Saturday, July 26, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: Things are Getting Uggla and They Just Got Peavy

The Giants brought up Dan Uggla yesterday, as well as Tony Abreu, as both Ehire Adrianza and Marco Scutaro both goes back onto the 15-day DL.  Unfortunately, both players being brought up were not on the 40-man roster, so Nick Noonan was DFAed, as well as off-season pickup, Jose De Paula.

Then they went out and got Jake Peavy for Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree (you were right Shankbone!)

ogc thoughts

As I commented somewhere, I have no problem with the Giants picking up Uggla and giving him a 25-man spot.  People focus on his decline from his very good years, which I understand.  But right now, we don't need him to be like his very good self, because we got Pence, Posey, Sandoval, Morse in the middle.

What we need is someone who can hit better than Hicks, Arias, Adrianza, Panik, and Scutaro can.  And the Uggla of 2012-2013 can do that in spades.  We don't need a top of the lineup hitter, we just need a steady contributor in the 6-7-8 spots, depending on the day and the pitcher.  Uggla, if 2014 is more a reflection of his discontent with his situation and the pressure of living up to his contract and thus he can be like his 2012-13 self would be good for us.

Of course, regular readers know that I still like Adrianza and that I have pointed out that he's been hitting well since June 1st.  But this is his second DL for the hamstring, and he's probably not getting better until he rests this off-season.   And I don't know if he's ready to be a regular, though if the opportunity were there, I would be OK with it.  But Uggla hasn't been that bad in 2012-13, just not very good, and those versions of him would be OK fine for us in 2014.

Alas Poor Noonan

I still believe in Nick Noonan, but sometimes a player needs more time than a team can give him or just need a change of scenery.  Of course, that's assuming that he's not claimed and returns to the Giants.  He is from the San Diego area though and they probably have a better opening in MI than the Giants, so he could end up there as well.

But he's shown good plate discipline in spurts in the minors and has hit well when he's in his groove.  Unfortunately for him, Joe Panik is like a better version of him, showing good plate discipline too, but doing it more and better than Nick.  Neither one is superior defensively either at MI spots, as well.  Good luck Nick, wherever you end up.

Paging Jake Peavy

Wow, there was enough smoke this time.  There were a lot of rumors that the Giants wanted Peavy.  I was a little surprised that Escobar was the one to go, but given his difficulties this season in AAA, I guess the Giants saw enough that convinced them that he's the one to let go.   Shankbone commented that Hembree might be a throw in, and once I read that, it just made sense to me, given how other relievers got the love this spring and he didn't even make the majors once this season.

And, really, the Giants had to be thinking of a two for one trade anyway, with Hector concussed and likely needing to go on the DL, they would need to add a non-roster catcher to the team today, and would need two spots open.  With Sabean's recent statement that everyone is up for grabs in trade (but only if a fair one in his estimation, so it's not a free for all either), meaning that no one is a keeper, may as well look to give up two for one in a deal, and open up a spot.

The rumors was that the Giants, or specifically, Bochy, wanted Peavy, with the thinking that being with his old manager might help Peavy figure things out.  Of course, that was true back when he was with the White Sox and reportedly on the trading block then too, but he ended up with Boston.   Hopefully that is true.  Don't have time to look at stats, but obviously, he's not doing that well for Boston.  But they still got two Top 10 prospects from the Giants, so they will certainly trumpet that in their press.

I like Petit, but he seems off this season vs. last season, which I attribute to him being a bit rusty pitching irregular relief vs. being a starter in the minors last season.  So I'm OK with this pickup as well, we need another starter with Cain up in the air apparently from the news of no improvement and nobody in the minors looking ready yet.

Catching Fire

With many of the moves that Sabean make, they try to catch lightening in the bottle.  So when they call up a catcher, I expect that Susac will be the recipient of the 40-man roster spot.  He's been hitting well and while not great defensively, most reports have been positive that I recall.  May as well give him a chance to play up here and see what he got.  And frankly, Sanchez has been banged up so many times that I don't expect him out for only 7 days, much like how Belt has been out more than 7 days (FYI, turns out that it was Scutaro that threw the ball that hit Belt in the face, and he just got sent back down:  coincidence?).

