In seven games, from April 12th through April 19th, the Giants have scored thirteen runs. There were five different teams in the league that put up at least eleven runs in a game on Friday, so it’s understandable that Giants fans might have a case of the crossed-arms-foot-tapping-syndrome that tends to come other every other week for some fans, everyday for the most passionate, and probably for the least logical. Since I was out of the country for the past week, I probably missed some quality quotes and updates on the details of the mindset of the team, but I see a lot of anger aimed at Pablo Sandoval over social media. I wanted to take a look at others in the lineup and see how they’re doing within the past week. These numbers are not meant to predict future performance, just point out the Fat Chat Lightning Rod is probably not alone in the Giants struggles at the plate. A look at who’s been contributing with the bat alone:
I say the bat alone because there are guys here that have some stolen bases and have been helping in that regard like Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt, believe it or not. Really, up until today, Buster Posey and Michael Morse had been the worst offenders of the week with the bat, but with Morse’s homer today, it only becomes a little less worse. Hopefully the home run is a sign of bigger bombs to come.
So you can understand that I like when the beat writers mention it’s not only Pablo, but there are many players not contributing right now. The team is 10-8 right now, losers of three in a row. Losing is not fun, but the slump they’re in right now won’t last forever. Even if Tim Lincecum gets blown out tomorrow to end the string of wonderful starting pitching in the past few days, I have faith in this team to win more games than lose, and the ship will get more or less righted again.
There are those that say Brandon Belt will not keep up the pace of hitting four home runs in every set of seven games. They are probably right. After all, when was the last time you saw somebody in real life hit 92-93 home runs in a 162 game season? Despite the pace Belt is not having for 100 home runs, his hot start is still pretty cool to celebrate, as you’ve no doubt heard Belt was a top prospect in the Giants system and he has changed his position in the batter’s box, stance, and the way he grips his bat! If you weren’t aware of this, you probably missed the Sunday Night Baseball feed on ESPN. Off we go, to the four home runs Belt has launched in the past seven:
Home run #1 vs. Brandon McCarthy
The homer came on an 92 mph fastball
The homer came on an 82 mph slider
The homer came on a 77 mph slider.
The homer came on an 83 mph changeup.
So far, Belt has two home runs in the first inning, and two home runs in the sixth inning. I think I was most impressed by the third homer Belt hit because he looks the least balanced and gets to show off his pull power there. I think the bat drop in the first shot is my favorite of the four. From the catcher’s perspective, here’s where Belt has lifted off from:
Both low, and inside. So far, no home runs on outside pitches. However, he is not without hits on the outer third, but so far this season, he is without hits in the upper third. You usually don’t want to live in the upper third against MLB hitters, or any professional hitters. By the end of the season, I wonder if we will see more home runs from the inner third or the upper third of the zone from Belt. Whatever it ends up being, if Belt gets his dinger count into the upper-twenties or beyond, I’m pretty sure most Giants fans will be pretty happy campers. Hopefully I can do more of these posts with more of the Giants players. Would probably mean the 2014 season is going overwhelmingly well.
ESPN Insider Dan Szymborski posted an article Sunday morning about the ten most indispensable players in Major League Baseball. He used the projections from the 2014 ZiPS, their playoff odds when the player was odd and whatever back-up that team would likely use in the case the player would be absent due to whatever awful scenario. Giants fans remember life without Buster Posey in 2011 and remember how it went with Eli Whiteside hopping and Chris Stewart first-pumping. Life just wasn’t that great. Szymborski’s list would probably put Posey higher up on the list three years ago since the supporting cast wasn’t as strong, but in 2014, Posey is still pretty high up the list: third. Here’s what the Szymborski noted on Posey:
With a healthy Posey, the Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012. With an injured Posey in 2011, they missed the playoffs. While that’s oversimplifying matters, the drop-off from Posey to Hector Sanchez is massive. With the pitching not what it was a few years ago and the Dodgers’ being the favorite, losing Posey drops the Giants clearly below the most likely wild-card candidates (Braves, Pirates, Reds, Diamondbacks).
