Sunday, February 23, 2020

Local baseball

We've had unusually clear and sunny weather here in the borderlands. We took advantage of that and watched some local baseball on Saturday. College of the Siskiyous (Weed, CA) hosted Feather River College (Quincy, CA) for a doubleheader. JC baseball in the Golden Valley Conference!

Admission was free and we stood behind home plate between the tiny stands:

Nice view, eh? COS has a lovely campus, surrounded by big trees and with great views of both Mt Shasta and Mt Eddy. The only drawback to the quaint but serviceable ballpark is the frigid alpine breeze that comes across it in the late afternoon. Weed residents and the local sports fans are used to such things but we had to bundle up:

Our friend Eamon Velarde, a standout for the Yreka High School Miners baseball team a few years ago, is a pitcher for the FRC Golden Eagles. We got to see him toss an inning in relief. We've known him since he was a baby so it is hard to get used to 6'5" and 210 pounds!

We have not been to a Giants game or any professional baseball since Opening Day 2015. It was great fun to take in live games. We were impressed by the quality of play and the smarts and athleticism of the ballplayers.

If you are looking for a chance to see good baseball in your area try the local community college. Gabe Kapler made his mark on the amateur baseball scene at Moorpark College, after all. He's a Cal-JC Guy!


Friday, February 21, 2020

Giants are hiring

Click here to apply for Product Manager:
The ideal candidate will possess product management experience, understanding of modern UI/UX design principles, a technical background with past software engineering experience, and the ability to communicate effectively with baseball staffers.
Baseball Operations needs more R&D people. Get those résumés polished, boys and girls. The Giants need your help!


h/t FanGraphs

Wednesday, February 19, 2020


Craig Edwards has a piece on FanGraphs covering projected 2020 team payrolls. I'm stealing a graph from there:

The Giants have the 11th-highest payroll. In 2019 it was 9th, in 2018 it was 3rd, and in 2017 it was the 4th-highest. The last time the Giants were below the top ten was in 2010 when they had the 11th-highest payroll. Check out the history here.

As far as off-season spending goes, the Giants (approximate) outlay of $30M ranks tenth. It doesn't seem like they've spent that much, but if you break it down (Cozart $13M, Gausman $9M, Flores $3M, Pence $3M, etc.) you can see it. Again, check Cot's Contracts for details.

The point of all this is the next number. How much did the Giants payroll drop from last season? Roughly $20M, which is the 6th-largest dip. Only the Red Sox, Mariners, Cubs, Indians, and Brewers have seen bigger drops. The Edwards article has the graphs if you need a visual.

The Giants are looking for an even bigger drop next season. Only Posey, Cueto, Belt, Crawford, Longoria, and FNG Wilmer Flores are under contract for 2021. That's $95M committed, $60M less than the (roughly) $150+M projected for 2020.

The Dodgers were able to pull off the Mookie Betts deal because they had both a surplus of talent and payroll space. They will exceed the CBT threshold (I should just say "salary cap") this year but have about $100M coming off the books for 2021 which will give them the ability to sign Betts for the long-term. The Giants want to get to that place. They want to have the payroll space ("flexibility" in front-office jargon) to go after big free agents. But talent is still a problem. There is a big talent gap between the Giants and their rivals. LA can trade away prospects and good players and still have a formidable team and a deep farm system. The Giants are re-stocking their system of course but it's not like the rest of the NL West teams are sitting on their arses!


Friday, February 14, 2020

The 'pen

There are a lot of arms in the Giants camp and the bullpen is mostly unsettled. Veteran lefty Tony Watson is a sure thing--he signed a one-year ($3M) deal! New skipper Gabe Kapler has reportedly said that righties Trevor Gott and Tyler Rogers "will be a big part of the bullpen." Rogers made his ML debut last season. In 17 IP he struck out 16 and walked three, allowing 12 hits (no homers) and three runs. He's 29 and has been in the system since 2013 when he was drafted out of Austin Peay. He has three options left so if he falters they can shuttle him freely to AAA. Gott is 27 and is entering his sixth season in the majors. He's seen action for both the Nationals and the Angels. He gave up 26 runs in his 52-2/3 IP for the Giants last year but the good strikeout (57) and decent walk (17) numbers along with only four homers allowed give him a nice 3.12 FIP. Gott is arb-eligible next season and a free agent in 2024.

There are likely eight spots in the 'pen so that means five more to fill. I'm assuming a five-man rotation (13 pitcher limit on a 26-man roster for 2020) but one never knows. I won't be surprised if the Giants go with the opener idea or some other unusual roles for their hurlers. Should be a flurry of roster decisions in the next few weeks!


p.s. FIP is Fielding Independent Pitching. Think of it like ERA--that is, it works on the same scale (2.00 excellent, 4.50 average, 6.00 terrible). FIP tries to measure what a pitcher is actually responsible for (SO, BB, HR, HBP) and it strips out the role of defense. Most pitchers have little control over balls in play and some guys get penalized for playing on a poor-fielding team. Luck and sequencing are also stripped out in order to try to get a better measure of the pitcher's actual skill level. Over time FIP and ERA numbers tend to converge. ERA can be useful over the long haul. FIP is much better for season-to-season and other shorter time frames.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Le roi est mort, vive le roi!

