April Numbers and You: Care and Feeding of Early Season Statistics

Okay you shouldn't feel bad, but you should reevaluate methods and reassess your conclusions probably.

Okay you shouldn’t feel bad, but you should reevaluate methods and reassess your conclusions probably.

If you’re an analytically inclined baseball fan, April truly is the cruelest month. Okay so yeah, I admit that T.S. Eliot wasn’t actually talking about the month (or more) long battle of wills between people quoting month (sometimes only weeks) long data samples as if they mean something and the people screaming “small sample size!” into the yawning void. That said, it can be difficult to know when the “roots that clutch” are solid enough to start to trust what the statistics are telling you, but we (and some much smarter people from other parts of the internets), are here to help.

There are a few key things to understand about advanced metrics, especially early in the year. Continue reading

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A Lesson in Run Expectancy

Short post coming but this thing just happened in the Rockies-Giants game that drove me mad. In the bottom of the sixth with none out, Gregor Blanco and Hector Sanchez (!!!!) both walked, followed by a Brandon Crawford opposite field home run. As if a Hector Sanchez walk (his second of the game!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and a Crawford oppo taco weren’t crazy enough, it gets better. Nick Noonan and Angel Pagan both single, giving us runners on first and second and zero out.

(Flickr/sjsharktank)

(Flickr/sjsharktank)

Now, at this moment, using the 2012 run environment – since the 2013 season is still too young to have accurate data – the Giants should be expected to score 1.44 additional runs this inning. The next hitter was Marco Scutaro. Now, Scutaro has been struggling. He admitted as much to the beat reporters, saying he’s been pressing a bit trying to get going this season. His .167/.212/.167 line certainly reflects that. And, naturally, he sac bunted. I hate the sac bunt. In nearly every scenario, the sac bunt lowers the number of runs a team can expect to score. Indeed, that was the case in this scenario – the run expectancy with runners at 2nd and 3rd with 1 out in 2012 was 1.29, meaning that play was worth -0.15 runs to the Giants.

Here’s the crazy part though – the Rockies followed up the sac bunt with an even stupider strategic decision. They intentionally walked Pablo Sandoval to get to Hunter Pence. The run expectancy with the bases loaded and one out last year was 1.54. The intentional walk raised the run expectancy 0.25 runs, and the Giants now sat at 0.10 runs higher than at the start of this little dance.

So what happened? Pence singled sharply to right, scoring Noonan, and the Brandon Belt grounded into a double play. So after all that, the strategy paid off for the Rockies – the Giants scored 0.54 runs fewer than expected.

This is a good example of process vs. results. Even though the results worked out from the Rockies perspective, a look into the numbers shows that the process was flawed. On one hand, it was counterproductive to sac bunt with Scutaro – no matter how much he’s struggling, he’s a decent threat to get a hit there. On the other hand, it was even more counterproductive to walk Sandoval – a double play ball isn’t something you can count on, especially with two of the Giants’ best hitters due up. The basic lesson here is this: outs are precious and you shouldn’t give them away. You shouldn’t give away opportunities to record them on defense, either.

2013 Giants ZiPS Projections – Hitters

January is projections season. There are a whole mess of projection systems out there, but the system that is generally considered to be the most accurate, as well as the most widely available, is Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS, which are being released on Fangraphs this year. While you, the dear reader, have likely taken a glance at these already – they’re a month old, after all – I’d like to share a couple thoughts on the projections for the Giants this year.

For each player, in addition to a short analysis, I’ll provide a prediction of whether they will hit OVER or UNDER their projected OPS+. Continue reading

Hunter Pence, Buster Posey, Others Avoid Arbitration

Last Friday was the deadline for teams and players eligible for arbitration to exchange salary figures for their arbitration hearings, and as with every year, there was a flurry of signings on that date in order to avoid the hearings. The Giants had seven arb-eligible players this year: Joaquin Arias, Gregor Blanco, Santiago Casilla, Jose Mijares, Hunter Pence, Buster Posey, and Sergio Romo.

