2007 Sabermetric Year in Review: San Francisco Giants

Continuing our reverse alphabetical tour of MLB, StatSpeak heads west to the C-state for stop #7: San Francisco, which, I might add is about to get the Lilo and Stitch treatment.
Record: 71-91, 5th in NL West.  For a team that had that much attention paid to them in the past year, they were… a last place team.
Pythagorean Projection (Patriot formula): 77.03 wins (683 runs scored, 720 runs allowed). 
Team Statistical Pages:
Baseball Reference
Baseball Prospectus
FanGraphs
MVN Blog:
Giants Cove 
Other Giants Resources:
Latest News
Contract Status
Trade Rumors
Overview: Let me see here.  Did anything happen in 2007 of any importance in San Francisco? I’m not coming up with anything, except that the American Psychological Association held its annual convention there.  (I went.)  Must have been that kind of year.  No huge storylines.  No controversy.  Just your basic baseball season.  They did have the All-Star Game, which must have been fun.
What went right: Cain, Lowry, Lincecum.  Has that Smoltz, Glavine, Avery feel to it, doesn’t it?  I suppose that they can argue amongst themselves which one gets to be Steve Avery, but things worked out pretty well for that threesome of pitchers, eh?
Don’t let the record fool you.  Cain lost 16 games, but posted an ERA of 3.65.  His weakness is that he walks too many batters (3.56 per 9 innings), but he was also one of the better strikeout starters in the league last year.  Take a look at his plot for the amount of break on his pitches.  You’ll see that his fastballs are all generally within one blob, suggesting that he has a good idea of where the fastball is going, which is probably why he throws it more than 60% of his pitches.  With his off-speed/breaking stuff, on the other hand, there are a few curves and sliders and changes that seem to be little islands unto their own.  Cain is 22, and has time to learn to control those pitches.  He also gives up a lot of flyballs, but he’s right-armed and lives in a spacious park that is murderous on left-handed power hitters (or at least so the reputation goes).  Cain is able.
Lincecum struck out more than a batter an inning, induced ground balls in 47% of the balls hit off of him, and had a line drive rate of 15.4%.  These are all good results.  He’s also got a 95 mph fastball, and a change and hook to go with it.  He’s also part of the ”I walk a few too many hitters (4 per nine innings)” club, which seems to be a problem with the Giants.  Maybe after seeing Barry Bonds walked so often, they just figured that’s what you’re supposed to do when facing a hitter.  Hmmm… Fantasy players, watch Cain and Lincecum’s walk rates early in the year.  If they’re going down, then buy buy buy buy buy.
Noah Lowry is being bandied about as possible trade bait.  He’s not awful, but he did walk as many batters as he struck out (5 per 9 IP).  He’s also 26, which means the ceiling isn’t quite as high.  But, people who aren’t paying attention might get him confused with Lincecum and Cain (who are 3 and 4 years younger) and assume that Lowry is also 22 or 23.  Maybe that will increase his value.  He’s also left-armed, so he’s looking more like Steve Avery every moment.
What went wrong:  I suppose to continue the above analogy, Barry Zito was supposed to be Greg Maddux, the former Cy Young Award winner free agent signing who would put the team over the top.  In fairness to Zito, he didn’t have a terrible season.  He threw 196 innings, put up respectable numbers, and hey for a fourth starter, I think most teams would be happy to have him in that spot in their rotation.  But, 7/126 is a set of numbers that will haunt the Giants for a very long time.  Six more years to be exact. 
There was one other little problem with the Giants this past year.  The offense was… offensive.  The Giants had three position players with a VORP above 10.  Barry Bonds (55.2) was one of them and he isn’t coming back next year.  The other two were Randy Winn (26.4) and Bengie Molina (14.4).  Pedro Feliz, Omar Vizquel, and Ray Durham, representing 3/4 of the Giants’ infield, all functioned below replacement level.  Even allowing that Feliz is one of the best fielding third basemen in the league, and Vizquel, even at 40-something, is still a premiere fielding shortstop, that can’t be healthy for a team.
Yeah, that about sums it up: And now a list of everyone under the age of 30 who logged more than 250 AB for the Giants this past year: Kevin Frandsen.
Oh yeah, him:  Congratulations to Barry Bonds.  We’re not entirely sure for what yet, but it’s clear that he did something this year.  I think more ink has been spilled on Bonds this year than perhaps the rest of the league combined.  Why waste more?
Brad Hennessey: Here’s another case of a hidden closer who deserves a second look.  The Giants installed Hennessey as their closer at the end of May after the Giants recognized that Armando… Benitez… sorry, I’m doubled over laughing here that Armando Benitez was allowed near the ninth inning.  By the looks of it, Hennessey was replaced by Brian Wilson after Hennessey had a few bad outings at the beginning of September.  During his tenure in the bullpen, Hennessey had 19 saves, 13 holds, and 5 BS, for a close lead protection rate of 84% (32/37), which stacks up decently against the rest of the league.  No one will argue that he’s an outstanding reliever and I wouldn’t want him as my first choice to close, but one could do worse.  He seemed to lose the job based on the fact that he had a few bad outings.  (Why do managers insist on playing the “hot hand?”)  Hennessey was a starter who didn’t really make it as a starter, and so he became a bullpen specialist (politically correct term for “reliever.”)  He doesn’t have electric stuff, but now he has “closing experience” (which he can parlay into at least a million more per year on his next contract.)  I’m not sure what the Giants have in mind for their bullpen this year, but they would do well to consider the reasons why that if Hennessey was good enough to close for them in July, he wasn’t good enough in September.  To me, it sounds like a team that’s clutching at straws.
Hooked on speed?:  Forget steroids.  It looks like the Giants are hooked on speed.  Take a quick look at the run-down of the Giants’ minor league system.  Focus your eyes on the columns marked SB and CS.  See some eye-popping numbers in there?  See them repeated?  The Giants had 15 players in their minor league system who stole more than 20 bases this past year and five who stole at least 40.  The Giants have apparently decided to turn their farm system into a rabbit breeding ground.  Parlez-vous organizational philosophy?  While that’s nice, speed is only helpful if one is on base to use it.  Only five of those 15 speed-demons had OBP’s above .350.
Outlook: Well, let’s see.  Your team loses its biggest offensive weapon from an offense that wasn’t very good to begin with.  They were a last place team last year, even if you believe their Pythagorean record.  You do the math.  This is an organization that’s apparently building around pitching, defense, and speed, instead of… offense, I guess.  Call it the other Barry Bonds backlash.  Now that Bonds has his magic home run, what of the Giants?  They’ve basically existed for the last few years as a vehicle to get Bonds to 756.  Looks like it’s tme to rebuild.

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One Response to 2007 Sabermetric Year in Review: San Francisco Giants

  1. RollingWave says:

    Rebuild with what exactly though? Cain and Lincecum are certainly very nice.. even great, but you can’t built a team with nothing but 2 SP. they don’t even have decent trade pieces … yuck. and since most of thier players will probably retire before someone else sign them on the FA (lol!!) they wont’ even get draft picks… OUCH.
    This is one fucked up organization. they are almost a dead lock to sleep in the celler for the next 3+ year… IF THEY’RE LUCKY!!! would you be shocked if Cain / Lincecum end up leaving as FAs and has negative W/L ratios at that time? jesus.

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