Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: World Series: Game 2

Giants win game 1 behind Bumgarner's DOMinating start, 5 PQS.  But the offense, with Pence's 2-run homer, gave him all the support he would need:  a factoid on Twitter noted that team has been 60-3 behind Bumgarner when he's been given a 3 run lead.  There was a nice article on him in the NY Times.  And I guess this simulation has been proven wrong, KC will not win the first game (SF wins game 3 on a BCraw homer though, so that can still come true).

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: World Series: Royals

Wow, the Giants are in the World Series!  How many of us were thinking, sure, no problem, during the depths of the June Swoon?  Probably just 25 plus the coaches.

I still thought that they had the talent (before the season, I thought a 95-100 win season was not out of the question, and that looked pretty good until June), but sometimes when you go into a deep dive, you don't have enough time to get back up.  So it was obvious to me, their talent, whether they made it to the playoffs or not.  Though, as I noted on Shankbone's, I've been eerily calm about the team, I just felt really good about this team.  I still do.

ogc thoughts

The Giants are going with the same 25 man roster they had in the NLCS.  So Lincecum, despite not being used so far, is still considered a valuable option to have in emergency, but not good enough when things are tight and we need a shut down reliever, like we did in 2012.

The Royals have swapped out Colon for Nix, a swap of utility MI.  They are only carrying 11 pitchers, enabling them to hold onto their pinch-runners.  They are carrying only their best pitchers, with only Guthrie with an ERA above 4 and three lefties in the bullpen with Duffy, Collins, and Finnegan.  Collins probably made the roster because he's a lefty (3.86 ERA 4.80 FIP), since the Giants lineup is very left-oriented.

I've been looking at the teams and below are my thoughts.  Mostly, I think we have a good chance at a third trophy, but the BABIP gods could decide otherwise.

The starting pitching is about the same, I believe, though perhaps Guthrie and Vargas gets swapped.  Game:
  1. Bumgarner 67% DOM vs. Shields 65% DOM
  2. Peavy 67% DOM with Giants vs. Ventura 60% DOM
  3. Hudson 47% DOM vs. Guthrie 53% DOM (KC TBA, making guess from ALCS)
  4. Vogelsong 52% DOM vs. Vargas 53% DOM (KC TBA, making guess from ALCS)  
First off, I would note that in the ALCS, only Vargas actually pitched a DOM start.  None of the other three did, and the only reason they won was because the O's pitchers were worse.  They averaged 2.75 PQS while the O's averaged 1.5 PQS, as they had two DIS starts from their top two starters.

Not that the Giants were all that much better (2.4 PQS vs. 2.2).   I think Vogie finally just had a bad start, that is going to happen to any good starter, he was BABIPed, but he's had so many successes that I think he's OK in pressure situations like the World Series.  We were lucky to win that game given how well Wainwright pitched, but then we got to the weak link:  Matheny insisted on using Wacha, do or die, in the bottom of the 9th.  Not the closer, not any other trusted bullpen reliever, the one guy he hadn't used at all during the playoffs, kind of like he felt he owed it to Wacha to give him an appearance.   And even after putting two men on base, he didn't bring in anyone else to shut down the rally.  And Peavy has never had a DOM start in the playoffs, so there is that too.

The Scheduled Starting Pitchers

Game 1 will be a toss up, because both pitchers will probably be shutdown.  However, I would note that Shields was not that great in his O's start, lots of hits given up, presumably BABIP though, but only struck out 3 in 5 IP.  But in the playoffs, you have to wonder if they are not performing up to snuff because of the pressure.  Because of this I give Bumgarner the edge over Shields in any matchup they may have.

