Thursday, March 31, 2011

2011 NL Power Rankings: Week 1

The NL Power Rankings to start the season.

2011 NL Power Rankings: Week 1
San Francisco Giants
The Giants move into my top spot with the injuries that have struck the Phillies. Plus, they are the defending champions, so until someone else knocks them off their pedestal, they are #1.
Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies have had injury problems and will be without Chase Utley for what's looking like the first half of the season. I have my worries about the offense, but they should win a lot of games with their pitching.
Atlanta Braves
I almost moved the Braves above the Phillies and I think that they're really close. The team seems well balanced and I expect them to push the Phillies all year long.
Colorado Rockies
The way things look right now, the playoff races should be tight. The Rockies are another good team and I think that they will challenge the Giants in the West and whoever is second will be right in the thick of the Wild Card race.
Milwaukee Brewers
Picking the leader of the Central is tough as the Brewers, Cardinals, and Reds are all pretty closely bunched. Right now, I think the Brewers are on top, but the talent level of all these teams is really close.
St. Louis Cardinals
Before Spring Training, the Cardinals were the team to beat in the Central and then Adam Wainwright went down for the season. The loss of Wainwright makes this division a toss up.
Cincinnati Reds
The Reds played above their heads last year and I don't think they will quite live up to that again. I could be wrong, but I can't see them overcoming the Cardinals and Brewers.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The starting pitching depth that they started with has diminished with injuries, but the rotation will still be the strength of the team. The question is if they will score enough runs. Right now, I don't think they will.
Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are interesting, but I think they're in a transition phase and this year will be something they build on for making a run at the division next year.
San Diego Padres
I think the Padres will come back down to Earth with the departure of A-Gon. They will continue to be scrappy and they may surprise again. The injury to Mat Latos hurts them a lot because behind him, the rotation isn't anything spectacular.
Houston Astros
The Astros are rebuilding and are probably the fourth most talented team in their division. They are likely to have some growing pains.
Florida Marlins
The Marlins are a young team with talent. I just think they will lose a bunch of games to the superior Braves and Phillies. They probably deserve to be higher and they may even surprise me this year.
New York Mets
The Mets are cleaning house and have injury problems like always. They have a smart GM who could turn things around, but it will take a few seasons to work off the bad moves of the previous administration.
Washington Nationals
The Nationals spent money like they were contenders but lets not fool ourselves. They are not good. Hey, at least Bryce Harper will be exciting when he finally gets the call.
Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona spent money to try to rebuild their horrible bullpen, so that will help them win some more games. Other than that, they're still a few pieces away from contending, but have a solid offensive nucleus to build around.
Pittsburgh Pirates
Hopefully the Pirates lose less than 100 games. I am pulling for them to turn it around. I just don't know when it will be in the cards for them. Good luck.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Giants vs. Dodgers Series Preview

Thursday, March 31, 5:00 PM
16-10, 3.43 ERA, 3.83 tRA (2010)
13-10, 2.91 ERA, 3.39 tRA (2010)

2010 was an up and down year for the Giants ace, but he put everything together when it mattered most, leading the Giants to a World Series title.

He has come to camp in excellent shape and looks like he's ready to put his struggles from last season behind him.

Kershaw is one of the most exciting young pitchers in baseball right now and looks to be on the cusp of joining the class of elite pitchers.

He gave the Giants fits last year and I expect that trend to continue for this extremely talented young lefty.

Friday, April 1, 7:10 PM
13-9, 3.07 ERA, 4.18 tRA (2010)
12-11, 3.57 ERA, 3.69 tRA (2010)

Sanchez is a big question mark for the Giants this year; he has been inconsistent over his career with the team, but has obvious talent to be one of the best left handed pitchers in the game.

If he continues to put things together, this could be a special season for him.

I have always thought of Billingsley as the Dodgers version of Cain. He is an excellent pitcher that gets less hype than what his talent level would suggest. With a 1-2 punch of Kershaw and Billingsley the Dodgers front of the rotation is pretty formidable.

