Thursday, April 23, 2015

Giants Chase The Blues - Series Rundown #5

2 walkoffs in 18 hours.  Photo: Fox Sports

April baseball!  Never good to get too up or too down.  And its not how you start, its how you finish.

Dodgers came in flying, left the park reeling a bit.  I'll put this one out there: Donnie Two Times is a bush league manager.  And the Dodgers have exchanged a couple of clubhouse grumblers for a different type of grumbling: Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson got all emotional on twitter.  So it goes. 

April 21-23
Giants 6, Dodgers 1
Giants 3, Dodgers 2
Giants 3, Dodgers 2 (10)

Best possible result, and suddenly the Giants are 3 games out of first place.  I guess Rome isn't burning yet. 

MVP of the series: new guy Justin Maxwell is stinging the ball.  Excellent hitting as well as some good fielding, Maxwell overcame a fantastic play in the 8th by Howie Kendrick, and got the walkoff today. 

Giants pitching: held the line.  It looked rough early with Vogelsong serving up solo home runs, but Vogey turned the page and put up a QS. 

Just typical: Fangraphs put up not one but two articles on the awesomeness of the Dodger bullpen.  How about waiting until they have 150-200 innings under their belt?  They just got tested for the first time, and they were found lacking. 

The Donnie Baseball angle: complaining about Roberto Kelly and demanding a interference call: were they robbed?  No, they were not.  You watch the replay Blanco is clearly pulling up (in part because he got a late jump and in part because it was short left field).  They had no play at 3B.  Its the ump's discretion.  Here's the rub: McCarthy and Anderson get on twitter acting like the umps cost them the game.  Hey dumbasses: you loaded the bases.  You were on the ropes.  Asking for a interference call when there was no play to be had is bush league.  Even if its awarded you're still in major trouble.

Then today it was more of the same with DB.  He's a big fan of the double switch.  He likes to make multiple appearances - here's how he covers himself a) he avoids the mound and b) he talks to the umps (and at times multiple umps - asking for a 2nd opinion?).  Today he iced his own pitcher.  That's Two Times for ya! 

Other observations:
Casilla needs some rest.
Duffy is fast.
Aoki is crazy fun to watch, his dive around Justin Turner?  Hilarious.
Belt got on base twice by walk (with the game in the balance...) and a hit.  Heating up, still looking for his first extra base hit. 
Vogelsong had a nice game after a shaky start.
Bumgarner made one bad pitch.
Craw and Panik are slick up the middle - hidden strength.  They don't put up flashy numbers, they are sort of streaky, but they are solid for the most part.

The Giants pen did quite well, in fact the entire pitching staff did well, shutting down a Dodgers team that had won 7 in a row and was high on life.  they get to do it again in 4 days!

Next up: Colorado, in the house of horrors Coors Field.
Heston/Butler
Hudson/ De La Rosa
Lincecum/Maztek

Series Rundown Recap: 2 series wins (1 sweep), 3 series losses (1 sweep).

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Good Study On Top Prospect Bust and Success Rates To Check Out

Royals Review over on SBN has a interesting piece, organizing the all-time BA top 100 from 1990-2003 for bust rates.  Go check it out, stat!

Thoughts: I found it interesting the author addressed the Prospect Success by Time Period - you do hear that teams are getting better at identifying talent from time to time, especially with the studies looking at the cash value of a draft pick.  This longtime Gigante blogger has made the point repeatedly that you have to acknowledge the draft pick has the potential to be negative value (bonus + development time) and that is something that somehow gets lost in translation a lot of the time.

The study concludes that 70% of top prospects fail.  Position players succeed at a higher rate than pitchers.  Success rate outside the top 40 is flat (and really flat 60-100).  And SS/OF/3B are more likely to become stars, catchers and corner infielders are more likely to make it, and the biggest bust rates are 2B and pitchers.

Hard row to rock!  Or something like that.  These players are the best their hometowns have ever seen.  And you have a 70% failure rate. 

