Archive for Giants

Prospect Stock Watch: San Francisco Giants

The author attended a Double-A Eastern League game on Sunday between the Richmond Flying Squirrels (a San Francisco affiliate) and New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Toronto) in Manchester, NH (box). What follows is a brief examination of two Giants prospects from same.

Adam Duvall, 3B

The author had no intention of more closely examining — had, in fact, scarcely heard of — third-base prospect Adam Duvall prior to Sunday’s game. And yet, one finds his name here in bold type, suggesting that something of that sort is in the offing.

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FanGraphs Audio: Very Discerning Giants Prospect Joe Panik

Episode 370
Joe Panik is a 22-year-old middle-infield prospect — with excellent control of the strike zone — currently playing for San Francisco’s Double-A affiliate Richmond. He’s also the guest on this edition of FanGraphs Audio, recorded live on tape in Manchester, New Hampshire.

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 11 min play time.)

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Getting Strikes on the Edge

The last time I wrote about Edge% it was in the context of the Tampa Bay Rays using it to get their pitchers into more favorable counts on 1-1. But now I want to take that topic and drill a little deeper to understand how often edge pitches are taken for called strikes.

Overall, pitches taken on the edge are called strikes 69% of the time. But that aggregate measure hides some pretty substantial differences. Going further on that idea, I wanted to see how the count impacts the likelihood of a pitch on the edge being called a strike.

Here are the results:

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The Remarkable Marco Scutaro

Marco Scutaro made his Major League debut at age-26. It took him two years to get regular playing time, and at age-28, given his first real chance as a big leaguer, he hit .273/.297/.393, good for a 77 wRC+ and an exactly replacement level performance. Undeterred, the A’s stuck with him, and he eventually turned into something pretty close to a league average hitter. From 2005 to 2012 — his age-29 to age-36 seasons — Scutaro posted a 98 wRC+, which isn’t bad at all for a middle infielder. He wasn’t anything special, but through hard work, a no-tools non-prospect turned himself into an average player. That’s a pretty big accomplishment.

But that’s not the amazing thing about Marco Scutaro. Well, not the most amazing thing anyway. The real remarkable story here is how he’s just continuing to get better.

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Putting Hitters Away with Heat

In his Major League debut for the Mets, 23-year-old Zack Wheeler struck out seven hitters in his six innings of work. Of those seven strikeouts, six came on fastballs — and of those six, four came on whiffs induced by fastballs.

This got me wondering, what pitchers this year have generated the largest percentage of their strikeouts off of their fastball? And how many generated those strike outs on swings and misses on fastballs*?

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Gregor Blanco Identifies the Moment

Right now, Gregor Blanco is on his way to his second above-average year as a key (if underrated) component in a championship outfield — “a dream come true” as he puts it. Just two years ago, though, he didn’t get a single major league plate appearance and found himself in Venezuela without a job. There was a moment, though, that sparked the change. A single decision, about a single body part, and Blanco found himself on the road to where he is now.

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Why Is Matt Cain Struggling

Walk around AT&T Park and ask people inside and outside of the organization what’s wrong with Matt Cain and you’ll get a different answer every time:

“He’s tipping his pitches from the stretch.”
“It’s just the Cardinals, that’s all.”
“The Cardinals got our signs from Bengie Molina.”
“It’s his command.”

It’s worth trying each pair of pants on, but there’s also one person who might have special insight on this matter. Matt Cain.

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The Fortnight – 6/4/13

Welcome to the second edition of The Fortnight. Read here for our initial post, and here for the explanation of our depth charts and standings pages, which fuel The Fortnight in its utmost.

This week, I thought we’d take a look at the teams whose projected full-season run differential has changed the most since we last left off. Stats for this edition run from May 21 through the games on June 2.

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Marco Scutaro on Contact

“I’m probably leading the league in bad contact, too.” — Marco Scutaro

We talked for a few minutes, Marco Scutaro and I, about hitting and contact before a game a few weeks back. When I told him he’s leading the league in contact rate since 2010, he offered the response above with a slight frown and a flick of the bat. He swung a bat the whole time we talked, even. But his voice never really wavered — it never betrayed either the physical effort he was putting into choosing his bat for the day or the matter-of-fact humor that accompanied his answers.