Game 2 will be a toss up, mainly because I'm not sure either pitcher can stand up to the pressure.  Peavy has never had a DOM start ever in the playoffs.  Thus Venture is up on him, throwing a DOM start against the Angels.   Still, Ventura had a 2 PQS in this ALCS start, as he was very wild, didn't give up that many hits but walked 3 and only struck out 3 in 5.2 IP.  Our patient hitters could eat him up while our hackers could drive him crazy as he throw a bad pitch to Pablo and watches it fly away, far away.  I think this is a game where you wait for the first pitcher to blow up, then the other team will preserve the lead by taking out their starter the moment there is trouble and have their bullpen save the game.  This game can go either way, but I would note that Bochy is comfortable bringing in his relievers at any time in the game, even if the starting pitcher hasn't reached 5 IP yet, whereas Yost has mostly defined roles for his relievers, with Herrera his 7th inning guy (sometimes 6th), Davis his 8th, and Holland his 9th, and probably roles for everyone else too, that is the thing often said about relievers, they like to know what their role is and when they might be used.

Both pens are strong, KC has 3.27 ERA while SF has 3.01 ERA.  KC is better with 8.7 K/9 but SF better with 2.95 K/BB.  And both teams are bringing only their best pitchers, for the most part (I still think Kontos deserves a spot, but who gets dropped, Lincecum? Another bench player?  So I understand, but feel bad for him).   Their bullpen might be our equals in terms of talent, if not better.  But our bullpen is working on a string of scoreless appearances going back to the 2010 playoffs, so the Royals will need to better that.

Plus, while their bullpen has a lot of live arms, the Giants have hitters who love fastballs.  There recently was a list of hitters with homers on pitches over 95 MPH and Pence, Sandoval, Posey, Belt, and Crawford showed up on that list.  So while their relievers can bring it, our hitters have been able to hit it, as well.  We'll see who wins there.

The difference might be the offense.  KC's offense was at 4.02 RS/game, below average in the AL.  SF's offense was at 4.10 RS/game, above average in the NL, and they were handicapped by not having an offensive 2B most of the season and not having Belt in the lineup most of the season, as well as having no DH to boost up their RS totals, unlike the Royals.  Meanwhile, we will have a functioning DH in Morse, to help make our offense even better.

Game 3 and 4 starters for KC has not been announced.  Both Guthrie and Vargas had similar DOM/DIS in the season, but Vargas has been much more successful during these playoffs, with two DOM starts so they could be flopped from the order they were in the ALCS, but I'm sticking with that order below.  In addition, I suspect that should the Royals find themselves in a must-win game in Game 4, that Yost would push Shields up a day to Game 4, to face Vogelsong.

Game 3 is also a bit of a toss-up, based on DOM, but I give the edge to the Giants.  Both pitchers have similar DOM% for the season, but while Hudson has two DOM starts so far in the post-season, Guthrie has none, not even getting a start in the ALDS, and throwing a 2 PQS in the ALCS, where he only had 2 K's in 5 IP but 2 BB's.  But it is the World Series, the first for Hudson.  Of course, he beat the pressure in the NLCS and had a 4 PQS start there, winning his start.  And he was masterful, with 5 K's and 0 walks in 6.1 IP.  Again, could be a turning point for the Giants here, again, as Bochy understands must wins.

Here is a quote from him (Baggerly) and a big part of why I love him as our manager (besides the winning):
''You're always learning from your past experiences, whether it's during the season or postseason. The one thing I think I've learned is it's different, the postseason. It's not the regular season,'' Bochy said. ''You don't have that margin of error to make up for these games. You lose a game in May, and you still have 100-plus games to make that up.''
In other words, as I've been trying to illustrate this off-season, almost every game of the playoffs is a must win game, but obviously, someone has to lose.  Bochy has just done a better job of not being the one to lose, he has understood that each game is an entity to itself and thus you throw out all the stops to win that game, then worry about the next game tomorrow.

Game 4 is again a match-up of equals, both DOMs are close to each other again, but again, I think we got the slight edge.  Vogelsong had a DIS start, but he had a five game streak of post-season starts with 1 run or less, including a great game against the Nats in the NLDS.  Vargas was a bit lucky with the BABIP, giving up only 2 hits in 5.1 IP and striking out 6, but he also walked 3 batters, a high walk rate, but did have a DOM start, 4 PQS.  But it seems to me that again, the Giants can exploit his wildness, as indicated by his 3 walks.  But he has two DOM starts in the playoffs so far, so you got to respect that.  And if the Royals do swap, and put him in Game 3 instead, that would make it tough for Hudson to win, it would be a coin flip.

