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.

Pablo Sandoval And The #FATCHAT Problem

If you’ve ever fired up the Twitter machine within the last few months to check out what the Giants fanbase is saying, you’ll likely have seen a prevalent theme in a lot of tweets: Pablo Sandoval’s weight.

Cries of “he’s too fat to play baseball” usually are the first thing seen when you check in on what Giants fans and media have to say.

Here's some annoying commentary from San Francisco Chronicle sports columnist Ann Killion.

Here’s some annoying commentary from San Francisco Chronicle sports columnist Ann Killion.

Sometimes, it comes from writers of other teams, too.

Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch spews some offensive and unwarranted venom toward Sandoval's way.

Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch spews some offensive and unwarranted venom toward Sandoval’s way.

Backhanded compliments, playground bullying, it’s all there. None of it is okay. Continue reading

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

Assorted Thoughts On The World Baseball Classic And Brandon Lyon

(Flickr/cseeman)

Earlier this week Benevolent Overlord Mac wrote up a post about Ryan Vogelsong’s appearance on the USA roster for the World Baseball Classic. Today, the complete rosters for all sixteen teams were announced, and there are nine Giants littered across the rosters of teams from around the world. Joining Vogelsong on the U.S. roster is Jeremy Affeldt. Pablo Sandoval, Jose Mijares, and Marco Scutaro will all play for the Venezuelan team, Angel Pagan and Javier Lopez will play for Puerto Rico, and Sergio Romo will play for Mexico. In addition to those eight, Giants minor leaguer Clayton Tanner will play for the Australian team.

Here’s the thing: I love the WBC. Love, love, love it. I understand why most people don’t, and I understand why many of the best players from around the world avoid it. It doesn’t matter to me. Few things get me going like athletic competition mixed with blind, fervent patriotism. Many fans out there would rather their team’s players not participate in this event, and while I understand the sentiment, I disagree. If, say, Sergio Romo tweaks his knee or his elbow pitching for Mexico, will I be upset? Of course. But I understand that that’s the sort of thing that comes with the territory of being an elite talent in a globally popular sport.

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Andrew Baggarly posted a story today that states that the Giants are in serious negotiations with Brandon Lyon, the right-handed reliever who pitched for Toronto and Houston last season. Lyon had a fantastic year last year, pitching 61 innings in his two stops last year, striking out a career high 9.3 batters per nine innings while only walking fewer than three. 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 Infield

(Flickr/sjsharktank)

It’s January, which means it’s a slow month for baseball news. Many of the biggest free agents have signed, the winter meetings are finished, and the major transactions are wrapped up. Except for a waiver claim here and a minor league free-agent signing there, the Giants are ready to go for Spring Training.

So how is the roster shaping up, anyway? The good news is that you’ll recognize most of these players. The bad news is that they’re all a year older, and that could be a big deal. 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

World Series Recap: Pablo! Pablo! Barry! Barry!

Pablo Sandoval’s all like “SORRY ‘BOUT IT.” (Jen Mac Ramos)

And so the narrative went: Barry Zito going up against Justin Verlander? None chance. No way would the Giants win here.

But Pablo Sandoval happened. Along with the rest of the Giants offense. They chased Verlander out of the game after four innings and 98 pitches.

Zito, though? He went five and two-thirds, giving up only a run. One walk, three strikeouts.

And that was the new narrative they were building for themselves. Continue reading