Not sure Giants fans would disagree with that. Here’s the list, and you can read the full article here if you have insider access:
1. Justin Verlander (chances of making the Postseason down 24.8%)
2. Clayton Kershaw (-21.2%)
3. Buster Posey (-20.6%)
4. Yu Darvish (-19.7%)
5. Miguel Cabrera (-19.6%)
6. Max Scherzer (-19.6%)
7. Joey Votto (-18.9%)
8. Mike Trout (-17.5%)
9. Anibal Sanchez (-17.2%)
10. Yadier Molina (-17.1%)
That’s four Detroit Tigers in the top ten! That can mean a number of things, the ones I’ll choose would be: they have some pretty good players, and ZiPS does not look highly on the back-up options for those guys. I thought Trout would be higher, but he may be that low because the Angels’ postseason odds aren’t that great to begin with. Interesting that half this list are also players that only make their rounds every fifth day.
The Giants and Dodgers play the last game of their series tonight at 5:00 PM PST on ESPN2.
Buster Posey wasn’t 100% for some of the season and Brandon Belt was finally getting settled, even was close to getting a nice, shiny 20-HR season. Still, Belt had a satisfying 2013. Is it what you want out of him every year of his prime? Mmmm…. maybe not just because you expect him to get better. You do want your first baseman to be providing more power than your catcher does, so a player-versus-player post with a 1B and C is probably unfair to Posey, but let’s also keep in mind that Giants fans consider Posey the Golden Boy that can do no wrong. So to have Brandon Belt do anything better than Buster Posey is both great and maybe a preview for later years that suggest perhaps if Posey can have a great year, Belt gets better, the bottom three pictured below are going to be pretty dangerous, no matter whom they face:
BWARP is Baseball Prospectus‘ version of WAR, so if you had questions on that, there you go. There were probably a bunch of bloggers that wrote about Brandon Belt’s quantifiable betterness, so this blog may be a little bit of review for you as we go through January. First, the numbers Buster Posey bested Belt in:
- Plate Appearances, 595-571 (lineup order a big part of that)
- RBI, 72-67 (lineup order a big part of that)
- BB%, 10.1%-9.1%
- K% 11.8%-21.9%
- AVG .298-.289
- OBP .371-.360
- fWAR 4.8-4.0
- rWAR, 5.2-4.4
A lot of pretty important categories, including those WAR and OBP ones people always talk about.
Now, the ones Belt was better than Posey:
- Games Played, 150-148
- HR, 17-15
- SB, 5-2 (vroom vroom!)
- Isolated Power, .193-.156
- SLG, .481
- OPS+, 142-138
- wOBA, .365-.357
- wRC+, 139-133
So, the advanced metrics may have said Posey > Belt overall in 2013, which is cool because Buster Posey is awesome. Brandon Belt isn’t too far away from being on his level to the decimal point, and if you’re one of those people that want to talk about how difficult it is to measure catcher defense and how that gets calculated into WAR, you might suggest Belt is already at Posey’s level. 2014 should be fun if Belt gets better, even if he isn’t Paul Goldschmidt, Buster Posey is healthy, and everybody else is skinny and healthy, as well.
At 57-72, the Giants could certainly have it worse. They could not have gotten theirs in two of the last three years. They could have a history of losing at AT&T Park. They could have the worst record in the league. The Giants have none of those things, and Giants fans don’t have a wealth of matters to whine and complain about like fans in other organizations might. Really, with the 57-72 record and .442 win-% the Gigantes are sporting, I knew it wasn’t too awful, but I did wonder how bad it was within their franchise history and at their new yard as well. Behold! The ranking of the organizations by win percentage by the Giants through all time:
So, bottom 10% in franchise history… and if the Giants were to catch the 1996 Giants, you would not find me shocked, playing with more young players in September while finishing with an 11-22 record. My faith in this year’s installation of the San Francisco Giants is not high, and I hope you can understand where I’m coming from. However, they will not have a player accumulating 9.7 rWAR like the amazing Barry Bonds did in 1996 when he only walked 151 times, thirty of those being of the intentional variety.
Looking at the Giants year-by-year while at 3rd and King, the number of winning seasons (9) outnumber the amount of losing seasons the Giants have had (4), last seeing such a season in 2008 when they capped off their four straight sub-.500 seasons, when Tim Lincecum was at the peak of his powers.