Again, our hitters are very patient hitters, willing to work the walk if they have to, to put pressure on the pitcher, to put pressure on the fielders (because our team has not been striking out that much in the playoffs), to allow their compatriot batting next to be the hero of that particular game.  That has a trait across all our World Series teams, there has not really been one hero, even if there are MVPs, there has usually been one guy after another stepping up to save the day for our team.

Because our hitters are patient and don't strike out too much, starting pitchers' pitch count goes up faster, thus pushing their opponents to have to go to their middle inning pitchers first, before having to face KC's three-headed monster of Herera, Davis, Holland 7, 8, 9.  They also have Frasor, Duffy and Finnegan, who have all been great.  So they have a pretty good bullpen too, middle to end, perhaps better than our bullpen, they remind me of the 2012 Giants in that overall their bullpen numbers are pedestrian, but they aren't carrying those bad relievers, they just got the ones who are very good.  Looks like we will need to get to their starters for big runs first and then need to outlast their strong bullpen.

Their hitters are also tough like the Giants, not striking out much, putting balls into play a lot.  However, unlike the Giants, they do not walk much.  I think that this plays into the Giants pitchers' happy zone.  Our pitchers frequently throw strikes and get them, particularly Bumgarner and Petit.  The other pitchers don't strike out a lot, but operate with a lot of BABIP, which our fielders are used to doing anyway, and like the Royals, rarely make mistakes that the other team capitalizes on.

One stat I've had a laugh at is the one about how the Royals weren't homerun hitters during the regular season, but they have been during the playoffs, and therefore that is an advantage for them.  The Giants pitchers are not strikeout guys for the most part, but what they are is good homerun preventers.  That was documented in a Fangraphs study a while back, how no matter what personnel or year, the Giants have been pretty good at avoiding giving up homeruns.  Of course, this playoff month has seen a lot of homers, but they have mostly been because Strickland apparently had been tipping his pitches.

Fangraph analysis found that the Giants hitters have a general advantage as well:
By the pitch type values, at least, it looks like the Giants’ hitters are equipped to handle the fastballs of the Royals’ staff. And the Royals’ hitters may have trouble with the Giants’ breaking balls. These are general statements, hopefully made more believable by focusing on a larger sample. 
Thus, I think the series will hinge on how well each starter does for their team.  According to this MLB.com article, their starting pitchers have struggled so far in the playoffs:
Solid starting pitching has been a strength for the Royals this season, but staff ace James Shields (5.63 ERA) has struggled in the postseason, No. 2 manYordano Ventura showed diminished velocity and left his ALCS start with shoulder tightness, and the Royals have had to be careful enough with Danny Duffy's innings that he has been kept out of the rotation altogether this October.
Thus they are relying a lot on Vargas and Guthrie to come through.  Vargas has done well in these playoffs with two DOM starts, but Guthrie only got the one start and only a 2 PQS, because he didn't strike out too many batters (just 2).

Where our staff, at least during the regular season, has done much better than the Royals is in the percentage of Disaster starts.  Even mediocre pitchers can sustain a lower ERA (like Hennessey) by avoiding the disaster starts.  A DIS start really skews things and jumps the ERA up.  While Shields and Bumgarner were basically the same, Peavy/Hudson/Vogelsong averaged roughly 12-13% DIS starts, while the Royal's Ventura/Guthrie/Vargas averaged roughly 20%.  And 80-90% of the time you have a disaster start and the other team don't, you lose.

So far this post-season, KC in their 8 games has a 63% DOM and 0% DIS, while SF has in their 10 games, 60% DOM and 20% DIS.  SSS rules as usual, but KC's staff was not that good at avoiding the DIS start in the regular season.  But they are looking due for at least one DIS start.  A thin margin for the Giants, but if they can get that advantage, that is often enough for a series win, tipping it in their favor.  Because, as I've been saying often this post-season:  every game is a must win.

