Tuesday, October 4, 2016

End of the Regular Season

LA 91 71 - Open NLDS at DC Friday.
GIANTS 87 75 4 Wild-card playoff at NYC Wednesday.
Colorado 75 87 16 Scored 845 runs, allowed 860.
Arizona 69 93 22 This is NOT what they expected!
San Diego 68 94 23 Seems like they're always rebuilding.

We all know the story by now. After a 57-33 start, hitting the All-Star Game on the highest of high notes, hotter even than the Chicago Cubs, the Giants went 30-42 the rest of the way and managed to sneak into the postseason by the thinnest of thin margins. At its absolute nadir on September 7, the Giants' post-All Star record was 17-32, a .364 clip, more than enough to finish last in any division, and also the worst record in baseball over that time. It was still a sub-.400 mark as recently as last weekend. The Giants had to win five of six, and sweep the division champions, in order to make it. What that means in the context of the entire season is anybody's guess, but everyone in the game will tell you that playing into October sure beats the alternative.

The Giants scored 715 runs, ninth in the league, well ahead of the Mets but well behind the three division champions. Team ERA was fourth at 3.65, just behind the Mets but just ahead of LA. As it was all year, they played three games behind their Pythagorean projection of 90-72. Had each team played to its projection, the division would have ended in a tie between the Giants and the Dodgers. The Mets, meanwhile, matched their projected record exactly. 

Madison Bumgarner ranks as the most valuable Giant of 2016, with a WAR of 5.9. Almost a full point of that value comes from his batting; therefore Johnny Cueto's 5.6 is the highest pitching WAR total on the club. Familiar names-- Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt-- round out the top five, with Jeff Samardzija next. "Shark" set a career high with 12 wins, and his 2.8 WAR was second only to 2014. It will come as no surprise to many of you that the dear departed Matt Duffy ranks eighth overall on the team despite playing in only 70 games and being traded in July. "Duffman" put up one of the great single seasons in SF history a year ago with 5 WAR, and we are sorry to report he barely registered on the chart in his 21 games with Tampa Bay.

Defensively, Brandon Crawford is the clear star with 2.7 defensive WAR. We can also note that defensive estimates suggest Crawford saved the Giants 19 runs with his play at short (and Matt Duffy, in his short tenure, saved 11. Three-quarters of Duffy's value was defensive, and that well ahead of his replacements').  Overall the Giants' position players contributed 23.7 WAR (19 on offense, 4 on defense) of the team's total 42.2. Since the Giants projected to plus-18 wins, we can presume a replacement-level squad facing the Giants' schedule would have finished about 24 games to the bad (69-93, or, if you prefer, "San Diego").

Eight pitchers started games for the Giants in 2016. Between them they earned 13.8 of the entire pitching staff's 18.5 WAR. This will surprise almost no one, and is even more lopsided when we consider that Jake Peavy and Matt Cain combined for a minus-1.6 over 38 starts. In the bullpen, only Derek Law and Hunter Strickland were over 1 (116 combined innings). Sergio Romo had .8 in just 30 innings and Will Smith .4 in 18 innings. George Kontos was at .9 though he pitched more innings than both combined. The lowest "return", if you will, on WAR versus IP, would be a tie between Cory Gearrin and Josh Osich. Of course, that doesn't count Peavy and Cain, neither of whom will pitch in the post-season. 

We would recommend Bochy go with Law, Romo, Strickland, Blach, Smith, Javier Lopez, and Alberto Suarez for a 7-man bullpen behind the four starters. He'll probably go with an eighth reliever for twelve pitchers total, in which case either Kontos or Gearrin will likely get the nod.

With thirteen position players, there'll be Trevor Brown as backup catcher, obviously. That leaves four spots to fill.  Kelby Tomlinson and Conor Gillaspie would seem the clear infield choices-- this assuming Eduardo Nunez is healthy enough to start soon, if not by Wednesday, and can hold his place on the 25-man roster. Gorkys Hernandez (.3 WAR in 57 AB) is an obvious choice in the outfield. After that, with Mac Williamson on the 60-day DL, it's probably Jarrett Parker as the last man. Gregor Blanco does not belong on this roster unless the Giants go with eleven pitchers and 14 position players, and even then  Ehire Adrianza is probably a more valuable choice.

