Saturday, November 30, 2019

Bitchin' About Pitchin'

This is a bit of a post-mortem.

At the end of 2018, we though we were in pretty good shape, pitching-wise.  We had 5 regular starters, without Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, and they had collectively given us 125 starts during the season.
                        era                   war
Madbum        3.26                  2.4
Holland          3.57                  2.1
Suarez            4.49                  0.5
Stratton          5.09                - 0.8
DRod             2.81                  2.5

That's 6.7 war out of our 5 starters.  For the record, we got 9 or more starts out of Ty Blach, Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto, before they became injured.  What's more, we seemed to be getting out relief staff to work the way there were intended to.   I remember feeling pretty good about the Giants going into 2019 - looking for our young pitching staff to build on 2018 and serve notice around the league that the Giants could again matter. 

In 2019, however, our starting pitching let us down.   We still managed to win more than we won in 2018 (a whopping 4 games), but not because of our starters.  Probably because we got decent offensive seasons out of Kevin Pillar and Evan Longoria.  Madbum was again pretty good, perhaps a bit better if measured by WAR, and Samardzija came back and really gave us more than we could have hoped for.  Other than that, though:
                      era                     war
Madbum       3.90                   2.5
Holland        5.90                 -  0.8
Suarez          5.79                 -  0.4
Stratton                     gone
DRod           5.64                 -  1.4
Smardji        3.52                    2.9
Beede           5.08                    0.1
Anderson     5.44                 -  0.5
Pomeranz     5.68                -  0.4

Derek Holland made 7 starts and Logan Webb made 8.   The DRod, Madbum, Smardji, Beede, Anderson and Pomeranz sextet made 145 starts.  That gives us a total of 1.1 WAR, quite the let down from 2018.

So here we are.  Going into 2019, we have work to do on our starters.  At least we have some, and hopefully that will include a healthy Johnny Cueto, and a Madbum, although I have a sneaking suspicion that the Giants won't do more than give lip service to re-signing him.  That might be just my general sour mood talking,  Know what else?  Unlike this time last year, our bullpen, perhaps the envy of the league, needs a total rebuild.  Tony Watson and Reyes Montoya, both of whom ended the season on the DL.  We traded away Melancon and Dyson and Will Smith signed with the Braves (I haven't heard anything about the Giants trying to re-sign him except for a QO).  So, to sum up, before we even think about adding firepower at the plate, we have a huge amount of work to do to have a decent pitching staff.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Shadow Zone

Here's a graph from an article at MLB by Mike Petriello about the ChiSox getting Yasmani Grandal:

The idea is that Grandal's "elite pitch framing" will greatly improve the team. It turns out that the best team, Arizona, got 400 more called strikes on pitches in The Shadow Zone than the White Sox. So a good team can get about 200 more called strikes than an average team. Three strikes and your out and nine strikes and you've got a clean inning so 200 more strikes is 67 more outs or 22 clean innings. That seems like a lot. (I realize that's a crude computation but I stole it from Tangotiger.) This pitch-framing stuff seems pretty important.

Below is chart from Tangotiger Blog which always has interesting stuff, even if much of it is beyond me, that personalizes things a bit:

It shows that Buster Posey is still a top pitch-framer. I think it is interesting that the best guys are just over 50% and the rest just below that line. It's a small advantage but it helps over the long haul, like a lot of things in baseball.

Just something I came across this morning and thought you might like it because the Giants are good at it. At least it seems that way! I peruse this stuff at a fairly casual level and don't dig too deeply so I'm not sure I grasp it all the way, but I like the challenge of learning new things.

Happy Thanksgiving from RMC!!


p.s. click on the charts to enlarge

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Ballpark Changes

Alex Pavlovic at NBC Sports has a piece about the changes to the ballpark. The bullpens will be moved from the foul areas to right-centerfield. They'll probably add a new row of premium on-field seating past the dugouts in the new space. That will require more nimble ball dudes, don't you think? A chunk of Triples Alley will be converted to the bullpen area. No surprise, they talked about that last season. Will it change the park dynamic? Some--the current 421 feet will drop to about 410 feet, according to the article, which will certainly turn some long outs and some triples into homers. Brandon Belt might even crack 20 bombs! I suspect it will still be a pitchers' park, just not as extreme. That's OK, a little tweaking never hurt. Speaking of hurt, that will happen less. Ballplayers won't have to negotiate the mound in the foul areas, and that's a good thing. The proximity to the 'pens was a nice feature for fans--you could always wander down there to see the starter warm up before the game even if your tickets were in another section.

