who genuinely wants to make this planet a better place.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The most important note of the Giants' offseason?

The San Francisco Giants' Fanfest was held yesterday, and it looked an awful lot like the 3 month reunion of the World Series parade. So soon? I guess so. The traffic that the event ultimately saw has the Giants considering making this a two day event next season, whether or not they defend their World Series title.

But the most interesting piece of information to come out over the weekend was perhaps something that came out the day before, Friday's Media Day. In fact, it may (or may not be) the most important piece of information to come out regarding the Giants this offseason: in addition to dedicating this offseason to improving his physical condition -- an endeavor that it at least appears he has been quite successful in --Pablo Sandoval claims he has worked some with one Barry Bonds to improve his plate discipline.

In that sentence, the word "some" becomes the key. To what extent Pablo has sought guidance from Bonds is unknown. What's more, it's not all that clear how much of ones plate discipline (or complete lack there of) can be improved by the tutoring of another, even if the teacher happens to be the Greek God of plate discipline.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Matt Cain: still not just lucky

First off, let’s clarify. I like FIP and xFIP, and think they are wonderful tools that perhaps don’t tell us what actually happened on the field, but how well most pitchers pitched and how well they will in the future.

Secondly, I don’t want anyone to get the impression I think Cain is great. It’s pretty clear I don’t think he’s lucky. Tim Lincecum and Felix Hernandez and Roy Halladay are great. Matt Cain is very good. There’s a lot of room to debate that, but neither party will truly win until we’ve seen what 2011, 2012 and 2013 look like for Cain. But anyway, what he’s not is Joe Blanton.

Dave Cameron provided a dissenting opinion and great analysis over at Fangraphs on the subject after my original post. Here’s what he did:

Below are 10 pitchers who, from 2002 to 2007, had the lowest HR/FB rates in baseball, who have thrown a similar number of innings to Cain, and have thrown at least 100 total innings in the last three seasons. The first section is their 2002-2007 IP and HR/FB rate, with the second section being their 2008-2010 IP and HR/FB rate.


Group: 11,351 IP, 8.6% HR/FB – 4,202 IP, 9.9% HR/FB

The league average HR/FB rate is uaually around 10.6%. As a group, the ten best big time home run suppressors from 2002 to 2007 were only marginally better than average at that same skill from 2008 to 2010. Sabathia and Zito bucked the trend and actually lowered their HR/FB rates over the last three seasons. So it’s certainly possible Cain could continue to post low HR/FB rates going forward. After all, he does pitch in a pretty good pitcher’s park and his career HR/FB rate is better than any of the pitchers in this sample, so maybe there is something to David Pinto’s theory about how his fastball moves.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Matt Cain ignores xFIP, again and again

Matt Cain is pretty darn good, I mean, right?

Bill at Crashburn Alley doesn't think so. He recently said Cain "... may be one of the most overrated pitchers in baseball (though you can’t fault him for pitching to the strengths of his home ballpark)..." Is this true? It wasn't just Crashburn Alley that brought about this post; Cain's worth is bandied about constantly, at least in my experience.

If we're to simply look at his FIP and xFIP, a lot of people would say Cain has been lucky. Really lucky. Boy, he's been lucky with that home rune rate, it must be because he pitches at AT&T. Boy, he's been lucky with his batting average on balls in play (BABiP). It must be because of spacious AT&T.

Cain made his debut in 2005, but his first full season didn't come until 2006, when he'd throw 190.2 innings. He'd arrived. All said and done, he posted a 3.5 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) and finished with a 4.15 ERA and 13 wins. His FIP (fielding independent pitching) was 3.96 but his xFIP (adjusted FIP that pushes the home run per fly ball (HR/FB) rate to league average) was just 4.54. Perhaps it was just beginners luck.