Saturday, April 2, 1:10 PM
13-11, 3.14 ERA, 3.58 tRA (2010)
10-12, 3.62 ERA, 4.06 tRA (2010)

Cain gave us all a scare with his elbow issues during the spring, but seems to be doing just fine now. I would expect him to be his usual self but with a shorter leash in the innings and pitch count for this first few starts.

Lilly is a "blah" kind of pitcher. He throws strikes and gives his teams quality innings. He's not going to be an elite guy, but he's a solid option in the middle of the rotation. Cain should be better, but these kinds of pitchers have given the Giants fits in the past. Hopefully the Giants get some runs for Cain.

Sunday, April 3, 5:00 PM
9-14, 4.15 ERA, 4.55 tRA (2010)
11-13, 3.39 ERA, 3.20 tRA (2010)

Zito put together a very nice spring after his first outing got him raked over the coals by Bruce Jenkins. I am bullish on Zito having a good year this season and I hope that he makes me look smart.

If you read what was written about Lilly right above, the same applies to Kuroda. He's a good but not great pitcher who will give his team quality innings. Again, this is the kind of guy that has killed the Giants in the past.

The first series of the year is finally here and is set to be a big one against the rival Dodgers. The teams on paper appear to be fairly evenly matched and built in a similar manner. With the good pitching that both teams will send out there, the games should be tight and I expect the games to be determined by which team gets the timely hits.

On paper, I like the Giants lineup better with Buster Posey, Aubrey Huff and a resurgent Pablo Sandoval, but the Dodgers have talent there as well. If Andre Either and Matt Kemp hit like they could, they may be able to carry enough of the load offensively to get the Dodgers in contention. Hopefully the Giants are able to jump out to big leads so the Wilson-less bullpen isn't stretched too far and thrown right into the pressure cooker.

I expect that the Giants can at least split the four game series, but with the pressure of being in a rival's house on opening weekend with the target on their backs as defending World Series Champs, it will be a tough battle. I wouldn't be surprised if they only took one game here.

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Programming Notes

For those of you that stop by regularly, I wanted to give you a heads up on what I have planned for the upcoming season (thanks to Splashing Pumpkins for the idea).

  • I plan on doing series previews (similar to the one I just posted for the Dodgers Series.) I may change around the formating but that will be the basic structure.
  • I plan on keeping the weekly podcast going but moving it to Sunday evenings. I will keep trying to get guests from around the Giants blogosphere to look back at the previous week's stories and what we expect for the following week.
  • I will be posting a weekly NL Power Rankings on Monday mornings. It will look like this one and I have one planned for tomorrow to start off the season.
  • I will keep my Friday Giants Link Round-Up going to give a shout out to the things that I liked throughout the week. Plus, everyone needs a distraction to help get through Friday.
  • I haven't fully decided if I want to keep this a regular feature, but I will give some updates on John Bowker.
  • On Twitter, I am planning on doing a daily tweet for "this day in Giants history," which will be a lot of fun. It has been a lot of fun to research and if you have something that you think I should do, let me know.
  • I will keep writing about all the things that interest me throughout the season. I don't plan on writing game recaps because that isn't my strength, so check out the beat writers for game stories, but I will try to point out interesting things that happen during games and try to dig deeper into what happens.
Thanks for your continued support (my one year anniversary of doing this is coming up next month, so that is exciting). If you you are looking for ways to connect to me, here are all the ways:


Or you can also leave a comment. I read them all and reply to all the ones I have time for.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jeremy Affeldt's Outlier

Jeremy Affeldt is a good relief pitcher, but many people are distracted by one thing; 1.73.

That was his ERA in 2009.

His next best season was a 3.33 ERA season. This is not to say that pitchers can't put it together all of a sudden and become dominate forces. I'm saying that this was an outlier and a deviation from his true talent level.

If you look at his last three seasons and look at the pitching stats that try to strip out things beyond a pitcher's control, it becomes fairly obvious that one season does not look like the rest.

