Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Are the Giants Contenders

Only Baseball Matters linked to a very interesting piece from Bill James (registration required) regarding winning teams and close games. This should be required reading for anyone who has concerns about the 2010 Giants.

…. Baseball teams play 162 games a year. I just realized last week that,
sometime in the last 20 years, baseball experts have fallen into the habit of
saying that a baseball team has about 50 games a year that you are just going to
lose no matter what, 50 games a year that you’re going to win, and it is the
other 62 games that determine what kind of season you’re going to have. This is
not ancient knowledge; this is a fairly new one. A more inane analysis would be
difficult to conceive of. First of all, baseball teams do not play one hundred
non-competitive games a year, or anything remotely like that. Baseball teams
play about forty non-competitive games in a season, more or less; I would be
surprised if any team in the history of major league baseball ever had a hundred
games in the season that were just wins or losses, and which the losing team
never had a chance to win after the fourth or fifth inning. The outcome of most
baseball games could be reversed by changing a very small number of events
within the game.

But setting that aside, this relatively new cliché assumes that it is
the outcome of the most competitive games that decides whether a team has a
great season or a poor season. In reality, the opposite is true. The more
competitive a game is, the more likely it is that the game will be won by the
weaker team. If the Royals play the Yankees and the score of the game is 12 to
1, it is extremely likely that the Yankees won. If the score is 4 to 3, it’s
pretty much a tossup. The reasons why this is true will be intuitively obvious
to those of you who work with statistics for a living. It is the non-competitive
games—the blowouts—that play the largest role in determining what kind of season
a team has. Misinformation about baseball continues to propagate, and will
continue to propagate forever more, without regard to the fact that there is now
a community of researchers that studies these things.

It doesn’t take a lot to notice the Giants do not blow a lot of teams out, almost everyone of their games is pretty close. This is a direct reflection of how the team is built; they have great run prevention and poor run production. The Giants pitching masks the horrid offense by making every other team we face look like how our offense performs night in and night out.

Only Baseball Matters sums up the realization perfectly, this hit me in the face and knocked the thoughts of pennants and parades right out.

It’s like a light in a dark closet.

Of course we’re frustrated, being in nail-biters game after game, week
after week. It’s because we can sense that something’s not right. There’s
something about a team that wins by being perfect that fails to inspire
confidence. Of course it doesn’t. As James explains so clearly, it shouldn’t.
Winning teams dominate. Winning teams consistently win big. Winning teams are
not built upon winning one-run games. Winning teams don’t win because they
always win the close ones. They win because they blow teams out. Close games are
far too often decided by one single mistake, on missed play, one error, one
walk, just like Monday’s game. Teams dancing along that fine line are simply far
too dependent upon luck to win enough of the time to be a real contender. And we
can see that, even though the Giants are winning right now, they are not really
a contending team.

This takes me back to the end of last season; I had doubts about the “realness” or what not of the Giants resurgence. They are too one-sided in talent. Their pitching is among the top 5 in the majors and their offense is among the bottom 5, they have no margin for error in their games and a run of bad luck and they can loose 6 in a row.

These doubts have continued into this season as well. The offense might be a little better but it is still below league average. The faults and weaknesses of last season have not been corrected, the reason this team doesn’t win more games is not because they fail to execute it is because they are playing at their talent level.

When you have a roster of average to below average hitters you expect futility in driving in that runner with two outs, or getting a big 3 run homer to put a team away. I thought that I was being irrationally pessimistic about this team but I think that I am being completely rational in expecting them to not come through in most situations. The Giants are wonderful with the lead but coming from behind is an impossible task.

The reason that the Padres have our number is because they are a mirror image of ourselves just with more athletic and some younger guys. They have the same formula for beating teams and that is why when the teams face off it is a battle of ineptness, a pillow fight, a duel with water guns, I could go on.

This team isn’t bad but they are not a championship caliber team either. They don’t have the offense to support the awesome pitching. If they make the playoffs they will face a team that has both and will be run out of the building. This is the truth and it is the reason that this season will be torture.

Maybe a GM dumber then Brian Sabean will trade the team a good hitter at the deadline for a bucket of balls and marginal prospects. This is the only hope I have left.


  1. I like the comparison with the Padres. As well as the Pads are playing, they certainly aren't contenders, much like us. For starters, sure they have a better slugger (Adrian Gonzalez) but their pitching is still too sketchy. Yes Latos is pitching well. But I just can't see a team with Jon Garland as their No.1 starter making the playoffs.

    As for us, the offense is still a concern, and it's even more of a concern considering the fact that Sabean has spent money poorly once again this off-season (he committed $24 million to Derosa and Sanchez, who are both coming off injuries). Huff hasn't been bad, and has certainly been worth the price, but overall, the team offensively doesn't seem to be much better than last year. You wonder what Sabean can do to upgrade this team to make them at least contenders to make the playoffs, but even then, as a Giants fan, you can't be too optimistic. After all, Jason Bay and Adam LaRoche spurned the idea of coming to San Fran this off-season. That isn't a comforting sign that players WANT to come to SF to play.

  2. I think that any of the teams in the west excpt the Diamondbacks can and still win the West. It is pretty wideopen with no team really head or shoulders above the others. It may just come down to luck who gets in.

    As for getting offense, I think that it starts with building from within instead of having to overpay for marginal guys. There is no reason to me other then if some big comes the pressure falls pretty much soley on them to carry the offense that keeps people away.

    If we had more guys to help with the load outside of Pablo I could see SF being an attractive place. At&t is somewhat of a hitters park in that it boosts doubles and tripples and only negativly effects homeruns. It shouldn't be a huge factor in free agents minds, but maybe that is just wishfull thinking.