The Playoff Picture 

Toronto saved their season by winning two of three from Boston at Fenway Park, and will host the Baltimore Orioles today in the first of the wild-card playoffs. The Birds also won two of three this past weekend as the Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners ignobly faded at the end.  

Terry Francona's current team, the Cleveland Indians, will host Terry Francona's old team, the Boston Red Sox, in the ALDS opener at Jacobs-- er, "Progressive"-- Field on Thursday.  No surprise that John Farrell has tabbed Rick Porcello, the game's leading winner with 22, to start against the Tribe's Trevor Bauer.  That same day, the winner of the wild-card battle on the Toronto carpet will open at the big Ballpark in Arlington, Texas against the Rangers.

Friday will mark four days of rest for Clayton Kershaw, and naturally he will get the start at Washington, with the Nationals expected to go with Max Scherzer. We could call this series the "Battle of the Disappointments" as both teams have been notable postseason failures of late.  Then there are the kings of disappointment, the Cubs, who will attempt for the 107th year to overcome their World Series "jinx." The journey begins at Wrigley Field on Friday, with Jake Arrieta likely to face whoever survives the Giants-Mets skirmish.

Unlike last year, there are no real surprise teams in the postseason: Seattle and Miami had their opportunities, but didn't cash 'em in. A year ago, the Blue Jays scored more runs than any other team in the game; this year, they're off by over 100 runs scored, but allowed the fewest in the AL. Now, it's Boston who's bringing the wood to the party, outscoring all their competitors by over 100 runs. Both they and the Indians are among the league leaders in runs and in ERA, but then we have the case of the Rangers, who barely outscored their opponents (765-757), yet had the best record in the league! They finished 13 games over their projected record of 82-80, a monumental difference. The Orioles had a similar, though less extreme, balance; they also hit 253 home runs, far and away the most in baseball.

Speaking of home runs, the New York Mets hit 218 themselves, second-best in the NL and more than any other NL playoff team.  The Giants, by contrast, hit only 130, by far the least. Yet the Giants outscored the Mets overall, 715-671, as did all the other finalists. The Mets scored only 453 runs not counting homers, as opposed to the Giants' 585. Even the Nats, who hit an impressive 203, scored 560 without homers, again more than 100 over the Mets' total. We're not sure what this means, though we're tempted to say if you can keep the Mets from hitting the ball out of the park, chances are you can hold them to three runs or fewer. And for those who think pitching isn't the name of the game, the top five National League teams in ERA are the five finalists, with the Cubs at the top.

This 'N' That

We noted the other day that Jeff Samardzija received one full run less in offensive support than did Bumgarner or Cueto. The full tally: Cueto 4.9, Bumgarner 4.8,  Moore 4.7 (12 starts), Cain 4.6 (17 starts), Peavy 4.0 (21 starts), Suarez 3.9 (12 starts), and "Shark" last at 3.7.

Quality starts: Bumgarner 25, Cueto 25, Samardzija 18, Peavy 9, Cain 7, Moore 7, Suarez 7, Blach 1. That's 99 quality starts out of 162. Percentages: Cueto 78%, Bumgarner 74%, Moore 58%, Suarez 58%, Samardzija 56%, Blach 50%, Cain 41%, Peavy 33%.

Cheap Wins: Bumgarner 3, Cain, Cueto, Moore, Samardzija. Total 7.

Tough Losses: Bumgarner 6, Samardzija 3, Cueto 2, Cain, Peavy, Moore, Suarez. Total 15.

Cheapest win: Cain, v. Cincinnati on July 26. Giants won, 9-7. Game Score 38. Cain hit a three-run homer in this game.

Toughest loss: Bumgarner, at Washington on August 7. complete-game 1-0 loss, 2 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts. Game Score 78.

Start of the Year: Bumgarner, vs. Arizona on July 10. Complete-game one-hit shutout, one walk, 14 strikeouts, Giants win 4-0. Game Score 104.

Runner-up: Moore's no-hit bid at Los Angeles on August 25. Game Score 91.

Dog of the Year: Moore, at Los Angeles, September 21. One inning plus. Game Score 6.