And how it relates to the Giants, 1990-2003 edition... Gints are the low man on the 30 team totem.  23 names, 87% bust rate to 13% success.  Let's name the names, for old times sake, and I'll go 2003 down to 1990:
Jesse Foppert (BA #5)
Jerome Williams (BA #50, #19, #19)
Kurt Ainsworth (BA #64, #58, #30, #58)
Todd Linden (BA #82)
Francisco Liriano (BA #83)
Boof Bonser (BA #29)
Tony Torcato (BA #83, #60)
Lance Neikro (BA #85)
Jason Grilli (BA #44, #54)
Joe Fontenot (BA #45, #96)
Dante Powell (BA #90, #90)
Shawn Estes (BA #72)
JR Phillips (BA #73, #83)
Salomon Torres (BA #22, #30)
Calvin Murray (BA #33)
Kevin Rogers (BA #50, #83)
Joe Roselli (BA #65)
Steve Hosey (BA #83, #61, #83, #52)
Royce Clayton (BA #6, #23)
Derek Reid (BA #95)
Steve Decker (BA #52)
Johnny Ard (BA #72)
Eric Gunderson (BA #85)

14 pitchers to 9 position players, Royce Clayton being the big name.

Here are the guys since 2003, for inquiring minds, starting from RIGHT NOW!
Andrew Susac (BA #88)
Kyle Crick (BA #33, #68)
Edwin Escobar (BA #56)
Gary Brown (BA #38)
Brandon Belt (BA #23)
Zack Wheeler (BA #55, #49)
Buster Posey (BA #7, #14)
Madison Bumgarner (BA #14, #9)
Thomas Neal (BA #96)
Angel Villalona (BA #44, #33)
Tim Alderson (BA #45, #84)
Tim Lincecum (BA #11)
Jonathon Sanchez (BA #59)
Matt Cain (BA #10, #13, #91)
Marcus Sanders (BA #65)
Merkin Valdez (BA #58, #40)
Fred Lewis (BA #78)

Conclusions?  Getting a top prospect is special.  Getting a guy with a low number is even more special.  Hard to do.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

Scuffling Into A Day Off - Series Rundown #4

The bright spot for the Gints - every team in MLB had their shot at him...
Giants continue to play uninspiring baseball with a quick break for Ringz.  Are there signs of life?  Here, and there, but you gotta squint.

April 16-19
D-backs 7-Giants 6 (12)
D-backs 9, Giants 0
Giants 4, D-backs 1
D-backs 5, Giants 1

So after two weeks, Giants stand at 4-10, 6 games behind the boys in blue, who have gone 9-3 staging comeback after comeback against B-squad teams like the Mariners.  All the NL West squads are above 500 except for our heroes.

What has gone wrong?  Injuries is the obvious answer.  Brandon Belt has 10 K's in 35 PAs, 2 walks, 5 singles, not a single extra base hit.  He's scored 1 run and knocked in 2.  Belt is a major reason the Giants are struggling to score runs.  Crawford has also struggled some with contact, he's got 10 K's in 49 PAs, a much more acceptable contact rate, and he has 3 long balls.

The 3 Gigantes with the most PAs have actually been hitting quite well:
Aoki has a 339/409/441 slash, his defense has been interesting, but effective.
Pagan has a 321/373/434 slash.  Both players have played all 14.
Panik scuffled, but got hot, he is up to 283/328/377.

Posey, never one for a hot start, is at 229/321/354.  He leads the club in Bases on Balls with 7, if he doesn't get some protection that stat will mushroom.

Blanco is at 225/326/375.  Casey McG is at 194/265/323.  And Matt Duffy is at 281/333/428.

So there has been table setting but no thump, in a nutshell.  You couple that with some inconsistency from team RedAss/VetGrit/DuctTape and you have a bad start to the season.

Giants called up Andrew Susac.  Great!  Hector Sanchez is taking excuse me swings instead of hacking, he looks terrible.  130/130/174 in limited action.  What's the next step?  Adam Duvall (hit for the cycle yesterday!) for Brandon Belt?  Giants have 8 home runs, it was to be expected of course, but that is part of the problem.

