Archive for Giants

Brandon Belt’s Turning Point

“I know we were playing Philadelphia, and I want to say we played the Dodgers after that. End of July some time. I kind of realized that, hey, you gotta help the team out somehow. … Sometimes you get lost out there, and you try to start playing to prove yourself, playing for yourself, however you want to say it, but if you go up there and remember that this is a team game, and you’re there for them, you’re going to play better personally in return.” — Brandon Belt

No matter how many player interviews you’ve read, this quote from Brandon Belt fits right in. There’s little to separate it from the post-game interviews that laud camaraderie and perseverance above strategy and nuance. That’s fine — admit too much and you’ve given your competition information. There is one aspect of this quote that might be a little different than most quotes, though. Belt basically provides the exact date on which his 2012 season turned for the better.

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Asking Ryan Vogelsong About His FIP

Asking a player how he’s over-performed his peripherals is a tricky thing. I settled on a toe in the water: “Have you ever heard of FanGraphs? WAR? FIP?” From Ryan Vogelsong‘s responses to those inquiries at Giants’ Media day (“No, but Wins Above Replacement I have, all those stats, yeah” he replied), it seemed clear that the right-hander might need a little introduction to any sabermetric statistic I was going to ask him about.

“Given your strikeouts, walks, and ground balls, your FIP, which is usually more steady than ERA, has been higher than your ERA — you’ve been sort of over-performing these stats that people have come up with. I think this is really interesting because given your history, and given all that you’ve had to overcome, you’ve been under-rated in the past, too. Is there anything you can say about the way you pitch that might look like more than the sum of the parts? Is there something you play ‘up?’ How would you define yourself as a pitcher?”

It’s a wonder that Vogelsong had a reasoned, affable response to that mess. In fact, it’s a credit to the pitcher that he didn’t give this reporter the thousand-mile stare. I just asked him why his FIP has been almost three-quarters of a run higher than his ERA over the last two years.

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Tim Lincecum Needs to Learn How to Pitch, Not Throw

Tim Lincecum‘s resume contains the following items: 2 time Cy Young award winner, 4 time All-Star and twice World Series Champion. With all the achievements over the last 5 seasons, he was relegated to a long relief once the Giants made the playoffs because he was no longer effective as a starter. Lincecum’s problem is he can no longer just throw the ball across the plate and hope a batter just swings and misses. If he wants any hope of returning to be the starter he once was, he now needs to learn how to pitch.

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Buster Posey, the Giants, and a Long-Term Deal

Buster Posey will be a San Francisco Giant at least through the end of the 2016 season. The upcoming season will be his first as an arbitration-eligible player. He’ll have three more of those before he becomes a free agent. That is, unless Posey and the Giants agree to a long-term contract that buys out one or more of his free-agent years. Should Posey commit to the Giants long-term? Should the Giants commit to Posey? What kind of deal makes sense?

Hard to believe, sometimes, but the reigning National League most valuable player has played in only 305 major-league games and amassed only 1,255 plate appearances. His first major-league at bat came on Sept. 11, 2009, during a brief September call-up. (He struck out). In 2010, the Giants didn’t call Posey up from the minors until late May, as Bengie Molina continued to handle the everyday catching duties. Even then, Posey played first base for a month before the Giants traded Molina to the Rangers and installed Posey behind the dish.

In 443 plate appearances in 108 games, Posey hit .305/.357/.505 with 18 home runs. His 134 wRC+ tied him with Ryan Braun for 15th-best in the National League. Posey was named National League Rookie of the Year and guided the Giants’ vaunted pitching staff during the team’s World Series run. He earned $400,000 but delivered $16.7 million in value with a 4.2 WAR.

Posey’s 2011 campaign was cut short by the devastating ankle and leg injury he suffered in a home plate collision with Scott Cousins on May 25. In his 45 games that season, Posey dropped off from his sensational rookie numbers and hit only .284/.368/.389 in 185 plate appearances. The power numbers, in particular, looked concerning but may very well have stabilized during a full season. Posey earned $575,000 but delivered $8 million worth of value in just two months of playing time.

