More Bad Offense!

There are some well documented studies that show that offense has no correlation to post-season success. For example, two teams make the playoffs: one team scored 697 runs during the season and the other scored 859. What do you expect the experts will say about these two teams? “Oh, team A (697) looks good and they come in on a hot streak, but they just can’t hang with the bats on team B (859).” Yada, yada, yada team B is favored to win. Well, team B was the 2010 Yankees and team A, the 2010 Giants.

Bottom line: offense is not predictive of success in the post-season. Therefore, it has been proposed that teams focus time, money, and resources to building strong pitching and defense in order to win. I have also shown how an improvement in pitching and run prevention leads to success in the post-season.

The question remains, though, how little offense to do you need to be successful. The 2011 Giants are really pushing the limits of this theory (which I buy as far as post-season predictiveness, but as I will show here, some level of offense competence is needed to get through the 162 game grind).

Here are the Giants run totals for the past three years: 2008 640 runs (759 allowed), 2009 657 (611 allowed), 2010 697 (583 allowed).

The 2011 Giants are on pace for: 555 runs scored, 574 allowed (that is almost 100 runs worse than 2008, which is widely considered the worst, most unwatchable offense in Giants history…it was also the first post-Bonds Giants offense).

Keep this in mind as well: the 2008 Giants went 72-90, 2009 88-74, 2010 92-70.

And here’s the most sobering of all: Since 1982 32 teams have scored less than 600 runs. Those 32 teams have won an average of 67 games. Only two of those (32) teams had winning records (the 1988 Padres and the 2003 Dodgers), and neither of them made the playoffs.

So, it seems safe to say that to make the playoffs a team needs to score at least 600 runs (something the Giants are not currently on pace to do). Yes, offense has no predictive value when it comes to who will prevail in the post-season, but it does matter in who gets there. I’m at a loss as to how the Giants can turn this around, but unless they get something, anything going soon it’s not happening this year.

(-SB)

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Offensive Sink Holes

– Here’s the offensive production the Giants received from each defensive position in 2010 (HR/AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS+)

  • C: 21/.274/.333/.430/117
  • 1B: 18/.291/.357/.457/103
  • 2B: 12/.283/.338/.396/104
  • 3B: 14/.262/.321/.401/95
  • SS: 22/.260/.318/.419/112
  • LF: 31/.264/.365/.485/121
  • CF: 22/.250/.304/.434/100
  • RF: 15/.246/.314/.393/81
– The Giants were below league average at only 2 position: Third Base (thanks to Pablo’s slide) and Right Field (thanks to a lot of suckiness pre-Cody Ross). Above average, though, at 6 of 8 lineup spots.
– Now consider 2011 (bold are categories where the 2011 team is out performing 2010):
  • C: 8/.242/.321/.350/93
  • 1B: 12/.244/.307/.379/73
  • 2B: 4/.272/.324/.352/94
  • 3B: 12/.282/.321/.421/114
  • SS: 5/.208/.270/.301/65
  • LF: 13/.226/.319/.381/94
  • CF: 4/.246/.317/.361/84
  • RF: 9/.274/.320/.408/88
– The Giants are better in Right Field and at Third Base. And the Giants are only above league average at one position (as opposed to 6 of 8). That and the lack of home runs across the board are really, really bad signs. What made the Giants offense go in 2010 (particularly the stretch run and the playoffs) was the ability of most of the guys in the lineup to hit home runs. And the fact that they actually hit them. Pretty alarming.
– Outside of a Belt call up and some guys getting hot (finally) not sure how this changes. This really isn’t all that surprising, especially if you’ve been watching the games, but the hitters are significantly below the production they provided a year ago.
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Week in Review (8/1-8/7)

Results:

2-5 (63-52, 0.5 game lead in NL West)

5-2 L vs Ari.; 6-1 L vs. Ari.; 8-1 W vs. Ari.; 3-0 L vs. Phi; 9-2 L vs. Phi; 3-1 L vs. Phi; 3-1 W vs. Phi

All season I feel like I’ve been complaining about the Giants winning the first 2 or 3 games of a series and then losing the last game to “avoid” the sweep. Well, this week the Giants turned that trend around and had to win the last game of both series in order to avoid being swept. It has not been a good two weeks, but then again, we all knew they were heading in to one of the toughest stretches of the season. Hopefully they can finish the home stand out strong (a sweep of the Pirates would mean a 5-5 stand, which is not the end of the world).

Hitter of the Week:

Pablo’s line goes like this: 11 for 26 (.423 average), with 4 runs, 1 home run, and 4 RBIs. Keep it up Pablo! A hat tip also goes to Jeff Keppinger whose 4 hit day gave him a 10 for 17 (.370) week to go with 3 runs scored. He must keep hitting and getting on base for this offense to succeed.

