Archive for Giants

Daily Prospect Notes: 6/27

Daily notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Durin O’Linger, RHP, Boston
Level: Short Season Age: 23   Org Rank: NR   Top 100: NR
Line: 4 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 1 R, 6 K

O’Linger isn’t exactly a prospect — his fastball sits in the 86-88 range and he’ll flash an average changeup — but of note due to his recent, historic postseason run at Davidson during which the senior threw 502 pitches over six appearances in a 16-day span. Rest was not a priority for O’Linger, who was so sure he had no future in pro baseball that he was set to attend the University of Florida’s pharmacy school in the fall. The 23-year-old is pitching with house money in the New York-Penn League right now.

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Pitch Talks in San Francisco Moved to September 18th

Because of the basketball game, we’ve moved the Pitch Talks from Monday, June 12th, to September 18th. All previous tickets will carry over and we hope you’ll come see us then!

With the Giants taking a breather and stuck in limbo, it’s a great time to hear General Manager Bobby Evans thoughts on baseball and the future. Therese Vinal, with all of her great clubhouse experience and upbeat energy, and Alex Pavlovic, insider extraordinaire for NBC Sports Bay Area, will be able to tell us about the feeling on the ground. I’ll be there giving my in-between experience, and helping bridge to Grant Brisbee‘s unique feel for analysis.

And though there’s a distinctly Giants feel to the whole thing, there should be something for everyone. I practically live in the visitor’s clubhouse anyway.

Tickets are $25, but using Homestand as the coupon code, you can get it down to just $20. The venue states this is a 21 and up show, so unfortunately, adults only at this one. I’ll come early if you want to have a beer by the bar.

Hope to see you guys in September.

Daily Prospect Notes: 6/8

Daily notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Yordan Alvarez, DH/1B, Houston (Profile)
Level: Low-A   Age: 19   Org Rank: HM   Top 100: NR
Line: 2-for-5, 2 HR

Alvarez is hitting a preposterous .413/.500/.693 as a 19-year-old in full-season ball. Even once you acknowledge that better hitters at lower levels are going to have especially high BABIPs because they’re hitting balls harder than the baseline player at that level, Alvarez’s current .553 mark is unsustainable. Nevertheless, reports on the ease of his power and picturesque swing are very strong. There’s some swing-and-miss risk here but also a potential middle-of-the-order bat.

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Jeff Samardzija: Turning Less for Success

“What’s going on with the cutter and the slider?” I asked Jeff Samardzija the other day in the clubhouse. “I’m turning less,” said the Giants’ big right-hander. I started laughing, thinking he was talking about turning and watching the ball leave the yard. He arched an eyebrow, and didn’t follow suit. I had to explain myself. Now he was the one laughing. “No, no, that was last year. That’s why I started throwing the curveball,” he said. The good news is that turning less in one way has allowed him to turn less in another. The other good news is, Samardzija isn’t currently angry with me.

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Buster Posey and Public Displays of Disaffection

The television camera changes everything. Imagine being broadcast at work, at school, at your local coffee shop or bar, or wherever you spend most of your time in public. Were every move to be recorded, one’s behavior (I presume) would be inclined to change. My behavior certainly would. I would want the world most often to see the best of me. It’s human nature to be liked, to be accepted, to avoid controversy.

So it was quite unusual to see Buster Posey become so publicly annoyed with a teammate on Saturday because (a) we rarely see players exhibit such emotion on television and (b) Posey’s public face is generally one of mild-mannered tranquility.

But Posey isn’t accustomed to this much losing. He knows that the Giants are in a tough spot, already 10 games back in the NL West and seven games under .500, with the Rockies and Diamondbacks looking like legitimate postseason contenders in addition to the favored Dodgers. The Giants are, of course, also without their ace Madison Bumgarner. Perhaps Posey’s tolerance threshold for nonsense and mental errors — and this is pure speculation — has been diminished.

So in the ninth inning Saturday night, Posey lost any concern for appearances. He had enough with Brandon Belt apparently zoning out and failing to keep the runner — in this case, Stephen Piscotty — close to the bag. Piscotty went on to steal second in a relatively close game. Always pay attention to Buster.

Despite knowing that every movement is being documented, Posey didn’t hide his indignation and wait for the privacy of the clubhouse to protect a teammate from public rebuke:

This isn’t the face of a pleased catcher:

Nor was this the first instance of on-field discord between Posey and Belt — a point noted by longtime Giants beat writer Henry Schulman noted after the game:

Matt Carpenter flied out to end the game, Belt gave Posey an icy stare in the handshake line, after which Posey apparently turned to say something to the first baseman.

