Sunday, September 28, 2014

O/U 90

I'm one who'd have taken the over on 90 wins. That was predicated on Matt Cain being a 3-WAR pitcher (32 starts, 200 innings, 120 ERA+). It was also predicated on Tim Lincecum finding some consistency and delivering more quality starts. The first assumption was reasonable, the second hopeful, neither came to pass. It was also predicated on Brandon Belt being healthy for a full season and running out a 2013-like line (.289/.360/.481). That's a 4-WAR player. You add seven wins from Cain and Belt and that's the top of the heap or damn near. Ryan Vogelsong is a 1-WAR pitcher, I thought Timmy could do at least that well. That's eight more wins. I know it's not that simple--Peavy and Petit combined for 3 WAR and neither would have made those contributions if Matt and Tim were Matt and Tim. Even so, the club would have been a least a few games better. I believe the loss of Belt in the lineup was the single biggest thing that hurt the offense. I know about the Angel Pagan Effect, but I think Belt's a better hitter and certainly has more power. He's managed to contribute 1 WAR despite only playing in about a third of the season. Pagan is credited with 1.4 WAR for his 96 games--imagine the impact he would have made over a full season.

That being said, the Giants came up short. And they came up short because they played some damn poor baseball for long stretches of the season. Slumps are part of the game, I know that. From June 9th to July 18th they went 10-21, for example. That's .323 ball. That's not a slump, that's a nosedive. The team did not win the games they could have (and should have) won with the people they had. Every team has injuries. On the other hand, considering the decimation of the roster, the team still managed to make the post-season. You have to acknowledge that. It's been a confusing and frustrating season. "Who are these guys?" was my favorite refrain. When they were smoking hot in April and May and when they were icy cold in June and July the same question applied.

The Dodgers, the West champs, did not have a losing month. If the Giants lose today, they'll have three (if they win, two). That's how you win a division--being consistent. The Giants have been very good and very bad but they've ultimately lacked consistency. That's what makes this post-season chance so difficult to evaluate. Yeah, we know anything can happen in one game or one series or one month. But this team is hard to get a handle on--which one will show up next Wednesday? At least we know that Madison Bumgarner will get the start, and he has been terrific all season. If the team has any kind of chance it will be because they have their best guy on the hill. I can get excited about that.

Rookie Chris Heston makes his debut today. That's cool--maybe he'll get a shot to crack the rotation next year. After all there is a good chance Ryan Vogelsong will not be back and there's no guarantee Jake Peavy will be, either. And what they'll do with Tim Lincecum is anybody's guess. So show us what you got, kid.




Brother Bob said...

Next year you should rename the blog "Resurrecting Matt Cain." It just feels wrong that he's not part of the story this post-season.

M.C. O'Connor said...

I like that. We need a Cain Resurrection.

Ron said...

Nice to see that we could muster a couple of feel-good home wins against crappy opposition - that sounds sarcastic, but I mean it constructively. And, Pence got to do his rah-rah thing - he's going to make a decent Manager or Coach some day, because, aside from that extrovert side of him, I think that he really understands the game well.

Right now, I like our chances in the crap-shoot game for 3 main reasons:

- Madison Bumgarner, the Pitcher.

- Madison Bumgarner, the Hitter.

- Clint Hurdle, who seems likely to use Volquez, when throwing Liriano would seem like the thing to do. Volquez has been very good this year, but Liriano would neutralize our cleanup hitter, plus make life difficult for Blanco, Panik, Belt, & Crawford. I know that they have hit certain lefties well, but Liriano seems like the kind of LHP who would give them problems. Posey & Pence are fairly consistent versus RHP or LHP.

M.C. O'Connor said...

FanGraphs gives the Giants either a 3% or 4% chance of winning the whole enchilada.

They also think the Pirates are a slightly better team and have a very slight edge esp. at home though they acknowledge Bumgarner on the mound evens things up. I'm not sure they are a better team, but I am sure that this game is too close to call and I agree Bumgarner may be the difference-maker.

Vegas Insider says both Giants and Pirates are 7-to-1 to win the pennant. And they are both 14-to-1 to win the Series.

Should be an epic game!

M.C. O'Connor said...

Yeah I'm surprised by Volquez over Liriano but he has been their best this month.

They went with Cole for a shot at the division and he pitched great but they got beat by Cueto.

Shankbone said...

MC - Fangraphs Cameron is so lazy he didn't even research that the Pirates/Giants have the exact same record and the exact same run differential. The Pirates have the home field advantage and the "hot streak", plus McCutchen. The Giants have Bumgarner and savvy vet playoff experience. I'd give a slight edge to the Pirates, because Pence/Sandoval are ice cold. Somebody needs to step up, hopefully in the 1st inning. OUR first.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Yeah I noticed that later, too. I like that site but sometimes they are little hasty in their analysis. Speaking of FG, Eno Saaris has a good piece on Bungarner's mechanics.

Breaking Down Madison Bumgarner

M.C. O'Connor said...

Here's a another interesting piece, this time from Grantland, which takes a look at persistent playoff myths. We hear all the time that momentum, being hot in the second half, experience, pitching-and-defense, etc. are the "keys" to winning in the playoffs. It turns out that when you actually crunch the numbers the correlations aren't there. The biggest predictor of playoff success is talent, i.e. regular season success. It's a quick read and links to the stat-heavy articles so you don't have to wade through any numbers.

Take a look:

Playoff Myths to Ignore

I think we all have certain feelings about what works in the post-season due to personal experience of being emotionally invested in teams and playoff series. When we win we get a sort of "survivor bias" in our heads about the reasons ("we won because of x,y,z ..."). And when we lose we have to "explain" it as something other than bad luck or bad timing (like a slump from a key player) so we create reasons to suit the narrative we already have about the team or how baseball "works".