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How the Rays Leverage the Edge

In Sports Illustrated’s 2013 baseball preview, Tom Verducci wrote a great profile of the Tampa Bay Rays and their approach to optimizing the performance of their pitching staff.

One topic that was especially interesting to me was the apparent importance the Rays place on the 1-1 count. Verducci recounts how pitching coach Jim Hickey described the organization’s focus on getting opposing batters into 1-2 counts:

The Rays believe no pitch changes the course of that at bat more than the 1-and-1 delivery. “It’s almost a 200-point swing in on-base percentage with one ball and two strikes as opposed to two balls and one strike,” Hickey told the pitchers.

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Matt Harvey’s High Fastball Dominance

The hard-throwing, 24-year-old Matt Harvey has quickly become a must watch when he toes the rubber for the Mets. Called up in late July of last year, Harvey and his blistering fastball (94.6 average velocity) currently sport a 31.3% strikeout rate and an ERA- of 25 — no, not 75, 25. In 2013, Harvey has made four starts, lasting at least seven innings in each appearance. He has only allowed one home run and a paltry 10 hits in 29 innings.

Harvey does feature a number of pitches, but he’s heavily reliant on his four-seam fastball, throwing that pitch 60% of the time. That ranks him fifth among all qualified pitchers in 2013. And that fastball has been deadly.

According to the PITCHf/x leader boards at Baseball Prospectus (powered by Brooks Baseball), Harvey has induced a .042 ISO (2nd best) and a .167 BA (3rd best) against when using his fastball. David Golebiewski from Baseball Analytics recently wrote about Harvey’s ability to win with the high fastball. The numbers were eye-popping. Harvey so far this year has induced whiffs on high fastballs 48.4% of the time, and he’s throwing upstairs over 50% of the time.

I was curious how this compared to others this year and in previous years. So I did some digging.

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Robinson Cano, Pablo Sandoval, and Hard Contact

Sometimes players are described as “bad-ball hitters.” Or, sometimes players will be described as having strike zones that range from the head to their heels. Vladimir Guerrero used to own these tags, and once upon a time, so did Nomar Garciaparra. It is possible to succeed while swinging at everything, and nobody personifies that today better than do Robinson Cano and Pablo Sandoval.

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You’re Not As Hot As Barry Bonds

A lot of position players have had torrid starts to the season. Justin Upton and Michael Morse have each hit six homers. Chris Davis is slugging 1.100. Adam Jones already has 18 hits. Coco Crisp has an eight-game hitting streak. But none of the hot starts this month are even in the range of Barry Bonds’ April of 2004.

In April, 2004, Bonds put up just some ridiculous numbers. You already knew that, of course. But let’s take a look back, shall we? That April, he drew 39 walks. That puts him in some rare company, as only eight other players in history have done that — Max Bishop, Jack Clark, Roy Cullenbine, Lou Gehrig, Ralph Kiner, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. In fact, April ’04 was the third time Bonds had done it, and he would do it another two times in ’04, putting him at five times overall — two more than Ted Williams.

To put it in further context, since 1947, there have been 2,159 players who have qualified for the batting title who have walked fewer than 39 times for the entire season. Just last season, there were 37 such players. Even if you took Bonds’ intentional walks out of the debate, Bonds walked 21 times of his own accord during the month, and there have been 413 players who have qualified for the batting title since 1947 who have walked 20 or less times in a season. Last season, there were two such players — Delmon Young and Alexei Ramirez.

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Brandon Crawford On Defense and Familiarity With the Pitcher

Sometimes, a little comment can send you down a wormhole. Brandon Crawford is a glovely young man, and we talked about platoon splits — he doesn’t remember having trouble with lefties in the minors — and a few other topics, but it was one thing he said about his defense that popped.