The San Francisco Giants bring back both Bruce Bochy and Hunter Pence to the fold. It's a familiar pattern for management--Felipe Alou was retained after his replacement and Dusty Baker returned after his falling out. The front office is littered with former coaches and players. That's a good thing. I like organizations that conserve resources. People are the resource. If you put that much faith in someone, even if you part ways or change the relationship, they still have "the stuff" that made you believe in them in the first place! I'm glad Boch isn't going to another organization. He has a lot of baseball wisdom. Some of these so-called old school guys are human calculators. Boch knew all the odds. The saber-istas use a run expectancy matrix and linear weights and whatnot but ol' Bruce had all that in his gigantic head already. He'd been collecting the data and analyzing it for years. I'll bet he asks the best questions in the meetings with the analytics gang. Plus, he's known for his character and personality, and you can never have too much of that.

Hunter Pence figured out how to have a second act in baseball. That is no mean feat. I hope he can keep it rolling. In a part-time role, especially against lefties, there's a good chance he will. Expect a lot of platooning and creative lineups this season.

I said in the comments that I think FNG Gabe Kapler sees a kindred spirit in Pence. Kapler lacks Pence's charm but he has the same relentlessly positive outlook. The new skipper's intensity will be a good thing for the many young players in camp, and Pence will embody the ethos enthusiastically. I think it's a good mix.


p.s. I neglected to mention that Boch is returning as a "special adviser" which is the best job title ever.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020


February 11: pitchers and catchers report (Tue)
February 12: first workout (Wed)
February 16: position players report (Sun)
February 17: first full-squad workout (Mon)
February 22: first spring game (Sat)
March 21: last spring game (Sat)
March 22: at River Cats (Sun)
March 23-24: Bay Bridge Series (Mon-Tue)
March 26: Opening Day in LA (Thu)
April 3: Home Opener vs. Dodgers (Fri)

These are from Maria Guardado's article on the website.

Here's the link to the printable regular-season schedules.


update: Giants sign IF Wilmer Flores

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Giants pitcher WAR

From 2007 to 2012 Matt Cain racked up 26 bWAR, or about 4.3 bWAR per season. FanGraphs rates the same period 23 WAR, or 3.8 fWAR per season. I think we can safely say Matt Cain embodied the 4-WAR pitcher during that span. Roughly, a 5-WAR pitcher is an All-Star. Matty's 6.1 in 2009 was his bWAR peak, his 4.6 in 2011 was his fWAR peak.

Madison Bumgarner, from 2013 to 2017, was worth 16-18 WAR or about 4.0-4.5 per season.

Tim Lincecum's two Cy Young seasons, 2008 and 2009, are rated 7.8 and 7.4 bWAR and 7.1 and 7.6 fWAR. When you get to 6+ WAR you are among the league elites.

Another fine season? Johnny Cueto's 2016 rated 5.5 bWAR and 4.9 fWAR.

A major-league starter, a regular rotation member, is a 2+ WAR player. A quality reliever can contribute about 1.0 WAR and sometimes more.

Last year FanGraphs said Bum was our best guy (3.2 WAR) and Smardj our second-best (1.5 WAR), Baseball-Reference reversed them, with Smardj at 2.9 WAR and Bum at 2.8 WAR.

FanGraphs version (fWAR) is based on a pitching metric called FIP or Fielding Independent Pitching. FIP grew out of some research by a fella with the spectacular moniker of Voros McCracken. We'll talk about FIP later, it is a very useful way to look at pitching.


Saturday, February 1, 2020

Giants position player WAR

The best part about WAR and the new saber-stats is that the math geeks have done all the heavy lifting. We get to use the fruits of their labors. WAR is an abstraction about baseball. It's not perfect and should not be relied on as the only measure of a player's value. More than anything it is a way to cluster similar players. Here's the graphic I posted yesterday:

In recent Giants history, the best season by WAR was Buster's MVP campaign in 2012. FanGraphs gives him 10.1 WAR while Baseball-Reference calculates 7.6 WAR. In the case of FanGraphs, only Mike Trout matched Posey that year. B-R rated Mike Trout (10.5), Robinson Cano (8.4), and Justin Verlander (8.0) above Posey that year but Buster was #1 in the NL. FG gives a lot of weight to the catching position and puts a high value on pitch-framing. The positional adjustment for catcher is not as great in the B-R version of WAR. Two models, two different outcomes, but both in agreement about the very best players.

Last season Cody Bellinger was rated the best among position players by B-R (9.0), but FG put him third (7.8), tied with Christian Yelich (7.8), but behind Mike Trout (8.6), Alex Bregman (8.5).

The Giants position player leaders were Mike Yastrzemski (2.2 fWAR, 2.8 bWAR) and Evan Longoria (2.0 fWAR, 2.4 bWAR). Buster rated (FG/B-R) 1.8/0.9, Pillar rated 1.8/1.4, and Donovan Solano 1.3/1.6. Not a pretty picture!

We'll look at pitchers later.


p.s. here's the technical stuff on how to compute fWAR (FanGraphs) and bWAR (Baseball-Reference)