Year BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2008 2.9 9.2 3.20
2009 4.5 7.9 1.77
2010 4.3 7.9 1.83
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/29/2011.

If you take a glance at his peripheral stats, you would expect that his 2008 should have been the best season, which it was according to the advanced pitching statistics. However, 2009 is looked at as his superior season because of the sparkling ERA. What isn't seen is that he had career years in BABIP, strand rate, ground balls, and home run rate that were all significantly below his career norms.

What this means is the Affeldt of 2009 is most likely a mirage. It was amazing while it was happening, but it wasn't his true talent level.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

What the Giants Championship Celebration Uni's Should Have Been

The Giants announced that they will be wearing special gold accented jerseys for the Opening Night ring ceremony game.

They are pretty sweet and I like the idea of a one-time use of these jerseys, but what they should have done was take a page out the team's history.

The 1906 team sported these awesome uniforms all season. That would have been the nice, subtle reminder to the rest of the league that they are defending champions. I would have been sad to see the classic "Giants" word mark go from the front of the jersey, but this would have been even better.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pete Rose Special: The 2011 Giants Prop Bets, the online sports book, has just come out with their 2011 individual player proposition bets. Here is a run down of the Giants lines:

Aubrey Huff – BA in the 2011 Regular Season
Over/ Under .276

Thought: This is a really tough one. I have him projected at .277 for the season, but if I were to put money on this, I would take the under.

Aubrey Huff – Total HR’s in the 2011 Regular Season
Over/ Under 22

Thought: I have 21 homers and I think to expect more than that is too much as a left handed hitter at AT&T Park. I would pretty confidently take the under here.

Buster Posey – BA in the 2011 Regular Season
Over/ Under .297

Thought: I have him at .299 which is again about perfectly on point. I would lean over, but with BA, there is so much fluctuation year-to-year that this is a hard bet.

Buster Posey – Total HR’s in the 2011 Regular Season
Over/ Under 21.5

Thought: I have 19 projected and I think that is pretty good and still leaves you two homers to play with. I would take the under here.

Miguel Tejada – BA in the 2011 Regular Season
Over/ Under .279

Thought: I have Tejada hitting .269 and with his lousy spring, I have a feeling that may be on the high side. This seems like the most sure bet yet. Take the under.

Miguel Tejada – Total RBI’s in the 2011 Regular Season
Over/ Under 72.5

Thought: I projected 77 but I have no confidence in that projection. This will depend on where he hits in the order. If he's in the five spot for the majority of the games, this is probably a good cover, but if he moves to 7 or 8 or falls apart, he could miss by 25 or more.

Pablo Sandoval – BA in the 2011 Regular Season
Over/ Under .290

Thought: I have .294 and I think that taking the over here is a decent bet. With him being in better shape and looking to be playing with confidence again, I think a .300 season is possible. Plus, being able to run better may help him beat out a few more infield hits.

Cody Ross – BA in the 2011 Regular Season
Over/ Under .264

Thought: I have .267 and I think he can do better than .264. I just have doubts now if the calf injury turns into something nagging. The other thing is that he probably has a shorter leash to work out of slumps with the depth of outfielders the Giants carry. I would pass on this. It's just too close to call for me.

Tim Lincecum – Total Wins in the 2011 Regular Season
Over/ Under 16.5

Thought: I have him winning 16 games but predicting wins is something that's very hard. I would stay away from this bet.

Tim Lincecum – Total Strikeouts in the 2011 Regular Season
Over/ Under 245

Thought: 245 is a lot of strikeouts and to get there, he will have to throw a ton of innings. I think he's more in the 230 range, especially if the Giants don't ride him as hard this year. I am taking the under; the over is just too high.

Tim Lincecum – ERA in the 2011 Regular Season
Over/ Under 2.98

Thought: I projected a 3.05 ERA, so I lean over, but he has the ability to go well under this number. My heart says take the under, but my head says don't bet real money on this.