And then there’s 2012. National League Batting Champion*. National League MVP. National League Comeback Player of the Year. World Series champion. Posey played 148 games and had 610 plate appearances and he did the most with them. He hit .336/.408/.509 with 24 home runs. He led the National League with 8 WAR, and if his base running wasn’t so poorly rated, his WAR could have reached 10. The Giants paid him $615,000 and he gave his team $36 million in value.

What does all of this mean for a possible long-term deal between Posey and the Giants?

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When Barry Bonds Made an Out

It was announced earlier today that Barry Bonds has not been voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Nobody was voted into the Hall of Fame, and there are several topics worthy of discussion, but I’m partial to the Bonds one, myself, because the voting results provide a reason to look at Bonds’ career statistics again. Asterisks or no asterisks, Bonds’ numbers are downright impossible, and looking at them is the most fun a person can have at work the most fun a person who doesn’t write from home for FanGraphs can have at work. You shouldn’t be allowed to drive and drink, you shouldn’t be allowed to drive and text, and you shouldn’t be allowed to drive and consider Barry Bonds’ career baseball statistics.

By WAR, Bonds’ best season was 2001. By wRC+, Bonds’ best offensive season was 2002. By wRC+, Bonds’ 2002 is the best offensive season in baseball history. At 244, he beats out Babe Ruth‘s 1920, at 237. Bonds also had a 234 and a 233. Ruth had a 231 and a 223. A new name finally shows up at #7. Anyway.

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Kyle Crick And Building The Scouting Profile

Kyle Crick enters 2013 as the top prospect in the San Francisco Giants organization. Having seen his final start of the 2012 season, I can attest to his having both the raw stuff and durable frame to eat innings at the Major League level. On a night where I saw him bad, Crick’s arsenal was awfully good. Seeing a great prospect on an off night presents an opportunity to discuss both Kyle Crick, and the value of a single look in context.

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Offensive Volatility and Beating Win Expectancy

Armed with a new measure for offensive volatility (VOL), I wanted to revisit research I conducted  last year about the value of a consistent offense.

In general, the literature has suggested if you’re comparing two similar offenses, the more consistent offense is preferable throughout the season. The reason has to do with the potential advantages a team can gain when they don’t “waste runs” in blow-out victories. The more evenly a team can distribute their runs, the better than chances of winning more games.

I decided to take my new volatility (VOL) metric and apply it to team-level offense to see if it conformed to this general consensus*.

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2013 ZiPS Projections – San Francisco Giants

Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections, which have typically appeared in the pages of Baseball Think Factory, will be released at FanGraphs this year. Below is the first set of 2013′s projections — for the World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Don’t hesitate to leave notes regarding format/presentation in the comments section, as the author frequently has no idea what he’s doing.

Other thing: Szymborski himself will be chatting at Noon ET today in these very same electronic pages, and will happily answer any questions readers have regarding the projections themselves.

The Giants’ success is tied pretty strongly to the health and success of Buster Posey — not merely because only one player (i.e. Mike Trout) posted a higher WAR than Posey in 2012, but also because San Francisco’s catching corps lacks anything like impact talent. At 23, Hector Sanchez certainly has some promise, but even approaching Posey’s production would be a considerable challenge.

Of some interest will be how well the club is able to account for the departure of Melky Cabrera. While they were obviously able to win a championship following his suspension, Cabrera was also integral to the Giants’ regular-season performance, posting a 4.6 WAR in just 113 games (501 plate appearances). Manning the corners now will be Hunter Pence in right field and (likely) a platoon of Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres in left. ZiPS is optimistic neither about Blanco’s ability to match his career-high 2.4 wins from 2012, nor Pence’s ability to earn the entirety of the ca. $14 million he’s likely to receive in arbitration.

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FanGraphs Audio: Kiley McDaniel on Prospects

Episode 288
Prospect analyst Kiley McDaniel discusses players he’s seen — including, among others, pitching prospects Marcus Stroman (Blue Jays), Lance McCullers (Astros), and Jose Fernandez (Marlins) — and the larger concerns each raises with regard to prospect analysis generally.