Pitcher of the Week:

When a team is struggling in nearly every aspect of the game, as the Giants did this last week, the one thing that can turn the funk around is the Ace. The old baseball saying is that “a team’s momentum is only as strong as tomorrow’s starting pitcher.” Tim Lincecum gave the Giants two strong efforts and stopped the bleeding against the Phillies. He made one mistake to Paul Goldschmidt on Tuesday, but overall performed exactly the way an Ace should perform when the rest of his mates are struggling. 14 and 2/3 IP, 13 K, a 1.84 ERA, and an 0.95 WHIP in two big games makes him a no-brainer pitcher of the week.

Looking Ahead:

After an emotional and draining 7 games against big time competition the Giants get a bit of break with 3 home games against the reeling (10 straight loses) Pirates. Of course, this is no time to let up, the Giants need to win these games, but at least they aren’t looking at the Phillies any more. They get rewarded after that with a day off, followed by the brutal 10 game road trip to the muggy south. 3 in Florida, 4 in Atlanta, 3 in Houston. This will be another tough and challenging stretch, meaning the Giants really need to take 2, if not all 3, from the Pirates.

When a team is losing it is easy to look at the all the things that are going on wrong and try to pick one and blame all the struggles on that one thing. Losing and winning are much more complex than that. That said, I do think the number one priority right now is figuring out the leadoff spot. I do not worry about the pitching…and while there are plenty of holes in the lineup to get fired up about, it really seems like settling down the leadoff position will give the Giants a decent 1-5 and hopefully create some much-needed runs!

As Brian Wilson says: Pirates are cool, but no one beats a ninja. Go Giants!

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Evaluations and Ruminations Part II

Yesterday we looked at teams that added pitching (which has a strong correlation to postseason success), and today we will look at teams that added hitting (no correlation to postseason success but very helpful in getting to the postseason).

  1. The Giants: The Giants got the big fish in Carlos Beltran but also added middle infielders Jeff Keppinger and Orlando Cabrera. Considering the Giants have had black holes at 4-5 positions this season and have had to deal with several injuries including two season enders, it made to sense to acquire all that they did. And they did it by surrendering only one legitimate, top of the line, prospect. Still, it feels like ultimate success for this team will only come when parts they’ve had all season (Cody Ross, Andres Torres, Aubrey Huff, etc) start producing. B+
  2. The Braves: Atlanta added excellent center fielder and leadoff man Michael Bourn. They fixed the only real problem they had (other than injuries) without giving up any of their “untouchable four”. There is really no way to say this move was not worth it. Well done Braves. A
  3. The Phillies: Hunter Pence is a nice player. He hits some and he fields some and he does it in a very unorthodox fashion. The Phils get bonus points for the fact that Pence will be around for a while (and is a lot cheaper and younger than Jason Werth who he is essentially replacing). That said, and I know this is a crude evaluation tool, I never have Pence on any of my fantasy teams. Bourn I would take, Beltran I have, but Pence I generally avoid. Doesn’t mean he’s a bad player, nor should that have any bearing on real baseball, but it does say something about a player that I actively avoid having him on a fantasy team. There just always seem to be too many other better players. C+
  4. The Red Sox: The Sox added Mike Aviles and I only put him on here to say that he is the guy I wanted the Giants to get. All indications seem to be that the Red Sox overpaid to get him so that makes me feel better. However, I’d take this guy over O-Cab every time. C+
  5. The Pirates: Pittsburg acquired two vets who are in decline but hopefully have something left in the tank. This team could have really used a Bedard-type strikeout pitcher, but they needed some offense too. I don’t know how much Derek Lee and Ryan Ludwick help, but the real story here is Pittsburgh bought and did not sell at the end of July. That’s a win all by itself. C-
  6. The Cardinals: The Red Birds gave up Colby Rasmus and acquired Rafael Furcal. I know that’s not the actual deal, but as their line up goes that’s what happened. Hopefully Edwin Jackson pitches like a monster and Rasmus is never allowed back in the US. I have no idea what this team is thinking. F
Still a lot of baseball left and much will happen with these teams in terms of slumps, hot streaks, waiver claims, minor league call ups, and injuries. Given that, I like the Red Sox, Yankees, Indians, and Rangers in the AL with the Rangers making it back to the World Series. In the NL I have the Phillies, Braves, Brewers, and Giants, and I think the Braves might get it done. However, the NL playoffs are going to be epic if those 4 teams make it. It’ll be some amazing October baseball, and anyone could walk away with the pennant and probably be World Champions.
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Evaluations and Ruminations Part I

The July 31st, non-waiver, trade deadline has come and gone. Tons of rumors were milled and many speculations made, and now that the dust has settled what do we have? Most trade winners and losers columns looks like this, but I want to frame this discussion in the pitching model we’ve been working on this year. In that light, let’s start by looking at who added pitching:

  1. The Indians: They obviously nabbed the big fish in this small sea by acquiring Ubaldo Jimenez. In my opinion this is a brilliant move by the Indians and quite possibly the stupidest trade of all time by the Rockies. Maybe Ubaldo has a torn rotator cuff that no one else can see, and maybe he hates Coors (the beer) or did something to offend everyone in Denver. But I have NO IDEA how a franchise that has been desperate for power arms (or any kind of quality pitching) trades Jimenez (a good and sometimes great arm) at all, let alone when they control him cheaply for 3 MORE SEASONS. Good for the Indians. They need more than an ace to really contend in the AL right now, but this is the kind of move that perfectly fits our model. A
  2. The Rangers: While not as flashy as landing an ace, the Rangers nonetheless made two exquisite additions at the deadline adding great arms to their bullpen in Koji Uehara and Mike Adams. This is a team that can now shut a game down after six innings. They reinforced their one glaring area of weakness. They still don’t have a prototypical #1/Ace type pitcher, but they have depth and may only need guys to get through five innings to win games. I’m this close to making them the team to beat in the AL. A-
  3. The Brewers: In my opinion, Bob Melvin has done everything right this year for his team. Given his constraints with money, he has gone all in for a small market team that has a short window. This is how you do it, folks, when you have limited resources. He made two big trades this offseason to get pitching and made another good July move to help the pen (adding K-Rod to lock down the 8th inning). I think they have more than enough to get this done, it’s up to the players now to make it happen. 
  4. The Diamondbacks: Ok, it’s good to add pitching, but Jason Marquis and BradZeigler don’t exactly get the blood moving. As it turns out, though, Marquis is great against the Giants (ugh) and Zeigler is a good arm in any pen. Hard to imagine that these moves put the D-Backs over the top, but they don’t hurt. B-
  5. The Cardinals: Sure they added an arm, but they did it in the weirdest way imaginable. I don’t care what Tony LaRussa says: I don’t know how you give away a young, talented, and contract-controlled player like Colby Rasmus for a free-agent to be like Edwin Jackson. But they did add pitching, and Jackson seems like a guy who will do well in STL with Dave Duncan. C+
  6. The Red Sox: all trades, of course, are much easier to evaluate in hindsight, but the move the Sox made yesterday is really a coin toss. It looks like Clay Bucholz is done for the season and Dice-K has turned in to a ghost, so the team needed pitching. Eric Bedard is really good when he is healthy, but he is rarely healthy. He may be fine and have a dominant two months and magical, ode inspiring run through the playoffs, or he might blow out a knee or an elbow or a shoulder getting out of bed tomorrow and be done for the year. NO ONE, not even the Red Sox, knows which one it’s going to be. Incomplete
We’ll look at the teams that added offense tomorrow. Right now, it is safe to say that the Rangers and Indians did the right thing and they did the right thing well by grabbing some good arms at the deadline.
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Week in Review (7/25-7/31)

Results:

2-4 (61-47; 2 game lead in NL West)

7-2 L @ Phi; 2-1 W @ Phi; 4-1 W @ Phi; 4-3 L @ Cin; 7-2 L @ Cin; 9-0 L @ Cin

This week started off so great. A series win against the best team in the NL. A trade for the best hitter available. A four game lead in the division and the chance to pad it before facing off against Arizona with the opportunity to really bury them in early August. And then it all went to crap. Now the Giants are heading in to this series against the D-Backs fighting to stay in first, having acquired yet another over-the-hill middle infielder, and having been swept by a team who they should have handled and forced to trade us their catcher. Nothing is easy with this team. Welcome to the Giants, Carlos and Orlando. More on trades later this week (hopefully tomorrow), but now on to the awards.

Hitter of the Week:

Pablo Sandoval: 2 home runs, a .320 average, and at times the only guy who seemed to have any life in the lineup. As great as getting Beltran is, I really hope Pablo gets hot and has a huge final two months. That would be so, so nice!

Pitcher of the Week:

Duel winners this week: Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. First, they both won their starts. Second, they both won against the Phillies. Tim won his coming off an illness which garners bonus points. Third, they continue to annoy the heck out of Charlie Manuel and that is fun to watch. I love that there is some kind of mojo they seem to have against the Phillies, even though they are such a lefty heavy lineup. They also both go in the Arizona series starting today, so hopefully they keep up their good (not great,  wink wink) work.

So, here we go. Three with Arizona for the division, four with Philadelphia for NL bragging rights, and then three with the upstart Pirates. All are in SF but these are some big games. The schedule gets a little lighter after that, but that’s a long ways off in baseball time. Go Giants!

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