2013 Redux?

Wow, so many injuries happening and keeping guys out long term.  Seems a lot like 2013 again, when a lot of guys were out for injuries or dealing with recurring pain.  The difference is that our main lineup is still mostly OK, the bullpen seems fine, and the rotation just got a boost, hopefully.  But we will see.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My thoughts on Hembree, BABIP usage in Minors

This was a comment in response to a statement a while back about Hembree's BABIP "regressing to the mean" since it was higher than .300

ogc thoughts

The problem with using BABIP for minor league pitchers is that not all pitchers figure out the skill of hewing to the BABIP mean of .300 in the majors.  This gets especially iffy then for relievers where it is all SSS and BABIP isn't all that accurate.   So Hembree bad BABIP does not necessarily mean that there will be a regression to the mean.

There is a great interview with Mike Fast of the Astros where he talked about learning this while working inside (he was a well known sabermetrician prior to joining the Astros, for those who didn't know).   He noted that DIPS don't quite apply in the minors, that there are pitchers who don't learn the fine art of keeping BABIP to the mean .300 that most MLB pitchers do learn.  Search for interview with Mike Fast of Astros and that should get you the right link.

Not that Hembree hasn't learned, just that you can't just quote a high BABIP and make that assumption.   Checking out his numbers (reminder, this was written a while back), his career BABIP is roughly .327, so perhaps he hasn't learned.  And subtracting his poor numbers this season, his career BABIP previously was still .316, so perhaps this is an issue with Hembree.

Again, SSS, but the Giants must have a reason for keeping him down, I was amazed this off-season that Law got all the love from the Giants FO while Hembree barely got any mention, even though he had a stellar performance for them in his 2013 call-up, I thought he would be at least penciled in for a spot in 2014 opening day, since Sabean said that they needed to improve their bullpen.   But even Dunning got more mention for the bullpen than Hembree, it seemed to me.

And looking at his numbers, as closer, he should not be that messed up by poor relief with his inherited runners, and yet his ERA in AAA has never been all that good.  Yes, it's an offensive league, but there are plenty of pitchers who are better, he was 76th in the league.   And if DIPS don't work in the minors, ERA is all we got.  

He does have great K/BB ratios, and that will probably get him his chance, but if he can't figure out the BABIP issue, his chances to be a major leaguer, let alone a closer, is pretty iffy.   The good thing for him is that he has pretty good command and control, so he can minimize walks, but hits is what hurts, especially for a reliever, particularly for the closer expected to come in sometimes with runners on.  Giving up hits is fine if he's strictly closing when starting the 9th with no outs and no runners, but not so good when coming in a truer save situation. 

He must be grooving in pitches in order to avoid walks, so it seems to me that he needs to learn that walks aren't all that bad to give up if it means that you are giving the hitter good pitches to hit for base hits.   He has a very high K/9, he can afford to walk a few more if that means less hits given up, better to give up one more walk than one more hit, the vast majority of the time.

That said, I agreed with what was said about him.  He's probably coming up by season's end and getting some 7/8th inning action.  He's probably up for the closer role in 2015, but I wouldn't bet on it given the above.  Plus Casilla appears to be the man right now, though if Machi ever rights his ship, he could be considered given his experience closing in Venezuela.   And Affeldt could easily slip into the closer role, I think.  

In any case, Hembree should be out of options by next season, so he's most probably making the 25-man roster next season barring any implosion on his part in the spring 2015.   But even that's not a given, even if Romo leaves (doubtful he stays unless willing to accept reliever money like Affeldt and not closer money like Wilson), I expect Kontos to take a spot in the bullpen after his great comeback this season.  So Hembree's probably battling Kontos, Machi, Gutierrez for three spots in the bullpen, with Casilla, Affeldt, Lopez, and Petit in the other four bullpen spots (that's assuming Petit doesn't take Vogelsong's spot in the rotation, but then maybe Kickham takes that long reliever spot, right now).  And given Romo's difficulties now and ties to the Giants, he might accept an set-up reliever contract like Affeldt, Casilla, Lopez have gotten and be retained, making it only two spots open among the four.