I would caveat, on the Giants side, that Peavy, had he been allowed to go another inning, and did that OK, he probably would have gotten a 2 PQS, it was just that it was a run-scoring opportunity, which Bochy cashed in but it was for naught because the Giants ended up losing 5-4.  So he was not that bad, but wasn't that good either, which is the theme of his playoff career.

Vogelsong, however, was plain bad, but mostly hurt by BABIP.  Still, Peavy has no DOM playoff games to his credit, whereas this was the first blip on Vogelsong's post-season career, in 7 starts, 3 DOM, only 1 DIS, for 42% DOM and 14% DIS, and 1 or less runs given up until this last start (DIS starts will do that to you).  However, that is not as good as Vogelsong has done in the regular season for us, so he could be feeling the pressure during crunch time as well.

I think our success in this World Series will revolve around how well our starters do relative to the Royal's starters, much like the Orioles losing to the Royals, rather than the Royals beating the Orioles.  The ones who can laid down a DOM start on the throat of the other team will help lead his team to the trophy.  Bumgarner looks likely, but he faltered against Wainwright the second tie.  Peavy just has never had one DOM start.  Perfect time for one.  Hudson has been seemingly rejuvenated this post-season, with two DOM starts, much like he was laying down early this season.  He's getting a lot of rest again leading into the Game 3 start, so

With similar enough starters, lineup, bullpen, defense, the big advantage the Royals have over the Giants are their speed and willingness to use it to try to disrupt the Giants defense, as well as gain an extra base.   Posey is a good catcher, able to throw out runners with his strong arm, but our pitchers have not always been the best at holding runners.  Hopefully our pitchers can keep their cool, and just focus on pitching while trying to keep the runner close enough to 1B so that Posey can have a chance to throw the runner out.

This might set the stage and foundation for what we will see in this World Series, if they keep the Giants off-balance, the Royals could force the issue and take over the series.  This is the only way I can see the Royals for sure making the Giants look bad, is via a cartoon samba across the basepath to score runs, as they haven't really faced such an offense before except for the Royals, and, er, we got beat Royally.

And that might be our saving grace there, losing all three to them already.  They can't help but feel subconsciously over confident from doing that.  It is just human nature, even though I see some of them saying the right things.

Meanwhile, never bet against our Giants when their backs are against the wall or when they have been embarrassed like that.  Like Panik studying how to hit the best cutter in baseball, to Posey prepping the pitchers on the opposing teams hitters, to the Giants advanced analytics team positioning our fielders at just the right spot most of the time, the Giants overall seem like a team that likes to prepare extra well for the other team.  And while not every team without experience screws up, KC didn't exactly do all that well either in the ALCS, their pitching let them down, and if it wasn't for the Oriole's pitching doing worse, the story might be about the orange and black facing the black and orange.  I also see the Giants pinch-hitting options being denigrated, but Susac and Duffy did well after their first month of adjustments, plus Perez has been good in stretches as well, and Arias was on fire at the end of the season.

An article I was reading about how good the Royals are noted how they are proof that you don't need two aces to get through the playoffs and reach the World Series.  What it is proof of is that when you got two teams who don't have multiple aces, somebody has to win the series, two aces or not.  That's obvious, on the face of it, but nobody seems to notice that is the reality.  The point about having multiple aces is to maximize your team's chances of making it through the playoffs, go deep, and get into the World Series.

While the Giants do not have aces this season, in prior runs, they did have them, in terms of performances, in Cain, Lincecum, Bumgarner in 2010, Cain, Bumgarner, Vogelsong in 2012.   I think Bumgarner and Hudson look ready to give us that DOM start, and hopefully Vogelsong can do it too.  Hudson got plenty of rest between starts which has got to help him, and I'm hoping it helps Vogelsong as well.  Peavy has not had one DOM start in the playoffs ever, so this would be a great time for at least one, if not two.   As my study has shown, the starting pitcher's performance in the game makes a huge difference in whether a team wins or not.