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 38 min play time.)

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MLB Re-Ups With StubHub But Yankees, Others Opt Out

Before the 2007 season, Major League Baseball Advanced Media partnered with StubHub as the official secondary ticket marketplace for Major League Baseball. All 30 MLB teams participated. Anyone could list MLB game tickets for sale on StubHub, at any price. StubHub charged buyers a handling fee and a delivery fee, often totaling more than $10, regardless of the selling price. The “delivery fee” was the key to the deal, as it allowed buyers to print the tickets at home. Gone were the days of sellers tossing tickets out a window to buyers at midnight. Sellers also paid a fee to StubHub, charged as a percentage of the sale price. StubHub shared about half its fees with MLBAM. In 2011, that amounted to more than $60 million. MBLAM then funneled a portion of those funds to the 30 teams.

Fans rejoiced. During the 2011 season, more than 8 million MLB tickets sold on StubHub, up from 6 million in 2010.

But many teams weren’t as thrilled. The Yankees, in particular, were a vocal critic of StubHub’s pricing policies. With no price floor, Yankees tickets were often available on StubHub for less than $5, a price significantly below the lowest ticket price available at the box office or on  Critics countered that Yankees ticket prices were too high, creating a fertile market for very cheap tickets on the secondary market. But even teams with lower ticket prices lost sales to StubHub.

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Marco Scutaro and Irrational Exuberance

The perils of rumor reaction writing – Baggarly has amended his original note to suggest that the Giants offer is two years with a vesting option, not three years. So, adjust accordingly.

There are times when a player undergoes a dramatic transformation and essentially forces us to abandon everything we knew about that player previously. Cliff Lee. Jose Bautista. R.A. Dickey. It happens. Guys reinvent themselves, and as a result, their new contracts reflect the recent reality, not the average of all their Major League seasons.

And sometimes, guys have monster rebound seasons, reminding everyone of their previous levels of success, and enable teams to have confidence to pay premium prices to get them under contract. Adrian Beltre, for instance. Giving a veteran player a huge raise is not always an overpay. Sometimes, he’s just done enough to change the market’s opinion of his skills, and his performance requires a drastic change in compensation.

So, I’m not willing to say that every big raise for a veteran is a de facto overpay. But, even with all that said, I can’t say I understand what Marco Scutaro did in 2012 that has made the market drastically reevaluate his value.

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Angel Pagan, Not Aubrey Huff

Angel Pagan just signed with the San Francisco Giants. $40 million for four years might seem like a slight overpay in terms of years, but this is obviously a team trying to win now, and they did just make a little extra coin that they can spend in order to stay competitive.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Similar justifications were probably made when Aubrey Huff helped power the Giants to their first World Series title and was subsequently signed to an ill-fated deal. This is Angel Pagan, though. Not Aubrey Huff.

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The Reliever Without a Fastball

A couple of minor transactions have floated by mostly un-noticed on the wires recently, and probably for good reason. Mickey Storey was claimed by the Yankees from the Astros, and Cory Burns was traded to the Rangers from the Padres for a player to be named someday. Neither of these relievers cost much, nor will they end up closing for their new teams. They’re mostly just flotsam pieces of spaghetti to fling at the wall. There’s a link between these two relievers, and it’s a thread that will run through most fungible, cheaply acquired players in baseball — neither reliever has a fastball.

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Dodgers Send Shock Waves Through Local TV Landscape

Early Sunday morning, Twitter was abuzz with news that the Dodgers and Fox Sports West had agreed to a 25-year broadcast deal valued between $6 billion and $7 billion. By Sunday afternoon, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times had confirmed the outline of the deal, but cautioned that the Dodgers and Fox were still negotiating, with a November 30 deadline looming.

As I explained last week in this post, the parties’ existing agreement gave Fox an exclusive, 45-day window in which to negotiate a new deal to govern the 2014 season and beyond. Hence, the November 30 deadline. If an agreement isn’t inked by Friday, the Dodgers must submit a final offer to Fox by December 7. Fox then has 30 days to accept or reject the offer. If Fox rejects the offer, the Dodgers are free to negotiate with whomever they want.