Matt Cain – Total Wins in the 2011 Regular Season
Over/ Under 15.5

Thought: I have 14 wins and I lean under on wins in general. This one I would feel better betting on.

Matt Cain – ERA in the 2011 Regular Season
Over/ Under 3.15

Thought: I have a 3.27 ERA and I think that is pretty fair. Cain is a good pitcher. I just don't see a high probability of a sub 3 ERA; more likely in the mid 3's and an over.

Barry Zito – Total Wins in the 2011 Regular Season
Over/ Under 11

Thought: I have 12 and I have gone out on a limb in supporting Zito. I think he gets to 12 and covers the line.

Madison Bumgarner – Total Wins in the 2011 Regular Season
Over/ Under 12.5

Thought: I have 10 wins and that's only because I think the Giants will be careful with the kid. I will take the under.

Jonathan Sanchez – Total Wins in the 2011 Regular Season
Over/ Under 13.5

Thought: I have Sanchez finishing with 12 wins but he's really hard to predict. He could have a Cy Young caliber season and win 20 or go Oliver Perez all over the Giants. I say pass on this one. I don't have the balls for this bet.

Brian Wilson – Total Saves in the 2011 Regular Season
Over/ Under 42.5

Thought: 42.5 is a lot of saves. He could do it and the Giants should have a bunch of close games to close out, but this one is just too high for me to take. I say he gets mid-to-high 30's and finishes under.

Will Brian Wilson shave his beard completely during the 2011 Regular Season?
Yes 5/2

Thought: Who knows. He is a little off, which makes anything possible. Personally, I say he keeps it, but you may as well flip a coin.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Giants Link Round-Up 3/25

Opening day is six loooong days away. It's a rainy Friday and the injury bug is running rampant through the Giants clubhouse. Here are the best Giants links of the week to brighten things up (plus, they are Barry Bonds testimony free):

El Lefty Malo: The Importance of April 11th. It's truly an important date.

Paapfly: Nomar Garciaparra's Career. I was a little harsh on Twitter but feel free to make your own distinction.

Splashing Pumpkins: Robby Thompson's Record-Setting Day. I looked this up while getting ready for a "this day in Giants history tweet" and it impressed me then and still does here.

24 Days of Magic: We're World Champs. Do We Get to be Obnoxious Now? Andy answers all the questions that you may or may not have.

SF Giants Report: Hunger or Hangover in 2011? I hope for hunger bug I have to admit that I'm still a little hungover.

McCovey Chronicles: Newest member JT (formerly of Triples Alley) gives us Bridging the Gap.

Bay City Ball: Trouble at the keystone. Another one from Rory Paap but this time at his new gig, Bay City Ball. This post led me to create this one about the break even point for Miguel Tejada.

Fangraphs: The Giants' Big Flaw, keeping the Tejada theme going.

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The Giants Outfield by Run Value

click for larger view
This is just a quick snapshot of the run values for the Giants outfielders from last season.

It's easy to see the rather large drop off from Andres Torres to the rest of the outfield. Wow. That makes his unlikely breakout even more impressive.

The other thing that you can see from this is that Aaron Rowand and Nate Schierholtz were incredibly close in value last year, with Nate getting the edge on his defense.

That leaves the Giants weighing if Rowand's bat will bounce back and if not, will Schierholtz hit enough to not take away all of his value on defense. Tough questions to answer now that Cody Ross is on the shelf.

All data is courtesy of Fangraphs.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

REAL Baseball just a week away...

Real life baseball starts a week from today as the Giants and Dodgers square off in Los Angeles.

I stumbled across this, so if you're looking for shirts for the season, this one is one sale for $10 (only size large and extra large). It's pretty cool. The best part is it can used for anyone. The part that says Kemp right now is where you put a strip of athletic tape and right in the name so that it can be reused over and over no matter who is in town and who you want to taunt.

Order them here or check out the other cool designs. By the way, I am getting no compensation for this, nor did I get solicitated by the people that created it to promote this. I just thought it was cool.