Pence and Cain haven't started real baseball activities.  That means they aren't going to be activated until mid-May.  That's a bad sign.  And Belt being a completely empty suit is the third big piece putting a hole in the standings for Los Gigantes.  

You gotta like the kids: Chris Heston and Matt Duffy are playing large.  Giants might have to adjust on the fly a bit more this year, they keep digging a hole its going to be a long painful season.  But its way too early to pass judgement.   Big series coming on Tuesday though:

Dodger series:
Lincecum/Anderson
Bumgarner/Kershaw
TBD (My guess is Petit)/Greinke

Series Rundown Recap: 1 series win, 3 series losses (1 sweep).

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Swept By The Rocks - Series Rundown #3

Catch of the Year... in April?
The Gigantes were punchless, the loss streak stretches to 6, the grumblings are getting loud...

April 13-15
Rockies 2, Giants 0
Rockies 4, Giants 1
Rockies 4, Giants 2

Hey, look on the bright side, there's a progression of scoring runs going on.  3 runs tonight, ho!  Matt Duffy was responsible for 2 of those, including his first HR in the bigs (a no-doubter and those who laugh at my Ben Zobrist comp just had a flinch watching it) and played a good glove 3B.  The arm is fine, he just needs to relax out there.

More silver linings?  (I consider Silver Linings Playbook absolute essential watching for sports fans - a great send up of Andy Reid in there, a pretty good depiction of the most rabid fans in sports - Philly Eagles fans - and a great take down of superstition and bad juju by a talented young actress.  And one of Robert De Niro's best roles in a career that has really stalled after early greatness) 

Back to silver linings... Aoki looks great.  The defense will be a bit erratic but he can play LF.  Pagan is still pretty locked in.  The Giants are definitely getting snakebit, or babip'd, whatever you want to call it.  As Krukow would say, the hits are not dropping.  Lots of hard hit balls, balls that died on the warning track or at the wall.

And lots of one pitch mistakes at a time they just can't happen.  If Peavy, Vogey and yes, Timmy make one better pitch, there is a decent chance the Giants are 6-4 instead of 3-7.  3 PITCHES!  And yes, the Giants need to get some of them there big flies, and a lot of ink has been spilled (virtually of course) on the fact they lost 15-20 HRs from Pablo and Morse. 

Raising Matt Cain, linked over there, has a great series breakdown.  They go by 18 game stretches, 9 of them.  Don't freak out about the bad start, lets check out the record at 18 games.  So 8 games until the freakout, yo! 

The Rockies played exceptionally tight baseball, made their pitches, played great defense.  Nolan Arenado is for real!  Lets hope his brother is as well.  They have earned first place.  And the Giants have earned the cellar. 

Its pretty crazy, Panik/Craw/Belt/Posey/Sanchez are all scuffling.  Although Posey is just getting unlucky, he's roping the ball.  Belt however...  Yeah, not going there yet.  But a guy who is very open about the mental struggles of the game - is definitely trying to be the man a little too hard right now.  He needs Pence in there to help straighten that out.  Belt is a good complement, he ain't the sizzle to the steak. 

On Hector Sanchez - I defend him a fair amount.  But even I have my limits.  He could have gunned the runner at third on the pop up bunt, but he hesitated.  He first pitch swings and got really bad contact.  Hey, everybody scuffles.  But the Giants are better served by Susac's combo of patience and power.  Susac is a better receiver as well.  But hey, silver linings - Susac was back in the lineup, the foul off his fingertips was a big scare.  I'd like to see him up in May.

Giants try to get better against the Snakes.
Bumgarner/Bradley
Peavy/Collmenter
Heston/De La Rosa
Hudson/Hellickson

And then... the day of rest that has been so hyped.  Then... the Dodgers. Kershaw/Bumgarner Wens night, that should be a great matchup.