Roll the statistical parade... David Ortiz was the only major-leaguer this year with an OPS over 1000. Mike Trout, as might be expected, was next at .991. Washington's Daniel Murphy led the NL at .985, with familiar names such as Joey Votto, Anthony Rizzo and Paul Goldschmidt alongside newcomers Kris Bryant, Freddie Freeman, and Charlie Blackmon, all trailing close behind... The Rockies had three players-- Blackmon, Nolan Arenado, and DJ LeMahieu-- all over .900... Brandon Belt, tops on the Giants, was 14th at .868... Most of the top guys did it with slugging, but LeMahieu, with a .495 SLG, had a .416 OBP, second to Votto's .434. LeMahieu won the batting title at .348 and drew a respectable 66 walks in 552 ABs... Last year's MVP, Bryce Harper, was 'way down in most stats, but still drew 108 walks, though he was outslugged by such as Curtis Granderson, Derek Fowler and Ben Zobrist... Without question, Billy Hamilton is the best base-stealer in the league: 58 versus 8 caught, quite a bit better than Jonathan Vollar's 61 with 18 caught... The worst in the league (assuming a significant number of attempts) has to be Philly's Cesar Hernandez, caught 13 out of 30 times. Just stay on first, kid, and hope they drive you in... Fifth in doubles, fifth in triples, fourth in walks-- that's Brandon Belt... The other Brandon, Crawford, tied for the league lead with 11 triples and is, as we reported earlier, the only man in baseball to reach double figures in doubles, triples, and home runs (28, 11, 12). He also led the Giants with 84 RBI, good for 27th place... The team leader in runs is usually Hunter Pence, but this year it was Buster Posey, with 82. Pence, limited to 106 games, scored only 58 and drove in 57, well off his regular pace. He has come on on recent weeks, though... Madison Bumgarner is fourth in the league in ERA, just behind Wednesday's opponent, Noah Syndergaard... "Bum" is also second in innings pitched, third in strikeouts, tied for tenth in wins, and is the hardest-working man in baseball, facing more batters and throwing more pitches than anybody... Johnny Cueto tied with Jake Arrieta for third in wins with 18. He was right behind Bumgarner: fifth in ERA, third in innings, sixth in strikeouts. ... Porcello, with 22 wins, has to be the favorite for the AL Cy Young Award, but consider Baltimore's lefty closer Zach Britton. A perfect season with 47 saves converted out of 47 opportunities, and a 0.84 WHIP... The wildest pitcher in baseball is none other than our old friend, former Giants prospect Francisco Liriano, now of Toronto, who walks 4.7 men per nine innings... Jered Weaver of the LA Angels is the most extreme fly-ball pitcher in the major leagues. He is 34, he's struggled with injuries, and he's a free agent. If healthy, he might be a cheap pickup for the Giants. AT&T Park is the place where fly balls go to die; only 108 home runs were hit here in 2016. 174 flew out of Anaheim, 37 of them off Weaver. Worth the risk?.. The Cubs have four starters with 15 wins or more-- Jon Lester (19), Arrieta (18), Kyle Hendricks (16), and Jason Hammel (15). That's 68 wins out of 103... Arrieta threw a league-high 16 wild pitches, and the Cardinals' superb Carlos Martinez induced 33 double-play grounders... Until the major leagues start keeping count of inherited runners versus inherited runners scored, it will be difficult to accurately measure the worth of late-inning relievers who are not closers. The "Hold" statistic is broken and cannot be trusted... The late Jose Fernandez was among the league leaders in most pitching categories, his strikeout-to-walk ratio was off the charts, and he was younger than Ty Blach. This truly is a devastating loss for the game of baseball...  LA's 20-year-old rookie lefthander, Julio Arias, picked off six runners, most in the major leagues. He did it in only 77 innings. Johnny Cueto, next with 5, pitched three times as many innings... Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown season of 2012 gets more and more amazing and historic in retrospect. No one even came close this year... As you all  know, we love outlier stats. Here's one: Brandon Guyer, the Cincinnati Reds' fine left fielder, was hit by the pitch 31 times, far and away the most in the major leagues. He walked only 19 times. Those hit-by-pitches boosted his OBP to a respectable .372 all by themselves... The Giants, as a team, hit 54 triples, more than any team in baseball except Arizona. The Mets only hit 19. HA!

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