Let’s Find the Giants 88 Wins

We find ourselves in the midst of an exceptionally intriguing offseason. Rarely is there an opportunity to acquire a prior year’s MVP and remain in position to nab the number-two asset on the market: Shohei Ohtani. Given Ohtani’s decision to forego a contract that syncs up with his open-market value when he turns 25, he’ll hold a Black Friday-esque price-tag when posted. Virtually any team in baseball can make a play to acquire the former star from the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, regardless of wallet size. That makes this particular campaign for a generational talent so intriguing.

Whether your team meets Ohtani’s duo of wants — independent of a passing grade on his questionnaire — is another story.

The San Francisco Giants are in a precarious position heading into 2018. Coming off a 64-win season, the lowest win total for their franchise since 1994, and the lowest of Bruce Bochy’s tenure by seven games, a rebound seems imminent. The current state of their roster, however, casts doubt on how relevant a rebound can make their team.

So, I sent out a tweet entertaining the possibility that one team lands the two biggest names of the offseason.

A little bit of mental math brought my over/under to 87.5 wins. Imprecise? Sure, but only three times since 2014 has one team improved on their prior year win total by more than 24 games: the Minnesota Twins (2016 to 2017, +26 wins), Arizona Diamondbacks (2016 to 2017, +24 wins), and Chicago Cubs (2014 to 2015, +25 wins). Whether a signal or mere noise, each of those improvements came without lavish acquisitions during winter (I used my subjective definition of “lavish”). Each was propelled to relevance by internal talent (Buxton/Sano, Ray/Godley, Arrieta/Bryant, etc.), superb management, and other favorable nods from the Baseball Gods. Each of the 29 responses to my poll came with three elements of consideration: Ohtani, Stanton, and everything else.

Ohtani

The pitching side of Ohtani’s value is interesting. ZiPS and Dan Szymborski were the first to throw their hat in the ring, giving Ohtani a 3.55 ERA over 139 innings of work, with 161 strikeouts, and a walk rate of 3.9 BB/9. It’s lukewarm, considering the hype around Ohtani and knowledge of his sub-1.1 WHIP over in the NPB. Do I agree with it? Not from a control standpoint, but we can work with it and my disagreement isn’t dismissal of a labor-intensive statistical model’s projection.

Taking the three essential components of FIP (walks, strikeouts, and homers), and our knowledge that pitcher fWAR is derived from FIP, we can backtrack from Ohtani’s ZiPS projection and in an anti-statistician kind of way. By comparing Ohtani’s per-nine peripherals to last year’s performers, we can infer his fWAR might be around 3.0 as a pitcher in 2018 (139 IP, 10.4 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9). This ZiPS and fWAR magic says he’ll be slightly worse than 2017 Brad Peacock (that was a weird sentence to write).

Ohtani’s potential 3.0 fWAR is backed up when you look at his 2016 in the NPB. The righty posted 137 1/3 innings of work, with a 9.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, and a HR/9 just north of 1.0. This gives Ohtani something slightly better than Jose Berrios’ 2.8 fWAR 2017 campaign (an equally weird sentence to write).

Value for Ohtani with his bat on the Giants, a team obviously absent of a DH, is where confusion starts.

I want to keep this as simple as possible. It’s unlikely that he goes to the NL if contributing significantly on the mound and in the box are his main goals. The inherent risk for the lottery-winning club would be too high and uncertainty around whether Ohtani would prefer such a role plays an equally large factor. Travis Sawchik breaks Ohtani’s NL hitting value down better than I ever could, so I’ll only give you the product of his analysis.

Ohtani could have about 1.6 fWAR as a hitter. This is composed of 1.1 fWAR in his standard pitcher plate appearances, plus another .5 fWAR from regular pinch-hitting chances (emphasis on the word “regular”).

In total, we have a 4.6 fWAR player in Shohei Ohtani in the National League. Our 3.0 fWAR on the mound and an aggressive — but feasible — 1.6 fWAR in the box.

To find 88 wins for the Giants that my poll responders believe in, we need to start somewhere. It’s too easy to begin at a projection already circulating for the Giants’ 2018 win total, so I’ll make this hard for myself to execute, and likely, for you to rationalize. Let’s start with those 64 hard-fought wins Bochy’s squad scratched and clawed their way to. We’ll work backwards from there.

64 wins, plus roughly five we’re going attribute to Ohtani brings us to 69.

Stanton

Now onto Stanton.

Eno Sarris, a familiar name to many, looked through the surplus value on a trade that would send Stanton to the Bay Area. The names included in that analysis revolve around the following:

To SF: Stanton, Dee Gordon

To MIA: Joe Panik, Tyler Beede, Chris Shaw

We don’t have confirmation this would be the package, but I remain adamant Miami wants contract relief more than anything. Centering an offer around the eight FanGraphs wins above replacement (fWAR) Panik has accumulated in his career feels like a proper balancing of sides, given how much money the Giants would take on in a scenario like this. Whether Stanton opts out or stays through the length of his contract muddies just how much money the Giants, or any team, will tie up through 2027. Although it seems like a risk teams are willing to take, how that opt-out risk factors into offerings is another confounding input.

However, Stanton’s value to teams from a performance standpoint is less cloudy than his monetary value. He’s good. Very good. Completing two 6-fWAR seasons before turning 28 is desirable trait for any player. One of the first projections kicking around — FanGraphs’ Steamer — holds Stanton somewhat steady with his torrid 2017.  5.3 fWAR, buoyed by another 45+ homer season, and a wRC+ that holds up to his career standard. I have little objection to this, even if worry consumes you that a healthy season for Stanton was an anomaly.

Ohtani brought us to 69 wins and now Stanton will take us north of the only number above 15 anybody is ever excited to see. We’re at 74 for the Giants by taking WAR and interpreting them as literal wins, something I probably shouldn’t do given the debate the industry just had, but I’ll test my luck.

Everything else

This subheading encompasses a lot of assumptions. In my tweet asking my loyal followers to quickly gauge whether the Giants could get above the 87.5 wins, this considered everything from a (hopefully) full season of good Madison Bumgarner and paying a priest to rid the bad juju from the Giants’ clubhouse, to a minor investment in separate baseballs juiced specifically for AT&T Park.

We could venture another 1,000 words on the improvements of San Fran, but there are far more qualified Giants fans on this website and others (shoutout to Grant Brisbee at McCovey Chronicles) that have surely detailed this difference with more care and a deeper knowledge of the Giants’ issues and internal fixes.

Cutting to the chase, let’s make a simple push to the 88-win mark. FanGraphs’ depth-chart projections currently has the Giants as a 78-win team. That’s 14 wins better than 2017. It is also exactly what we need to go from 74 wins to 88.

Sometimes, things work out better than anybody could have ever planned.

We found our 88 wins.

The only thing I’m left wondering is whether my tweet and over/under projection at 87.5 inspired hopes of 90-plus-win seasons in voters’ minds. If Bochy & Co. can accomplish that feat without even one of Ohtani or Stanton, I commit to paying the shipping fee for Bochy’s Manager of the Year Award.

A version of this post can be found on my site, BigThreeSports.com, by following this link

 



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Founder of BigThreeSports.com. Writer for Razzball and Viva El Birdos. Host of Two Strike Approach Podcast. Co-Host Razzball Prospect Podcast. Editor in Chief of the Collegiate Baseball Scouting Network.

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