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Giants Wisely Lock Up Buster Posey Forever

If you hadn’t noticed, Major League teams have decided that the best way to use their current financial windfall is to keep their best players for essentially their entire careers. It wasn’t long ago that single team lifers like Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn were the outliers, but now, it is becoming unusual for an elite player to not sign a mega-contract with his original franchise. Just in the last few years, we’ve seen the following players commit to spending the great majority of their careers with just one Major League team:

Joe Mauer, Joey Votto, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Evan Longoria, Felix Hernandez, Matt Kemp, David Wright, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Yadier Molina, Ryan Zimmerman, Justin Verlander, Adam Wainwright, and now Buster Posey.

Maybe not all of these players will stay with their current teams for the duration of these contracts, and a few might end up going elsewhere after these deals expire to squeeze an extra year or two out of the end of their careers. These aren’t necessarily contracts “for life”, but they do cover enough of the prime years of the game’s best players that it ensures that their legacy will be forever tied to one franchise. This represents a significant shift for Major League Baseball since free agency began.

Great players still change teams, of course. Albert Pujols left the Cardinals. Prince Fielder left the Brewers. David Price is almost certainly going to leave the Rays. Robinson Cano might leave the Yankees, though I’ll believe that when I see it. It isn’t true that every great player now retires with the team that brought him to the Majors. But there’s no question that MLB teams are moving to make that the more common occurrence, and fewer stars are waiting to get to free agency before cashing in on massive paychecks.

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A Snapshot of Team Finances: Top Tier

Unless you make it a habit to read FanGraphs only on Fridays (and if you do, what’s up with that?), you’ve likely read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. So you know the score. We’re taking a look at team financial health as we head into the 2013 season. You also the know which teams are in the top tier, because you’re smart and can figure that out for yourself. But we’ve come this far, so we’re going to complete the exercise. We’re nothing if not true to our word.

The top tier teams, in alphabetical order by team name.

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2013 Positional Power Rankings: Third Base

Due to an unfortunate data error, the numbers in this story did not include park factors upon publication. We have updated the data to include the park factors, and the data you see below is now correct. We apologize for the mistake.

What’s all this, then? For an explanation of this series, please read the introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position.

Third base is a little deeper than it used to be, and only a handful of teams have little to no hope of being productive at the position. The devil is in the details at the hot corner, as there has been very little turnover among the top 20 teams here. Teams that have quality reserves or prospects coming up the pipeline see a bump here, as we’re looking holistically at the position and not just at the nominal starter. This is an important consideration across the diamond, but particularly so at third given how physically demanding the position is. Only six third basemen suited up in 150 or more games last year. Compare that to 13 at second base and 11 at first base and shortstop, and it becomes clear that depth is important at third base. Unfortunately, most teams don’t have adequate depth, hence the bump for the teams that do.

Let’s get on to the rankings!

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“Pretty Much Retired” Huff Stuff

It sounds like the Yankees have one more name to take off of the list of potential Mark Teixeira replacements. Aubrey Huff is saying he is “pretty much retired.” Although earlier in the off-season he sounded like he still wanted to play, not surprisingly, there was not much interest in a 36-year-old first baseman coming off of a 87 wRC+ in 2011 and a 76 wRC+ in 2012. That should not be how we remember Huff. As Craig Calcaterra noted this mornining, Huff actually had a pretty nice career, and is hardly unique in having to have the game tell him it is time to say goodbye rather than the other way around. There are worse ways to go out than winning two World Series rings in three years. Huff is no Hall of Fame candidate, but his career is interesting for other reasons.

(I guess there is still a chance that Bruce Bochy will get nervous about Brandon Belt and give Huff a call, but we will leave that possibility aside for now.)

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Sergio Romo Isn’t Entirely Not Greg Maddux

It might be hard to believe this after Sergio Romo closed out the World Series and probably wrapped up the stopper role going forward for the Giants and Team Mexico, but there was a time when the prognosis for his career was much more negative. After all, he’s a small righty (five-foot-ten and a buck-eighty-five) with a fastball that doesn’t normally crack 90 miles per hour who throws his slider more than half of the time. Given what we might know about injuries and platoon splits, there was probably one role waiting for him in the bigs: ROOGY.

But Sergio Romo is not a Righty One-Out GuY. I asked him why.

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Vetoed Trades, Part Four

Part four. Live free or veto hard. You can find parts one, two and three here, here and here.

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