This also serves as a reminder that Aubrey Huff was the team leader in rWAR in 2010, what a season that was for him. Also, it reminds me that I miss Noah Lowry. The 2013 Giants do not yet have the worst win percentage since 2000, being beat out by the 2007 Giants, but they are only .004 away from tying them. They don’t have far to go to get people talking about “worsts,” but the front office appears to believe the Giants are not many pieces away from seriously competing again, meaning they’ll have you believing 2013 will be more of an outlier than the beginning of a losing pattern. We’ll see what everybody thinks in the off-season.
Newsflash: The Giants are struggling. They saw a double digit number of runs cross the plate against them (again) last night for the seventh time this season. They allowed double digits six times in all of last season and five times each in 2010 and 2011, and we still have ninety-eight games to go in 2013. The injuries are notable in Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval (1-2-3 in the order), Ryan Vogelsong, Santiago Casilla, and the starting pitchers have struggled to remain consistent while the bullpen has been overused and has seen ten different men toe the slab for them this year (eleven if you count Kickham, but he was supposed to be a starter). The Giants are 33-31, 4-6 in their last ten, 9-11 in their last twenty, and 13-17 in their last thirty. This has given them time to sink to .500, and allow a team that’s performing better than them to catch up. That team would be Bud Black‘s Padres (sorry, Dodgers, not you this time). In their L10, L20, and L30 they are 6-4, 11-9, and 16-14, respectively. It’s nothing over-the-top fantastic, but it’s enough to get you to .500 and get you out of the cellar if the pattern holds, and right now only two games separate the Friars and the Champs. The table below is from baseball reference and while there are some fancy abbreviations and acronyms, don’t be scared, but don’t get depressed if you’re a Giants fan.
At least the Giants are 14.5 games ahead of Miami! So the Giants are just below average in runs per game, and run differential, but that 12-20 record away from home, and actually have a better record against teams at or above .500 (20-18) than below .500 (13-13) which is a little puzzling for a team that is supposed to have that championship swagger.
Here’s who the teams have coming up for the rest of the month:
Giants — @ Pirates (1), @ Braves, vs. Padres, vs. Marlins, @ Rockies
Padres — vs. D-Backs, @ Giants, vs. Dodgers, vs. Phillies, @ Marlins
I’m going to say the Giants have a little bit tougher of a schedule, so with the Padres only two games back of the Giants entering play on Thursday, it wouldn’t shock me if the Giants continue their business of salvaging one game out of three in every series that isn’t against the NL West. Then again, Hunter Pence could give a speech and inspire the Giants to a ten-game winning streak and then they’re tied for first or something while the second place Rockies (one game ahead of the Giants) work their way to fourth place. Who knows, but the way injuries have been going SF’s way, no sign of a rotation producing the production we’re used to, it’s no wonder the Giants are rumored to be in the market for a starting pitcher to help stop the bleeding. This wasn’t a post about selling off the team, rather just a warning about where they happen to be going. When the healthy come back, the Giants will be stronger, and it is yet to be seen if they will be given the room from the other NL West teams to climb back to the top.
Brandon Belt may be the most polarizing 1B in my lifetime, and is definitely the one I’ve enjoyed blogging about the most, and it may be no secret that I’ve been a proponent of starting the 25-year old Texan over the other camp’s choice in the 28-year old Californian in Brett Pill. Legitimate conversation starters come around every time a so-called “Belt Bash” on social media or sports radio occurs, and I wanted to be sure to showcase some of the points before I got to the meat of my post.
First off, would you take this from Belt in 2013?
If Belt put up a .275/.346/.472 line this season with 18 HR and 78 RBI, would people be ok with that?
— Anna (@SFBleacherGirl) May 31, 2013
Something to think about, because that’s what he’s on pace for, considering you throw out his period of sickness.
Are expectations higher for Belt?
Sometimes I feel like the expectations for Belt are actually higher than anyone else on the team
— Jenny (@jp_on_rye) May 31, 2013
I agree with this, both from the pro- and not-so-pro-Belt sides. A Belt strikeout hurts me more than a Marco Scutaro or Andres Torres strikeout, while his hits feel like a glorious triumph over the haters.
