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.
Every fan has their own strategy for voting for choosing whom they would like to don the All Star patches in New York in July. The strategies I know of are:
- Voting for the statistically best on both leagues (usually that’s pretty subjective though)
- Voting for the best in the league of the team you support, voting for the worst on the other league
- Voting for the players you want to see play
- Voting for only your team in one league, and then a variety of choices for the other league (e.g., just the Astros, nobody, etc.)
Of course, every team wants you to vote for their players, so now for Giants fans that want to justify their all-Giants ballot, how will you do that from a statistical point of view? All stats are within the context of their position within the National League:
- Buster Posey: tied for the NL lead in fWAR (1.8), leads in OBP, wOBA, wRC+. Possibly the easiest vote for the ballot within the Champs’ roster.
- Brandon Belt: According to Fangraphs fielding value, is the very best. Also, number of baby giraffe hats to other headgear of NL 1B very much in favor of Belt.
- Marco Scutaro: Leads in highest BABIP, lowest K%, AVG, Contact% (making contact with the pitch — 95.3), lowest rate of swinging strikes (1.4%)
- Brandon Crawford: Tied for having the highest positional value on Fangraphs. Most handsome.
- Pablo Sandoval: T-most HR (8), leads in RBI (see if you can sneak this one past somebody), AVG, WPA all despite seeing the lowest ratio of pitches in the strike zone.
- Gregor Blanco: Because he makes great catches in the outfield to save the game, that’s why you vote him in. You may also use the fact that he’s been much better than replacement level overall this year
- Angel Pagan: Makes the highest rate of contact on balls outside of the strike zone. Also could have the best hair of all NL center fielders.
- Hunter Pence: T-most SB (8), has seven dingers, and his defense hasn’t been all that bad.
I’m just glad I did this with the Giants and not some really awful team. Pitchers get selected by people that wear the uniform, except for that Final Vote stage. Even if you’re not voting for the Giants, and voting for the best in the NL, they still have some pretty good options to choose from. Maybe I’ll do a blog post on that someday.
I knew among qualified relievers on the Giants, George Kontos had the lowest Left on Base % of all of ‘em. I thought this was going to be a rant about how his LOB% was horrible and that in 2012 he probably was a lot better and I was going to turn it into a “hopefully he gets better?” type of post. Then I started stumbling upon numbers. Numbers that will make you think, that will get you down to the basement and crave whatever mom’s cooking in the kitchen upstairs. At the beginning of the season, we held out hope that Kontos could be a good RHP to have as a set-up man, and despite his overall numbers, it’s not crazy to suggest he still could be that, but as a ROOGY (Right-handed one out guy). You wouldn’t think so from the numbers he threw out there in 2012:
|vs RHB as RHP||42||115||25||7||2||2||6||28||.231||.270||.389||3||.291|
|vs LHB as RHP||28||62||9||0||0||1||6||16||.164||.242||.218||0||.205|
Better numbers against LHH than RHH, he was doing some reverse-platooning, but what he was doing against RHH was still pretty acceptable, so I guess it wouldn’t have been a crime to have him in the 8th. Turn the page to 2013 and you get:
|vs RHB as RHP||21||58||9||3||0||0||5||15||.173||.241||.231||3||.237|
|vs LHB as RHP||13||27||9||2||1||2||2||5||.360||.407||.760||0||.389|
An explosion of success from LHH against Kontos, but a pretty good line against RHH. Maybe he is getting killed by BABIP and that’ll even itself out, or maybe he’s already been trying to figure out ways to adjust to the way LHH have been hitting off of him. Here’s some other stuff that you can either take as not encouraging, or just interesting:
- Kontos’ 21 appearances lead the team, one ahead of Sergio Romo
- He does not lead relievers in innings pitched (21.0). That belongs to Chad Gaudin (21.1).
- Kontos had a 51.3% ground ball rate in 2012.
- It’s 25.0% in 2013
- His 63.1% LOB% this year is 21st-worst of all 169 qualified relievers
The ground ball rate worries me a bit, and it’s no wonder why his xFIP is 4.10 while his FIP is 3.35 this year (too bad for him he’s unable to keep the ERA down like Matt Cain could). I would like to know who the real George Kontos is though. Is it the ROOGY in 2013, or the good reliever in 2012? No one would be surprised if it were the former, since it’s pretty difficult to be very good at the minor leagues, and I mean the Yankees gave the Giants Chris Stewart for him, but it wouldn’t be the first time an organization was wrong about a player. I’d love for Kontos to revert back to 2012 form, but his ground ball numbers and performance against LHH will be something to keep an eye on. Yes, and his LOB%, too.
The Giants lost to Cliff Lee and the Phillies 6-2 tonight, their largest margin of defeat since their last game in Milwaukee on April 18th, and their first loss since last Sunday. The Giants have started a trend with their winning and losing, and in the picture below, you might be able to spot it yourself — the green being wins, and the red equalling losses:
If you’re curious what the “Height” is the beginning of, it says, “Height of bar is margin of victory up to 10 runs,” but that’s not what we’re worried about.
The trend is from just after that really long green bar of a win and starts with the little red bar. It goes like this from that game on April 12th:
- Giants lose one,
- Win two in a row,
- Lose three in a row,
- Win four straight,
- Lose five consecutive,
- Win six in a row
That 6-2 loss has snapped that six game losing streak, and that can only mean one thing for what wil happen next… if you believe in those kinds of patterns.
What do I believe? I believe the Dodgers just lost tonight and the Giants are in first place in the NL West and the Dodgers are in last place.