On top of all that interesting stuff there is still a game tomorrow and GODDAMN I HOPE THE GIANTS WIN. But I can honestly say I don't care HOW they do it. A pinch-hit three-run homer from Guillermo Quiroz after consecutive Pirates' errors on comebackers in the 13th would be just fine.

Zo said...

The Grantland article, while interesting, is confusing. "The only factor that seems to correlate strongly with postseason success is, unsurprisingly, regular-season success..." Well, duh. The teams without regular season success aren't even in the playoffs. I suppose that what he means is "Teams with regular-season success against the teams they are playing in the playoffs tend to have success..." But he doesn't make that clear, even in the following explanation. If that is the case, should the Giants beat the Bucaroos, you might expect them to fail against the Nats and doggers and beat the Cardinals. And on momentum, how much momentum can, say, the Nats have? They wrapped up their division two weeks ago, and have a 5 day lag between Sunday's game and their first playoff game. More than enough time for batters to get rusty or calm down and regain their stroke (oh, god, I hope). What he should look at is whether the extra games that wild card teams have to play could have an effect. But you have to wait about 50 years to do so to get a sample size.

M.C. O'Connor said...

The teams with the better record tend to win more often. Seems reasonable. But the article wasn't about what works, but what doesn't work. That is, what we think is the "key", like momentum, doesn't show up when you look for correlations. Doesn't mean it doesn't exist, just that it is not a reliable predictor of success.

I think the randomness inherent in small samples (and a seven game series is a small sample compared to a 162-game season) is magnified by the importance of the games. And we, as fans, don't like to attribute success or failure on the field to something like luck. We need a narrative (like "so-and-so was clutch"). I suppose I really mean "random variation" when I say "luck." After all, no batter hits every BP fastball into the seats no matter how hard he tries or how good he is. There is just too much variability in the physical act of swinging a bat and making contact.

Good teams (i.e., best winning percentage) do better overall in post-season tournaments. The rest is up to the gods and "what works in the post-season" may not be revealed by analysis. All of the things we think are true are a result of "post hoc" breakdowns. In other words, after the dust settles we decide what the "key" was. That's not the same as identifying a repeatable factor in advance. Maybe there is one, but the ones we like to latch on to aren't (yet) supported by the actual results.

Ron said...

All of this is a bunch of theoretical mumbo jumbo - right now, I just wish that I knew who was going to be on our 25-man roster for tomorrow night's game. I suppose that they are keeping that close to their vests for as long as possible.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Well OF COURSE it is theoretical mumbo-jumbo. That's what a baseball blog is--a bunch of yakking fans. I just like to see the latest research the real nerds come up with and I like to have my pre-conceived notions challenged. I think Billy Beane's "my shit don't work in the playoffs" is the best thing anyone has ever said about post-season baseball.

Doesn't seem like Boch has finalized the 25 but Baggs did a piece on what he knew a few days back.

JC Parsons said...

Didn't you already try to push that article a couple weeks ago? I think it got the same tepid response then. Zo makes good points, especially before balanced schedules, teams often had weird winning percentages in weak divisions, so I guess they must use adjusted win percentages? These guys are a lot smarter than me so I'll give it another look.
But then again, the search for a logical understanding of our post season chances is probably going to be a little depressing (ishikawa in left?!) so maybe I'll wait til the off season, ie November.

Ron said...

I'm not seeing a lot of definition of our roster in that Baggarly article. A few theories, but not much else.

What a game between KC & Oakland last night - what a day to be a Royals' fan.

I hope that ours is much less exciting, with us getting a big lead & holding onto it.

Ron said...

Finally, the roster. With Petit, Peavy, & Lincecum, we are clearly set up to 24 innings or so, so that's good. Quiroz is on there. Gary Brown is there - I assume mostly for a pinch-running opportunity - the Royals sure showed how a roster spot for a pinch-runner in a single game playoff makes sense. I kind of thought Adrianza would re-appear, but he isn't ready. Also, despite trying to show everyone he could actually swing yesterday, Bochy is still not convinced that Michael Morse can pull off some kind of Kirk Gibson HR running around the bases clutching his oblique routine - or, maybe Bochy just hopes that Morse is truly ready by the weekend. Probably a wise decision.

M.C. O'Connor said...

I don't recall trying to push that article, I may have, I read a lot. And I like talking about baseball in general and not just about the Giants. I universally get "tepid" responses but I post those links because *I* find them interesting. I have no idea what anyone else is interested in (other than the Giants).

Jon Lester has been one of the best post-season pitchers recently and he gave up six runs last night. Plus he'd been a beast down the stretch. You had to think that Lester with a big lead was going to go the A's way but it did not. And their closer, Doolittle, has been awesome but he could not hold the lead. You'd think the numbers would have favored Oakland there (and later when they got the lead again!) but it's a game played by men, not machines. I'm not an A's fan by any means but I feel for their supporters because I know what it's like to see your team blow a big lead in a crucial post-season game! And I really like Melvin. If we didn't have Boch I'd be screaming to hire him.

I find random variation in athletic performance fascinating and I think, as you know, that luck plays a bigger role in things than fans want to believe. And I get worn out on the same old tropes the sport-writers trot out to "explain" what happened, what will happen, etc. One thing I've learned from the saber-types is that there's way more to the game than we think, and that much of what we think is conditioned by years of "conventional wisdom."

The more I write about baseball (and the older I get), the less certain I become about things!

M.C. O'Connor said...

No surprises on the roster. Baggs had already called Ishikawa and Quiroz. Leaving off two starters makes sense and opens up spots for both Duvall and Brown, which I like. I didn't think Boch would do anything weird or stupid, he knows what's what.