The pitchers pitched relatively well.  And the hitters didn't hit.  Giants have to find their mojo.

Series Rundown Recap: 1 series win, 2 series losses (1 sweep).

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Happy Jackie Robinson Day

Retired rather than put on a Giant uniform.  That's the way is should be!  Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, was a hard nosed competitor throughout his career.  One thing that people forget is he never suited up for Los Angeles, retiring in 1956 before the move west. 

Rookie of the year in 1947.  MVP in 1949.  World Series Champion in 1955.

I had a interesting conversation by complete chance with a former Braves farm hand who played in the 80s, who grew up in Los Angeles.  He talked about how each neighborhood had their own team, played on their own field.  Things are a lot different today, especially in Los Angeles where public parks are at a premium and McMansions and real estate development are the name of the game.  Travel Teams and year round baseball are the big emphasis.

I don't think its doing the sport a lot of good, and in particular, African American youths are just uninterested in baseball overall.  Our league just lost a big time talent at the ripe age of 8.  MLB has a couple of lipstick on a pig type investments in "urban centers" but for the most part they are very comfortable with baseball being a suburban sport. 

I don't have any good answers, but I do know, just like with America's record corporate profits, that there is money there to be invested in infrastructure, if the powers that be so desire.

In the meantime, now that Mo' Riv is retired, everybody gets to wear 42 for the day.  A very good day.  Happy Birthday to my departed Grandmother to boot, she always hated being born on tax day.  Them's the breaks. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

New Look Padres Pummel Los Gigantes - Series Rundown #2

The Pads actually got their fans to cheer for the first time in years, and the old AT&T Park South meme might be in trouble.  It wasn't a good series for the Gints as they played some sloppy ball, didn't hit much and then ran out of gas with their ace and their red ass duct tape scrapper on the weekend.

April 9-12
Giants 1, Padres 0 (12)
Padres 1, Giants 0
Padres 10, Giants 2
Padres 6, Giants 4

Two games came down to a couple of pitches, Jake Peavy giving up a grand slam to his former backup catcher, and Jeremy Affeldt giving up a run in the 8th on Friday night.  A good throw from Panik nails the runner, but the runner wouldn't exist if Affeldt hadn't put him on via the base on balls.

Like Vogelsong, Peavy looks vulnerable to the mistake pitch, they both are nibbling.  Vogey had to wear it after Bumgarner's start went sideways.  The silver lining: Belt and McG look to be OK in a day to a week. 

Hitting highlights: Um... Well Posey would have tied the game, but Panik hit a soft pop up that Aoki couldn't get back on for a double play.  Bad luck?  It does feel like a lot of the balls off Bum were barely out of the reach of the infield, that'll come back to the Giants.

Pitching highlights: after strong starts from Hudson and Lincecum, the bad side of the Giants stopgap strategy showed up.  Peavy looked to be toast, pitching backwards.  The Giants opening grind of straight games has Bochy playing pretty conservative, watching his pen closely to not burn out.  I'd say the Giants velocity overall isn't a strength, so they really have to hit their location always.  That is pressure pitching. 

Next up: The Rocks!  And some flag thing is apparently happening today.  Don't know what that's all about.  What about the WAR scores, man!?!
Heston/Butler
Hudson/Bergman
Lincecum/Matzek

Rocks are in the penthouse, and the Giants are in the cellar.  This can all change by Wednesday afternoon.  If the pitchers pitch and the hitters hit.

Series Rundown Recap: 1 series win, 1 series loss.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Giants Trying To Weather Injury Bug; Duffy As Super Utility; Youngest Gigantes In Full Season

So we have to wait with baited breath as yet more Gigantes go down last night: Casey McGehee apparently has a strained knee after collapsing coming out of the batter box.  This is a similar injury to what the Nats Anthony Rendon has, he has been out about a month.  Is there a "mild" knee strain, the way Brandon Belt's groin strain is "mild"?  EDIT: And of course Andrew Susac took a foul ball loudly off his throwing hand last night and had to leave the game for x-rays.  Its getting comical up in here at this point, but we have to breath, its still the first week of the season. END EDIT.