Below are a compilation of seasons from players that have manned the first base position from 1988 onwards. I set the minimum plate appearances to “180″ so that Belt’s 2013 season would be included in this pile of numbers. All the numbers wouldn’t fit on one screen shot, so I had to separate them, and coincidentally (really, I promise) the divide is between a positive fWAR and a negative fWAR. So now the question to you becomes: Where do you draw the line for an acceptable season out of a first baseman for your team? Do you expect Will Clark-ian performances every year? Just above replacement level? Suffice to say we all want the best performances ever, but we’re likely not getting that. Think about that as you look as these numbers:
Since 1950, Giants 1B have posted a .349 wOBA and a 115 wRC+ with a .271/.346/.445 slash line. Did you just look up at Belt’s projection? Me, too. Belt’s slash line would have a better average, same OBP, and a better SLG, and I’ll tell you right now his wOBA and wRC+ are not better than the averages since ’50 so in terms of the value according to the more advanced numbers, I know he’s not there yet. However, where did you draw the line? Being aware that not every first baseman is the same — your expectations are different for J.T. Snow than they are for Andres Galarraga — can’t just go by HR or RBI to say “that’s acceptable.” I’d say I draw the line at “acceptable” at the season with the 1.9 fWAR, .355 wOBA, 119 wRC+, I’d live with the defense (getting used to it with the 2013 team). No, Belt is not at or above that season right now, so let’s get that out of the way. I want offensive production out of my first baseman, and the ability to scoop a ball in the dirt would be great, as for me, I’m not so concerned about defensive range. I grew up on the power of Barry Bonds, and I want to see that out of somebody on the team, and I’m going to expect some bombs.
Now, as for who the players were you were judging and for what season they came from:
Sorry, Pedro Feliz. Go away, Shea Hillenbrand. 2012 Aubrey Huff had so few PA he didn’t even make this list, but man, was his 2010 something special. 2013 Brandon Belt is on his way up, since his defense shouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon, it’s going going to help his value in fWAR, while the batting stats slowly creep upwards. Look, I don’t think and I’m not saying Belt is going to be the next Thrill, but I expect Belt to earn his keep this year, and I’m getting the sense from Giants management that they are too. Nothing extremely spectacular, but pretty acceptable.
As much as any of us watch baseball, unless we write about it, it’s hard to keep track of the players that are performing below what we might have expected of them. We’ll pay attention to the players doing some incredible things, we celebrate those starts, and I like that. I’m sure some of these guys would rather not hear about their seasons at the dish since their own fanbase probably has been railing on them with almost two months in the books. Everybody’s list will be different, and you might lose respect for me that I didn’t know these guys might be weighing their team down offensively, but it is what it is. So, here are some of those guys:
- Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks — you’d think I could pay attention to guys playing in the same division as the Giants, but alas, I did not see MM’s .247 wOBA, 46 wRC+, and -0.4 fWAR. You don’t even need those advanced numbers to say “oh, yea, it’s not happening right now” as his .190/.280/.276 slash line in the first year of a five-year, sixty million dollar deal probably isn’t what the D-Backs expected.
- Jeff Francoeur, Royals — just kidding, we kinda expected this
- Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox — .275 wOBA, 63 wRC+, -0.4 fWAR for the 3B of Boston. 8 HR to his name, but the batting average hovering just over the Mendoza line coming into today. I see he is on the 15-day DL (back).
- Andrelton Simmons, Braves — .278 wOBA, 73 wRC+, 0.7 fWAR. Simmons’ defense has had scouts droolin’ for days, but I did not expect his offense to be that depressing. Coming into today, he was batting leadoff in 23/47 G he played in and had a .236 OBP. How much higher would this team be in runs scored if he would be batting lower in the order?
- Yuniesky Betancourt, Brewers — no foolin’ here, because the start he had where it seemed like he was homering every at bat off the Giants made everybody scratch their heads and wonder what was happening. Well, Yuni is at a .286 wOBA, a 78 wRC+, and is at the 0.0 fWAR mark with a .232/.264/.409 slash line with 8 HR, doing most of his damage in the month of April.