This was not the first time the cameras caught Posey expressing displeasure with Belt.

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Baseball’s Toughest (and Easiest) Schedules So Far

When you look up and see that the Athletics are in the midst of a two-game mid-week series against the Marlins in late May, you might suspect that the major-league baseball schedule is simply an exercise in randomness. At this point in the campaign, that’s actually sort of the case. The combination of interleague play and the random vagaries of an early-season schedule conspire to mean that your favorite team hasn’t had the same schedule as your least favorite team. Let’s try to put a number on that disparity.

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Which Team Has MLB’s Best Double-Play Combo?

These days, we’re blessed with a number of amazing young shortstops. Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and Corey Seager, for example, are already among baseball’s top players. Manny Machado is a shortstop who just accidentally plays third base. All of them are younger than 25.

Second base isn’t as notable for its youth. Last year, however, second basemen recorded one of the top collective offensive lines at the position in the history of the game. Good job, second basemen.

So both positions are experiencing a bit of a renaissance at the moment. This led me to wonder which teams might be benefiting most from that renaissance. It’s rare that teams can keep a second baseman and shortstop together long enough to form a lasting and effective double-play combo. Right now, MLB has some pretty great ones. But which is the greatest — particularly, on the defensive side of thing? Let’s explore.

First, we want to know who has played together for awhile. Since the start of the 2015 season, 21 players have played at least 200 games as a shortstop, and 23 have done the same at second base. Cross-referencing them and weeding out the players who have played for multiple teams, we get the following list:

Teams with 2B & SS with 200+ G, 2015-2017
Team Second Baseman G Shortstop G
BAL Jonathan Schoop 281 J.J. Hardy 264
BOS Dustin Pedroia 279 Xander Bogaerts 346
CLE Jason Kipnis 297 Francisco Lindor 290
DET Ian Kinsler 335 Jose Iglesias 279
HOU Jose Altuve 338 Carlos Correa 288
MIA Dee Gordon 257 Adeiny Hechavarria 288
PHI Cesar Hernandez 270 Freddy Galvis 339
SF Joe Panik 257 Brandon Crawford 315
TEX Rougned Odor 300 Elvis Andrus 347

That’s a pretty good list. There are some tough omissions here. The most notable is the Angels, as Andrelton Simmons hasn’t been with them long enough to meet our bar here. Given Johnny Giavotella‘s defensive contributions, however, we can guess that the combo here would be quite one-sided. Also excluded are teams with new double-play combos, like the Dodgers and Mariners. Not only are the Logan Forsythe-Corey Seager and Robinson CanoJean Segura combos new this season, but thanks to injuries they haven’t even played together much this season. Cano-Segura has only happened 22 times this season, and Forsythe-Seager only 10 times.

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The Players on Choking Up

Round bat, round ball, traveling in different directions: the eight-word story of hitting really captures some of the difficulty of that practice. When you get into the art of choking up — moving the hands up the barrel and shortening the bat — you uncover a whole world of players attempting to address that difficulty. David Kagan examined the physics of choking up today at The Hardball Times. Here, we ask the practitioners what they think. It turns out, the players serve up some conventional wisdom, but also some insight into the reasoning behind the practice.

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The Giants Are Stuck

Things haven’t exactly gone according to plan for the Giants. A year after winning the Wild Card game, they’ve got the worst record in baseball and, as of right now, a 7% chance of making the playoffs. They’ve lost their ace to a foolish dirt-bike accident, and their starters at shortstop and center field, as well as their closer, are on the DL. They’ve scored the second-fewest runs of any team, and their run differential of -69 makes that even worse. It’s May 10th and the Giants may already be dead.

Teams this far out of the playoff picture typically make the most of it by offloading pieces to contenders in exchange for prospects. It’s much too early in the year for theoretical contenders to be pushing their chips to the center of the table just yet, but it’s not too early for them to be surveying the shape of the market. Unfortunately for both buyers and San Francisco, the Giants may not have many pieces to pick over.