And push come to shove, if it's three spots, probably its him against Gutierrez for the final spot, though I've noticed the Giants have been pushing their relievers to go beyond 1 inning, so Hembree could take the long relief spot by being able to pitch 2 innings to bridge to the middle relievers, who could also go 2 innings as necessary.

Your 2014 Giants: Brandon Crawford vs. LHP

Much has been made in the local media about Crawford's better hitting against LHP than RHP this season, how he has a much higher batting average vs. LHP than RHP.

ogc thoughts

It is easy to forget, but baseball skills don't really reveal themselves over small sample sizes.  For example, BABIP for a hitter is only considered after three years worth of hitting.  This period of proof is made even longer when you split the data up into LHP and RHP.  So quoting what a player is doing vs. arm thrown is pretty useless in-season, other than to note that he is currently better on one than the other, but that does not mean that it would necessarily hold for the season.  So I dug around in his stats to see what could be said about his hitting handedness.

Unfortunately, his minor league splits are not available, but if you look at the full-season ones, he basically has hit equally well against LHP as RHP, on a season by season basis, so LHP don't have the strong negative split for Crawford that LH hitters often has, he has hit both equally well, roughly, though slightly better RHP, natch.

Looking at his MLB splits, it appears that his great 2014 is just making up for a poor 2013 for LHP, and for RHP, it appears that he's having bad luck there, as a counter.

Against RHP, Crawford had roughly .300 BABIP in 2012-2013, but he's only at .248 in 2014.  His contact rate is really low, 74% after 81% in 2012 and 84% in 2013, though his BB/K ratio is about where it was before.  Plus, because he's hitting for a lot more power, his batting line vs. RHP is roughly the same between 2012 and 2014, .661 OPS vs. .650 OPS.

His career contact rate is 82% so he appears to be a little more swing happy in 2014, which could be a result of him trying to hit for more power, resulting his his much higher ISO of 156 in 2014 vs. 125 ISO in 2013 and 112 ISO in 2012.   I would expect him to swing back towards .300 BABIP in 2015 for RHP, while retaining some of that power improvement.

Against LHP, Crawford had .346 BABIP in 2012, .245 BABIP in 2013, and currently has (to July 22nd games) .388 BABIP, which I would attribute to SSS when dealing with LHP, and a regression to mean from his poor 2013 season for BABIP vs. LHP.

His contact rate has actually gone up, from 71% in 2012, to 74% in 2013, and basically 74% in 2014, while his BB/K ratio has gone up with each season, from 0.24 to 0.32 to 0.58 (vs. RHP it has vacillated, from 0.40 in 2012, to 0.52 in 2013, to 0.46 so far in 2014).  And his ISO has exploded (again SSS):  71 in 2012, 89 in 2013, 218 in 2014 (don't expect that to continue, but do expect it to improve on 2012-13, I think).

And lo and behold, here are his numbers for his career:

vs. RHP:  .241/.310/.363/.672, .279 BABIP, 81% contact rate, 0.52 BB/K, 122 ISO
vs. LHP:  .238/.306/.353/.659, .309 BABIP, 72% contact rate, 0.35 BB/K, 125 ISO

And that hews to what he did over several seasons in the minors, he hit LHP roughly as well as he did RHP (though slightly better RHP).

So I think it's safe to say that Crawford is one of those rare LH hitters who can hit LHP almost as well as he does RHP.   He has done it in the majors as well as the minors.  And for some reason, he seems to hit better in terms of impact against LHP than RHP, as he has a higher BABIP there, though, again, SSS says that we should trust this number much less than his RHP numbers, so that is more of a hope than a probably happening.

Still, I think his overall batting line, which has risen steadily from 2012 to 2013 to 2014, most likely will continue to rise again in 2015, his 28 YO season, as he should be reaching his physical peak somewhere around the next season or two.  His RHP #'s should go up and his LHP should go down, but his overall numbers should improve again, I think, as he consolidates his hitting lessons of the past few seasons.


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