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The Baseball Gods Frown Upon Cody Ross

Cody Ross must have angered the Baseball Gods with this Tim Lincecum shirt that he showed off to the beat writers. Apparently this sort of modeling is frowned upon and his punishment is a calf injury.

From Extra Baggs:
Ross was playing right field and was running in to make a catch of a line drive when he strained his left calf. He limped off the field. A couple innings later, he and a trainer departed in a golf cart.
This is not good news for the Giants offense, but if Ross goes to the DL, it does alleviate the roster crunch a little bit (at least until Brandon Belt is ready). The big question is how serious this injury is and who the replacement is.

My gut feeling is that it's Aaron Rowand and he goes into center field, with Andres Torres shifting to right field. I would prefer Nate Schierholtz getting the nod or even the best case of Brandon Belt making the team and Aubrey Huff moving out to right field, but at the moment, that's nothing more than a pipe dream.

This will be an interesting thing to watch play out.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Brian Wilson's Replacement Should be Obvious

Brian Wilson has a strained oblique that is a definite cause for concern. This is a nagging injury that has a tendency to linger if not given the proper time to heal, but at least it seems the Giants will play it safe here.

According to Andrew Baggarly, the Giants are not going to rush him back just to be available for Opening Day.
Wilson’s ability to pitch on opening day is in significant doubt after the Giants’ right-handed closer had his throwing session cut short Wednesday – his first time picking up a baseball since straining his left oblique six days earlier.

“It didn’t feel as good as we hoped, so we backed him off,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Wilson sounded less discouraged, saying he threw at “a high level” and wasn’t surprised to feel some discomfort in the area on his left side. But significantly, the black-bearded closer with the playfully rebellious persona said he wouldn’t fight Bochy if he was told to begin the season on the disabled list.
That means the most obvious question is who should be the guy to fill in for him while he's getting healthy. To me, after looking at the numbers, the choice is obvious: it should be Sergio Romo.

A quick plotting of the tRA (from StatCorner) of each of the possible replacements shows that Romo has been consistently excellent and is arguably on the same level as Wilson when it comes to the Giants best relief pitcher.

The one knock on him is he has some platoon splits and I think that it would be a very good strategy to use when of the Giants LOOGYs to get tough lefties out. Overall, I think that Romo is as good or better against most regular left handed hitters.

Player FIP xFIP
Jeremy Affeldt4.33 4.12
Javier Lopez3.62 3.78
Santiago Casilla4.54 4.57
Sergio Romo 2.72 4.16

Romo has the best career FIP against lefties (partially due to an extremely low home run rate), but he still holds his own in the xFIP category even when compared to the lefty specialists like Affeldt and Lopez, who don't come close to matching his dominance of right handed hitters.

To top everything off, Romo has worked on a sinker that he can use to attack lefties where his awesome slider is less effective.

When you boil things down, this is really not a tough decision at all. Romo is one of the best relief pitchers in baseball and Bruce Bochy should have all the confidence in the world to hand the ninth inning over to him.

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Why Brandon Belt is Starting in Fresno

This will be really quick. Look at this picture. When Brandon Belt's bar is taller than the others, he will be on the roster and starting everyday. Until then, his service clock will be saved from ticking in Fresno.

Updated graph with axis at 0.
Right now, the educated guess is that he's close to surpassing, but not a better option than Pat Burrell in left field or Aubrey Huff at first base when compared to ZIPs projections (with the assumption that Burrell is a -7 run defender in left field, Huff is neutral at first base and Belt is a plus 3 run defender at first base).

This all could change with an injury or Burrell turning back into a pumpkin after his amazing run or Huff regressing more than most are expecting.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Break Even Point for Miguel Tejada

Miguel Tejada's defense has got him in the news and not in a good way. Andrew Baggerly made some critical remarks about his defense and his poor offense this spring, which stirred the pot and got people talking. If Tejada doesn't play well, the team could be in big trouble.