I think Hank Schulman has been reading YGLTK from time to time... He just dropped the Ben Zobrist line on Matt Duffy and added Josh Harrison (a sweet, sweet hitter who has been very underrated) in his latest.  Link is here.  Hank or John Shea put that line in an earlier story or they updated that one, not sure, there seem to be a ton of update/pile ons with all the beats as the injuries keep on mounting.

I've put the Zobrist comp on Duffy for over a year.  It is ambitious?  A little, especially the power projection.  But I see a guy who can play all over the diamond, run, hit and be a heads up ballplayer for years to come.  

Giants just need to get Hunter Pence healthy, that will help.  Belt sure is hit with a lot of injuries.  Its a skill to be an iron man.  Belt is getting to be the exact opposite.  Matt Cain, formerly an iron man himself, has been beset with injuries in the recent years.  These are big, important players for Los Gigantes.

I'm not as concerned about Casey McG though.  I view him as a one year placeholder, and I fully expected Matt Duffy to threaten for the position early on.  Just not this early.  I think you're gaining some sweet factors with Duffy over McG: speed to 1B (not as many DPs), speed on the basepaths, a pretty similar bat (although not as proven - both can hit), and more agility at the position.  Baggs had a great point about McG in ST versus real games: first step and knocking down balls is a big part of 3B, and it can be masked in ST.  While I think McG is a perfectly adequate player who will approximate 90% of Sandovals production for 10% the cost, I do think he is replaceable.

Pence, Belt and Cain... different story.

Kyle Crick continued his high pitch count act, walking 4 in 4 innings, facing 18 batters and throwing 86 pitches.  Tyler Beede early has apparently really listened to the Giants about getting outs, using the cutter and the hard sinking fastball.  This is exceptional news, and we need to follow this one closely.  Beede becomes a Stud, the Giants have a Gigantic Win on their hands.  Plus Mella, who had a very nice debut.  Looking forward to Luis Ysla!

That brings me to the youngest players in each league.  The Giants are always old for their league, have very few young prospectos, and with the 3 of Crick/Blackburn/Mejia repeating/hurting/suspended, they don't have as much juice as they usually do.

Augusta: Michael Santos will turn 20 in May.  Jonah Arenado turned 20 in February, and Johneshwy Fargas turned 20 in December.  John Riley is 21, a year older than Arenado (oldest HS player in the draft class, 2nd oldest was Ryder Jones - Giants don't believe in that study).  Of note at Augusta: Hunter Cole is playing 2B, he had a breakout game last night 4 for 5 with 3 2Bs.  Watch him closely!

San Jose: Arroyo is 19 in the California league, he is top 10 in the entire league for yoot, sweet yoot (the only such Gigante to get such a notice).  Jones is 20.  The two youngest pitchers are Mella (August b-day turning 22) and Beede (May b-day turning 22).  Luis Ysla turns 23 in May.

Richmond: Rando Moreno is the youngest position player and a good sport, serving up the loss in an extra inning game as a pinch pitcher.  He turns 23 in June.  Not the nicest stats, but the Giants have been aggressive with the lad.  Worth a look.  There are 4 players doing the year 24 season: Mac Williamson, Mitch Delfino, Daniel Carbonell and Angel Villalona.  In a sort of coincidence if I had to pick 3 players to bust out and play in the show, I would pick Mac, Mitch and Danny Boy C.  Crick is still only 22, young for the league, raw for baseball, don't give up on him yet.  Joan Gregorio is 23, he is being pushed to the pen because his 40 man option clock is a tickin'.  Also they are hoping that shorter bursts will lead to more velocity, maybe find some consistency in that delivery.  Age 24 year pitchers: Chris Stratton, Tyler Rogers, Steven Johnson.