- Angel Pagan, Giants — I’m pretty familiar with his slash line, but his wOBA and wRC+ I was not at .303 and 95, respectively. His .314 OBP is also ninth on the team, which makes you wonder if someone else should be leading off (“but who will steal bases” <— I’m ignoring you)
- Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics — despite a 0.9 fWAR, the .221/.292/.456 with 9 HR and a .317 wOBA plus 98 wRC+ give you the impression that perhaps Cespedes is in need of making some adjustments. Yoenis also has a .229 BABIP, so perhaps things aren’t going his way after a .326 BABIP in 2012 and a .292/.356/.505 slash line (.368 wOBA, 136 wRC+) to go with it.
I think that’s a good list filled with some names that might or might not surprise you. I thought there might be more Eastern Division players in there, but there’s only two. Heck, there’s more Western Division players in there than that. Who’s surprised you this season thus far when you took a look at the leaderboards?
With the April that Sergio Romo was having, it was a good thing seeing that the Giants were winning more games than they were losing (15-12), but in as many wins the Giants had, that’s how many appearances Romo had as well. However, not every appearance would come in a save situation because otherwise Romo’s knee and elbow could have exploded at the same time from the overuse.
He had his good stuff in April, too: seventy-one percent strike rate, fifteen strikeouts, one walk, and only one home run given up (to Dioner Navarro of all people) on a windy Wrigley Field day. No outing went longer than twenty pitches, and Romo never had to pitch more than an inning. It can be pretty tempting to use your high leverage pitcher for more than one inning, but Bruce Bochy never did that, even in the couple of chances he had. The April 22nd-24th stretch of games is the only time this year Boch has used Romo three games in a row.
To adjust to his more frequent usage, Romo has prepared a new pitch to include in his repertoire, the cutter, and it probably thrills opponents that they have another pitch to look forward to. However, the cutter is probably what opponents would like to see most, as it has the least movement of all of his pitches.
So Romo stuck with pretty much the fastball-slider combo that got him to where he is, but after the whole world was getting to see him in April, he had to adjust. The changeup is in their heads, and the fastball certainly is, and you gotta believe the slider’s there as well. So you’re thinking movement, movement, movement then all of a sudden you get a pitch that doesn’t move (much) and there are going to be times when that works in Romo’s favor.
Transitioning back to the game log and turning the calendar page to May, and you’ll notice he’s only had eight appearances, although the K-BB is eight to two, no homers have been surrendered, but there has been a lower strike rate, this month’s at sixty-three percent.
The two times Romo has been used on consecutive days in May, the following day was a day off for the team. So with the fifteen games in April and the eight in May, this means through forty-eight games, Romo has made twenty-three appearances, putting him on pace to get into 77.625 games. I’m sure Boch is not going to try to use Romo in that many games this year, but it will be something to keep an eye on, and if Bochy selects Romo to the All Star game in July should his production hold, I’ll also be curious to see whether the young man will actually be used. We’ll save that conversation for later, if necessary.
Earlier I wrote about how you could validate voting for each Giant on the MLB All Star Ballot, now it’s probably an appropriate time to list my actual All Stars. Since voting doesn’t close until the 4th of July, there’s going to be plenty of room for hot streaks, and hot piles of slumps. As with the online ballot itself, I’ll give you my players for each position, and we’ll leave it at that for now.
1B – Chris Davis (14 HR, .420 OBP, .458 wOBA, 190 wRC+, 2.3 fWAR)
SS – Jhonny Peralta (4 HR, .379 OBP, .364 wOBA, 127 wRC+, 1.7 fWAR)
OF – Mike Trout (9 HR, 9 SB, .400 wOBA, 157 wRC+, 2.4 fWAR)
OF – Jose Bautista (11 HR, .408 wOBA, 158 wRC+, 1.9 fWAR)
DH – David Ortiz (7 HR, .397 OBP, .429 wOBA, 168 wRC+, 1.1 fWAR)
C – Buster Posey (6 HR, .395 OBP, .385 wOBA, 152 wRC+, 1.8 fWAR)
OF – Carlos Gonzalez (11 HR, 8 SB, .390 OBP, .413 wOBA, 154 wRC+, 2.1 fWAR)
OF – Justin Upton (14 HR, .387 OBP, .410 wOBA, 165 wRC+, 2.0 fWAR)
Feel free to put your ballot or changes in the comments because I can see how you might like player B over player A. Short season so far, lots of time left before I have to decide who I’m voting in 35 times.