However the negotiations play out, it’s clear now that the Dodgers’ local TV revenue is about to enter the stratosphere. A 25-year deal worth between $6 billion and $7 billion would net the Dodgers between $240 million and $280 million per yearPer year. That’s more than any team has ever spent on player salaries in a single season — even the Yankees. And it’s nearly double the amount of local TV revenue pulled in annually by the team with the second-most lucrative deal — the other Los Angeles team (the Angels) — which entered into a 17-year deal with Fox Sports West worth $2.5 billion.

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Melky Cabrera Follows Marlins to Toronto

During the 2012 regular season, Blue Jays outfielders combined to be worth 4.6 WAR, which was tied for the sixth-lowest total in baseball. Nearly all of that came from Jose Bautista, who was terrific and then injured. The Blue Jays have some young and talented outfielders in-house, and if they were rebuilding, they might guarantee those players some time. But this week’s mega-trade with the Marlins signaled that the Blue Jays would like to win “sooner” instead of “eventually”, so now they’re going to guarantee some time to Melky Cabrera.

On Friday, the Jays signed Cabrera to a two-year contract worth $16 million, according to Enrique Rojas and later confirmed by others. The deal is not yet official — just like Toronto’s other big deal — but there’s little reason to believe it won’t become official after Cabrera’s physical, so now we analyze.

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When You Really Need a Fly Ball

It’s the bottom of the eighth inning. Men are on first and third base, there’s one out and your team is down by one run. The opposing team has one of the best ground-ball pitchers on the hill, and the infield is playing back and is looking for a double play. All you need is a fly ball to tie the game and significantly swing your chances of winning.

So who do you want at the plate?

It’s likely that the opposing manager will either bring in a ground-ball specialist or just tell the pitcher to stay away from pitches that could be hit in the air to the outfield. Knowing who you’d want to hit requires an understanding of what pitches are the most likely to induce a ground ball — and what hitters manage to hit fly balls against those pitches most often.

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Jeremy Affeldt and Valuing Relievers

Based on reports from the last few days, the Giants have reportedly agreed to re-sign Jeremy Affeldt to a three year, $18 million contract. Predictably, the internet has responded with scorn.

Multi-year deals for relief pitchers are generally not a great way to spend money. Relievers are fickle, they can be replaced fairly easily, and it doesn’t take much money to cobble together a bullpen full of failed starters who can excel in a more limited role. Keith’s overarching point about long term deals for relief pitchers is correct.

But, at some point, it probably behooves us all to move beyond generalities and talk about the specifics of contracts for free agent relievers, because despite the rhetoric, not every multi-year deal for every relief pitcher is a giant waste of cash.

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Batter Traits That Cause Infield Fly Balls

The infield fly ball is the second worst outcome for a hitter besides a strikeout. With almost 100% of all popups turning into outs, a hitter, who is prone to skying the ball into the infield, will generate more outs and therefor a lower batting average. Several factors make a pitch more likely to be hit as an infield fly ball, but the key factor is the batter’s mechanics.

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The Worst Bunts of 2012

Earlier this week I posted about the Best Bunts of 2012 according to Win Probability Added (WPA). Nothing like that is really complete, however, without talking about the worst. So here, divided into some rather arbitrary categories, are some of the worst bunts of 2012.

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The Best Bunts of 2012

Everyone knows that bunting runners over is the key to scoring and winning baseball games! No, wait, it’s dumb, and should never be done! Okay, bunting is sometimes smart, sometimes not. Isn’t sabermetric analysis of strategy great?

Jokes and stereotypes aside, it does seem that discussion of the pros and cons of bunting around the nerd-o-sphere is more nuanced than it used to be. While the allegedly old-school first inning, runner-on-first auto-bunt has fallen out of favor, we also realize that bunting can make sense for a number of reasons in certain situations: keeping fielders honest, increasing run expectancy, and occasions where playing for one run makes sense. As yet another annual tradition, let’s check out some of the most successful bunts of the 2012 regular season as measured by Win Probability Added (WPA).

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