Sacramento: Age 25: Andrew Susac and Carlos Truifel (the advantage of being a top prospect for so long from an early age?), Parker, Jackson and Duvall are age 26.  Pitching: Steven Okert is 23, Ty Blach is 24 and Hunter Strickland is 26.  The Giants use AAA a bit differently, they tend to stash their reclamation projects, their depth and don't put many top prospects there unless they have depth issues, as with Panik last year and with Susac this year.  Giants prospect hounds are very familiar with the term AAAA player, where a guy absolutely rakes the PCL, a la Brett Pill, but can't necessarily handle a major league curve ball.  Chris Dominguez comes to mind as well, he is on the Reds 25 now, 2 PAs. 

All stats are courtesy baseball reference, and I shorthanded the way they round up for the year.  So some of those guys will be one year younger til mid season.

So how do you interpret this?  I don't put as much value in age/level and shiny youth as a lot of folks.  I also think this is mainly a tool for looking at HS guys who are talented, and it devalues some college guys who can be very valuable.  Of note as well: Average Joe Panik was playing young for each level, but he never got a single notice from anybody about this.  As was Susac, at least until this year.  But I do think its worth noting, because any team that challenges its guys to go compete believes in those players.  Which ones work out... that's up to the player.  And the Baseball Gods.

Just a quick look at the best players in B-ball last year, using B-Ref WAR scores as the shorthand and you get the following:

Trout, drafted 25th overall with a favorable birthday (August 1991 drafted 2009) - any player who has a 18th birthday after the draft is young for the draft and would be considered favorable.  Trout is the guy that starts all nerd discussions on WAR, b-day and everything in between.  He's a superstar.

Kubler, drafted 4th round by the Pads in 2007 out of Stetson University.  Another bad beat Padres draft story, unless you really like Ryan Ludwick.

Donaldson, drafted 48th overall by the Cubs in 2007 out of Auburn University.  Another bad beat Cubs draft story, unless you really like Chad Gaudin and Rich Harden.

Adrian Beltre, signed insanely young by the Doyers.  So young they had to make rules about the man.  Still going down to one knee on his swing, still awesome.

Michael Brantley, drafted 7th round by the Brew Crew, out of FL HS, May b-day, he was 18 at the time of draft.  Traded as the PTBNL in the Sabathia trade, he is now the crown jewel.

Felix Hernandez, signed as a 16 year old by the Mariners, their crown jewel achievement alongside Griffey, and they've managed to hang onto him.

Chris Sale (nothing but a pen arm eh Keith Law), 13th overall by the White Sox in 2010 out of Florida Gulf Coast U.  He was 21 at the time of draft.  Scouts didn't look hard enough at his work ethic.  He debuted in August after being drafted and the rest is history.  Look for this story to repeat with Carlos Rodon, as the Astros save dimes being "smart".

Alex Gordon, 2nd overall by the Royals in the legendary 2005 draft out of the University of Nebraska.  He was 21 as well.  The Royals have held onto him, and he almost scored the tying run of the 7th game of the World Series to boot.

Robbie Cano, signed as a 18-19 year old by the Yankees (nobody really knows the real date as there are handshake deals, etc).  Cano made up for his relative older age with a quickness.  Of note: the Yanks did offer him up in the Alex Rodriguez blockbuster, some guy named Arias went instead.

Jose Altuve, signed as a 16-(more likely) 17 year old by the Astros.  Rushed through the minors pretty quickly, he is now a bona fide major league ballplayer.

Jose Bautista, 20th round by the Pirates in the 2000 draft out of Chipola College, Joey Batts was 19 at the time.  The JC ranks have been shifted around in recent years, you don't see nearly as many picks.  Bautista has been rule 5'd, purchased, traded and traded again.  The Jays ended up last man on the ride, and they get one of the best MLB stories in the past 20 years.

So while shiny youth is fun, I would say its not a proven method of success.  This is just a snapshot from last year, but there are several players who are top of the game almost every year.  Teams should be devoting just as many resources chasing the Bautista odds as the Alex Gordon or Mike Trout odds.  A Bautista story is very rare, but so is success at the top of the draft.