Rory Paap (newly of Bay City Ball) wrote a post talking about the trouble Tejada is having defensively and brought up in passing that the Giants in-house options of Brandon Crawford and Ehire Adrianza. They are not really major league ready, but the Giants should weigh how much they are worth compared to Tejada.

I thought that was a great idea and took the liberty to create some break-even points for how bad Tejada has to play or how well the kids have to play to replace him. The biggest factor is trying to determine the offensive projection for Tejada because that's where the majority of his value comes from. I ended up using three different projections, as summarized below.

The Bill James Projection (0.348 wOBA, very bullish)*, My 2011 Projection (0.328 wOBA, in the middle) and the Marcel Projection (0.308, most bearish)*. For Crawford and Adrianza, I used the ZIPs projection because it actually had something in there for both of them. In the graphs I used, only Crawford is worth considering because they both project very similarly, with Crawford slightly ahead with a 0.287 wOBA.

Click for a larger view
To explain the graph, the starting point is the projected WAR for each projection system assuming 150 games and for Tejada -3 runs defense and for Crawford +7 runs defense. As you move right, the wOBA for Tejada decreases by 1% of what was projected. It's the opposite for Crawford; as you move right, his wOBA increases.

If Tajada is as good as Bill James thinks, then he's nearly 2.5 wins better than the in-house options. If he only plays as well as I expect, that drops to 1.5 wins. If Marcel is right, then it narrows to 0.25 wins better. Crawford can close the gap by outperforming his ZIPs projection. To surpass Tejada's Marcel projection, he must do 2% better; to surpass Tejada's Crazy Crabbers projection, he must do 8% better; and to surpass Tejada's Bill James projection, he must do 15% better.

Click for a larger view
If the defense falls completely apart, things look really bad. This graph assumes that he falls to his career worst level of -11 UZR/150 level that he posted with the Astros in 2009. At this level, Crawford already is the better choice if the Marcel projection is the most accurate and in the others, the gap in performance between them is much smaller. With a good year from Crawford, he should take over as the starting shortstop.

These are filled with assumptions, so take these with a grain of salt, but this does give a rough outlook of what points the Giants should really consider if they want to start looking at alternatives for Tejada.

*The projections are available at Fangraphs

UPDATE 3/23/11: The graphs had the wrong number in there for replacement level that caused them to be lower then they were supposed to be. Both players moved the same amount so the analysis stays the same the graph just shifts upward.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Roster Spot Sample Ballot - My Votes

Otis from Bay City Ball put up a quick rundown of the options for the Giants roster battles and I figured I should throw my hat into the ring.

Eli Whiteside vs Chris Stewart:

This is a little tough but probably the one that means the least in terms of wins and losses. Whiteside got hurt and opened the door for Stewart who has tore it up Spring Training, going .318/.400/.545. In the grand scheme of things, one of these guys is going to be backing up Buster Posey and hopefully playing no more than twice a week. Stewart may be the better hitter of the two, but Whiteside has mythical defensive qualities that he picked up while backpacking through the Andes. This choice (like all important choices in life) was decided by a coin flip.

My Ballot: Stewart (tails took the best of seven series 4-2)

Jeff Suppan vs. The Field:

The last time Suppan was any good was 2006. That was before there were iPhones and people thought that Palm Treo's will revolutionary. So yeah, it has been a while and I don't think the goods are coming back anytime soon. The field here is the best and probably the only choice. You can take a flier on Ryan Vogelsong's awesome spring, you can hitch your wagon to Mark Kroon and his fastball, or go with old reliable Guillermo Mota.

My Ballot: the Field

Now we get to the real tough choice and the one that I am sure keeps the Giants front office workers up at night. Brandon Belt is the future but is he ready? Travis Ishikawa plays above average defense and is a decent left handed bat off the bench. Aaron Rowand is paid like an above average player but last season fell apart and never saw a slider that he couldn't flail at miserably. Nate Schierholtz is an excellent defender and the projection systems have always liked him to someday hit in the majors.

My Ballot: Rowand and Schierholz (with Belt coming up soon)

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