Players who get moved at midseason usually don’t have much time remaining on their contracts before they hit free agency. They’re guys who may not be around when the selling team is making its next playoff run — or whom the club can otherwise afford to replace. The Giants have pretty much their entire core under contract for next year. Only Hunter Pence and possibly Denard Span (depending on how the Giants decide to handle his option) will leave for free agency following 2018’s conclusion. They’ll have Bumgarner back at full strength next year, and in the unlikely event that Johnny Cueto doesn’t opt out, he’ll be there, too. If Cueto does opt out, this upcoming free-agent class doesn’t lack for premium starting pitching, on which the Giants have repeatedly shown themselves willing to spend.

That’s all a somewhat roundabout way of saying that the Giants don’t exactly have a ton of expendable trade chips at the moment. This season doesn’t look like the start of an irreparable decline as much as it looks like a rather large bump in the road. There’s no reason the Giants can’t be competitive next year, even if they do lose Cueto. But barring a massive resurgence and excellent play from their currently injured players, the Giants aren’t going anywhere this year, and they’re not really in a position to better prepare themselves for the future.

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Brandon Belt Rightly Resists the Revolution

On Wednesday night, Brandon Belt came to the plate six times. He drew four walks, struck out once, and put one ball in play, a single in the 11th that drove in a run. Of course, the combination of all those walks and the relative lack of homers sometimes leads to spurious criticisms not unlike those leveled at Joey Votto. While most understand that Votto is a great hitter and many understand that what Belt does is good, Belt’s reputation likely suffers more than Votto’s for a few reasons.

  1. He’s not as good as Joey Votto.
  2. He hits relatively few homers for a first baseman.

As to that first point, there’s no shame in failing to rival Joey Votto. As to the second, it really is hard to overstate the effects of Belt’s home park. Despite what Barry Bonds might have led everyone to believe, it’s incredibly difficult to hit homers in San Francisco. Despite what Barry Bonds might have led everyone to believe, it’s even more incredibly difficult for lefties to homer there.

Brandon Belt isn’t without power. He has posted ISOs well above league average throughout his career. Since the beginning of 2015, his .226 ISO on the road is 23rd best in baseball among the 160 players who’ve recorded at least 500 away plate appearances. He’s within 10 points of Joey Votto; he’s right behind Josh Donaldson, Brian Dozier, and Daniel Murphy; and he’s just ahead of Miguel Cabrera and Jose Bautista. In 580 away plate appearances since the beginning of 2015 — roughly a season’s worth of playing time- – Belt has 28 home runs, having hit them at a greater rate than Kris Bryant and Paul Goldschmidt. His numbers are good in high-leverage and low-leverage situations. He’s good with runners on and the bases empty. He’s consistent, too, as the chart showing his 100-game rolling ISO shows.

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You Can Probably Blame Rich Hill’s Blisters on His Curveball

Rich Hill is in the midst of a blister problem. It’s been going on since his breakout season last year. Since only three pitchers in 2016 threw more curveballs than Hill, it makes sense to blame the curve. Maybe there’s more at work, but also maybe not. It’s a pretty reasonable hypothesis.

I mean, for one, the pitcher himself believes it. “It’s right there, on the pad of my finger, where it touches the seams on my curveball,” said Hill on Tuesday night. Curious about the condition of his digit, I pushed: could I take a picture of the pad on his middle finger pad? “Nobody’s taking a picture of my finger,” he laughed. I didn’t pursue the matter any further.

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FanGraphs Audio: The Massive Lacunae in Pittsburgh, San Francisco

Episode 735
Managing editor Dave Cameron is the guest on this edition of the program, during which he discusses the absence of Starling Marte from the Pirates and the absence of Madison Bumgarner from the Giants and, implicitly, the absence of “human behavior” from his behavior.

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Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 39 min play time.)

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The Giants Shouldn’t Punt Just Yet

Last Thursday, Madison Bumgarner wrecked his dirt bike, and in the process, also wrecked his throwing shoulder. The team publicly announced that he’d be out 6-8 weeks while rehabbing the injury, but reports suggest that might be an optimistic belief.

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Madison Bumgarner Crashes His Bike and Playoff Hopes

It’s not a shock that Madison Bumgarner has never been on the disabled list before now. He’s a big horse of a man, made purely of muscle and tree sap. The only thing that’s prevented him from being sidelined is Bruce Bochy not letting him throw 400 innings in a year and, apparently, that he’s been steady on a dirt bike until now.

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Grading the Pitches: 2016 NL Starters’ Curveballs

Changeup: AL Starters / NL Starters.
Curveball: AL Starters.