December 9-12 is the next big date on the MLB calendar: the Winter Meetings in San Diego. Roster Resource has a projected 26-man roster. (That's another change for 2020.) Cot's Contracts has the payroll picture. And here's the current 40-man roster. You can see that the team looks a lot like last year's team. And despite new people in charge, the club is in the same place. The current roster is not strong enough, and there isn't enough young talent to fill in the gaps. On the plus side, the Giants are a wealthy franchise and have more financial flexibility than they care to admit. Organizational changes are afoot, and that's good. The team needs new blood, new ideas, and new energy. I know they won't call it "rebuilding" because that sends season ticket holders fleeing, but they are clearly "remodeling" and I'm ready to see them pick up the pace.

Perhaps something exciting--or at least notable--will happen in the next few weeks.


Tuesday, November 12, 2019

It's Kapler

After weeks of speculation the Giants finally picked a field manager. Gabe Kapler is a 44-year old SoCal native who most recently managed the Philadelphia Phillies. That was his first job in the hot seat and he got the boot after two seasons (161-163). He also had a stint in the LA front office where he worked with Zaidi. Kapler had a 12-year career in the majors, mostly as an outfielder, playing in over 1100 games and stepping in the box over 3300 times. He quit playing for a year to manage a minor-league club for the Red Sox, then went back to playing. He's done analysis for television as well as for Baseball Prospectus.

I'm not bothered by the fact that things did not go well in Philly. Managing is hard. It isn't easy to do it right the first time. If he survived the interview process he must be pretty committed, and that's all you can ask. I have no idea if he will be a good manager, but I'm happy the team got who they apparently wanted from the start.

The best thing? It's over. No more talk about managers and general managers. Now let's see these guys get to work and give us stuff to cheer about in 2020.


View image on Twitter

Sunday, November 10, 2019


The Giants have a new General Manager. Chicago Cubs assistant GM Scott Harris is the new man on the job. The timing is good:
While the Giants don’t feel the need to adhere to a certain timeline in naming their next manager, the start of the GM Meetings, which will run from Monday to Thursday at the Omni Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz., likely helped expedite Harris’ hire.
I don't really know any more about Harris than what's mentioned on MLBTR:
A bay area native, Harris graduated from UCLA and earned his MBA from Northwestern, breaking into the baseball industry as an intern with the Nationals and Reds, positions that he turned into a full-time gig in the MLB commissioner’s office. In his time with the Cubs, he had a hand in the club’s ascension to World Series champions in 2015, emerging as the right-hand man for top baseball ops officers Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.
According to a story on The Athletic, Harris, who is from Redwood City, got help from none other than former Giants GM Al Rosen to get the internship with the Nats. But get this--he's only 32. That's right, he's younger than Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Evan Longoria, Buster Posey, and Brandon Crawford. Bobby Evans was 46 when he got the nod, and Brian Sabean was 41. Sabes had the job for 18 years.

Welcome aboard, Scott!


p.s. Monday update--I found this picture of Harris:

Monday, November 4, 2019


The Giants have extended a qualifying offer to Madison Bumgarner, which I expected, and one to Will Smith as well. The current value of a QO is $17.8M for a one-year term. That's expensive for a relief pitcher so I wasn't sure if the Giants would go there with Smith, but he certainly earned the organization's respect with his performance.

Players have ten days to decide if they want to do that. They are free to explore the free agent market during that time. If they take the QO they are signing a one-year deal with their current team. The $17.8M is an average of the top 125 highest-paid players. If they reject the QO they are free agents.

Teams that sign a player who has rejected a QO have to forfeit a draft pick or two. The rules are Byzantine and I don't really care enough to fully learn them, suffice to say there is a penalty, which works out as compensation for the player's original team.

Pretty silly stuff. All holdovers from the days of the reserve clause. The owners own the franchise, not the players. I say eliminate the draft and make everyone a free agent from the start. Same rules for international players as well as homegrown ones. The system is unnecessarily complex, and it works against the players. By the time they reach free agency they are past their prime years and teams would rather have a 24-year old at the league minimum and under control than buy expensive older guys. Ah well, it gives us something to talk about.