The team has, so far, come to agreements with four of them, and Sergio Romo and Joaquin Arias exchanged figures with the team. It’s worth pointing out that both Arias and Romo will almost certainly sign contracts before their hearings. The Giants almost never let arbitration cases go all the way to hearing – they’ve only gone to six hearings since the arbitration process started in the mid-’70s. Continue reading

Those Last Roster Spots

January is a slow baseball month. Last January, the Giants signed Brian Burres, Todd Linden, Wilmin Rodriguez, and Gregor Blanco. Obviously the Blanco signing turned out to be pretty important in regards to how the season went, but the point is that the major signings are over. Sorry folks, the Giants aren’t trading for Justin Upton or Giancarlo Stanton and they are going to sign Michael Bourn. The time for major roster moves has come and gone.

As I laid out in a series of posts last week, the Giants have up to three roster spots still available. There’s a spot in the bullpen, a spot for a sixth infielder, and a fifth outfielder available. Let’s run down the candidates for each spot. Continue reading

A Look At The Giants Roster: The Outfield

(flickr/Stanislav Sedov)

Yesterday I took a look at the infield. Today, let’s look over the options in the outfield.

Definite Starters: Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence.

Angel Pagan is the one of the streakiest players I’ve ever seen. What’s truly amazing is he might not even been the streakiest player on the Giants (looking at you, Belt). Check out his wRC+ numbers by month: 103, 144, 72, 50, 174, 105. All told, however, Pagan was a pretty good player: 113 wRC+, great baserunning, and average defense in center. Continue reading

In The Land Of Hope And Dreams: Giants Are World Series Champions Once Again

A Civic Center Plaza kind of crowd. (Jen Mac Ramos)

Take a time machine to 10 years ago. Find your 10-years-ago self and tell them that the World Series that year was awful, you know it, but in 10 years, everything will be okay.

“NO. STUPID RALLY MONKEY,” your old self might say. “SCREW THE ANGELS.”

You’ll calm your old self down — or try to at least — and say, “In 10 years, the Giants will have won the World Series twice in three years.”

Your old self won’t believe it, continuing the curse everything about the Angels.

Say that to your 2007 self, too. And maybe even your 2010 self.

It still feels improbable.

The Giants won the World Series twice in three years? No way. Not possible. Come on.

That’s just crazytalk.

There’s just absolutely no way that’ll ever happen.

Right? Continue reading

The Giants Are Going To The ‘Ship

Game six, last of the ninth — AT&T Park showing some of that electric feel in the crowd. (Jen Mac Ramos)

Down three games to one. Your team’s got Barry Zito going for them on the mound in an elimination game.

That’s the end of that, right? No hope, no positive thoughts, no nothing.

Then something happened. You could say it’s because the Giants had luck on their side. Maybe #RallyZito had some magic in it. The fans were actually loud enough. Who knows? But the Giants had it these last three games. Continue reading

Giants Recap: Nady, Pence Power to Late Win. Just Like You Drew It Up.

This has been my face for the past hour, minimum.

Tim Lincecum put together yet another off kilter start, the defense was shaky, and I had already made the decision to recap this game with a sarcastic paint graphic by about the sixth inning.

And then Xavier Nady and Hunter Pence hit the first home runs that Huston Street has given up all year and suddenly the Giants won.

Baseball just wanted to remind us all that we shouldn’t get too comfy about our expectations of how games will go, apparently.

Giants Recap: Two Weird-Lookin Fellas Do Just Fine In Texas

You can’t take anything in baseball for granted. Literally, anything. A projectile small than an adult’s closed fist is being hurled at velocities well exceeding the automobile speed limit and then bounced around thousands of square feet of space occupied by nine fragile sacks of meat and bone piloted by a mysterious chemical concoction. Really, once you’ve spent enough time considering the convoluted track of evolution and conditioning necessary to produce Hunter Pence, it’s no stretch at all to think “Yeah, of course the Astros could beat the Giants this year. Weirder things have happened.

But if ever there was a chance for a sweep, this series was it. So thank all that’s holy that the Giants cashed that chance in, especially after a game that looked Belisario ugly in the opening innings. Ryan Vogelsong hasn’t been Vogelsongian lately – or rather, he’s been an entirely different kind of Vogelsongian, one hopefully consigned to the dustbin of history – and one hopes that he’ll regain that potent combination of movement and location on his fastball.

That said, if there’s a single pitcher on the Giants’ roster who will just slam himself into the wall (figuratively speaking) as many times as it takes to fix whatever is broken, it’s Vogelsong. Hell, he struck out seven in six innings tonight, which is a good sign of putting it back together after the Zitonian beginning. He got the win! Continue reading