We’re almost three weeks into the regular season, with sample sizes mounting but still not to a level worthy of significant analysis, Eric Thames notwithstanding. We’ll take the opportunity to continue our look back at 2016 pitch quality. We looked at AL ERA qualifiers’ curveballs earlier this week; today, we turn our attention to the senior circuit.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 4/20

Daily notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Christian Arroyo, 3B, San Francisco (Profile)
Level: Triple-A   Age: 21   Org Rank: 1  Top 100: 69
Line: 4-for-5, 2B, HR

That’s a home run in two consecutive games for Arroyo — both in Sacramento’s Raley Field, which is pitcher-friendly compared to most other PCL parks. Arroyo’s home run on Monday was a 350-foot opposite-field poke. I wouldn’t prematurely jump ship on Arroyo despite his modest statistical output last year. He’s still just 21, already at Triple-A and has rare bat-to-ball skills. He’s a better defensive fit at second or third base than shortstop (where he’s playing most of his time now) and lacks power and great walk rates. But Arroyo is tough to strike out and should be able to play somewhere favorable on the defensive spectrum or several positions. If the bat maxes out, he could profile similarly to Martin Prado.

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The A’s, the Giants, and the Importance of Middle Relief

Last year’s playoffs were seen as a win not only for the Cubs and their fans, but also for proponents of the relief ace. On a national stage, Terry Francona used Andrew Miller early and often to put out fires almost regardless of inning. He’d been doing it ever since Cleveland acquired Miller in the summer, of course, but here was a manager deploying the strategy on the game’s largest stage.

Not every team can be blessed with having both Miller and Cody Allen on their roster, though, nor can every team have both Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman. Most teams are lucky enough to have a good closer, and most of those teams employ the traditional strategy of waiting until the ninth inning to use their best reliever. Much has been made of the strategic merit of that, but it’s a system that helps players know their roles on the team, and that has value, too. But if a team isn’t blessed with a Miller-type player, then they need a sturdy bridge to arrive at that closer. Even Cleveland and New York need help from guys without well-known names.

We’ve been fixated on the idea of the relief ace. The idea is so tantalizing and so intoxicating. Not only is it awesome to see Miller jump in and melt faces whenever Tito desires, but it’s a bit of a high for sabermetric types to see something for which they’ve argued so strenuously actually getting implemented in games. And this isn’t to say that the relief ace is a bad idea! It’s an exceedingly good idea, if the usage of the pitcher is properly managed. But the relief ace, and the closer, don’t matter a ton if the rest of the guys in the bullpen aren’t effective.

Take the Giants’ opener on Sunday, for instance. Madison Bumgarner went seven innings. Bruce Bochy needed just two innings from his bullpen to hold a one-run lead. A lot of teams have a setup man to serve as an opening act for the closer, and indeed, the Giants were supposed to have Will Smith out there. He’s out for the year with Tommy John surgery, though. So the duty fell to Derek Law, who promptly coughed up the lead, and the Diamondbacks walked it off against Mark Melancon in the ninth.

San Francisco’s bullpen, outside of  Melancon, looks almost entirely the same as it did last year. They appeared in the bottom half of our bullpen power rankings for a reason. There just isn’t enough firepower there, even if they likely aren’t as disastrously bad as they were down the stretch last year, from a true talent perspective. They may have replaced Santiago Casilla with Melancon, but the relief corps isn’t strong enough to compensate when a starter only goes five.

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Madison Bumgarner Is Getting Better

Yesterday, the Giants’ 2017 season started much like their 2016 season ended, with a questionable bullpen blowing a late lead. Despite their $62 million investment in Mark Melancon over the winter, the team’s bullpen remains mediocre, and the Giants are going to have to hope that the rest of their team is good enough to overcome this weakness.

But despite the Opening Day loss, there was some good news for the Giants. Because, once again, it looks like their ace may be getting better.

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Watch: The Five Craziest Opening Day Games

In honor of Opening Day 2017, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at the five craziest Opening Day games (or home openers), as defined by swings in win expectancy. So we did, in this video we just posted at our Facebook page! Happy baseball!

Thanks to Sean Dolinar for his research assistance.

2016 Hitter Contact-Quality Report: NL Catchers

It’s been quite a while since we kicked off our position-by-position look at 2016 hitter contact quality, which arrives at its last official installment today. (There will be a small number of add-on articles covering pitchers and hitters who didn’t quite qualify as “regulars.”) We looked at AL catchers earlier this week; today we move on to the NL crop, again utilizing granular exit-speed and launch-angle data in the analysis.

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