Baseball Prospectus published a preview of the World Series.  It notes that the Giants don't give away many outs, being first or near the top in a number of categories like fewest outs on the bases.  Yost's lack of usage of pinch-hitters, but frequent use of pinch-runners.  Bumgarner's four-seam fastball being one of the few "80" pitches in the league, and arguably getting better with each start.  Opponents this October are hitting .132 against the four-seamer with a .132 SLG, meaning zero ISO.  Shields leaning heavily on the cutter, which is the pitch Panik hit a homer off of Wainwright because of the work he put in studying Bill Mueller hitting a homer of Mariano Rivera.  The author also noted that his cutter has been elevating it more than usual, with three homers, as he's been hit fairly hard, so that's something to watch out for too.

Scenario Thinking

I was reading Kawakami's column analyzing the World Series - he picked the Giants in 6 games - and I realized that such an exercise would not have any value if I take a scenario approach to it.

And the theme, much as it has been this post-season, pivots on what happens in Game 1.  I think Bumgarner is going to have the game of his life.  He has risen to the occasion so very often, and has two shut-outs already in the previous World Series.  I expect him to win Game 1 and Game 5 - which is what Kawakami thinks too - which reduces it to winning two games in five for Peavy (2 games), Hudson (2 games), Vogelsong (1 game).  I also think that the Royals, so used to running over the other teams in the playoffs that a loss would put that seed in their mind, and the Giants would win in 4 or 5 games, mainly because they have Petit in reserve in the likelihood that a starter has a rough and/or short start, then Lincecum, who should be very rested by now.  I'm about 80% sure he'll win, both because he'll pitch well, as well as Shields will give it up at some point.

In the scenario that the Giants lose Game 1, I still think that the Giants will win in 6 or 7 games.  Overall, the Royals staff did not rise to the occasion in the ALCS, they just did well enough to beat the Orioles, but the Royals did not beat the Orioles, the Orioles lost to the Royals, as their starting pitching let them down.  And if they struggled to rise to their seasonal potential in the ALCS, I suspect they will struggle some, as a group, in the World Series.  They also had issues with DIS starts in the regular season as well, the World Series could amplify that tendency.

For, as I've documented here before, prior research found that offense demonstrated during the season don't correlate with playoff success (BP and THT).  It is good pitching and fielding that correlates.  Thus, it is up to each team's starters and relievers to dictate the action.

I had forgotten to check, but Shields has been mostly a mess starting in the playoffs (Fangraphs has a blog on this too, found it after writing this).  He does have some DOM starts to his credit:  in 9 starts, 4 DOM and 2 DIS or 44% DOM/22% DIS.  However, he has held opponents to three runs allowed or less only four of those starts, meaning he has given up four or more runs in five of those starts.

All the other Royals are playoff newbies.  Vargas has risen to the occasion with two DOM starts.  Ventura had a DOM in the ALDS but a 2 PQS in the ALCS.  Guthrie didn't even get a start in the ALDS and had a 2 PQS in the ALCS as well.  As much as it's said that experience is not key in the World Series, it is if the pitcher's can not handle the adrenaline rush in the early part of the game, and they make all sorts of location mistakes.  And given what happened in the ALCS, I have to think that at least one if not two of the Royal's starters will falter in their first World Series start.  That should be enough to win it again for the Giants.

However, if their starters step up and pitch to how well they did in the regular season, it will be a battle between the two teams that will be epic, particularly if Shields step up against Bumgarner, and the Championship will pivot on one key play/mistake being made at some point during the series, creating another Series hero.

Go Giants!  Win us another championship!  #ChampionBlood #ThreeIsANiceNumber

Monday, October 20, 2014

Thank You Brian Sabean!

I posted this on MCC, but wanted to share it here, just in case it got censored in some way.  I also realized that I had left in some grammar errors, so this fixes some of them

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