Saturday, September 26, 2009

The 2009 Giants: Sources of Improvement

The 2008 Giants scored 640 runs and gave up 759 runs. These Giants are on pace to score 652 runs and give up 619. The Giants improved by 12 runs offensively and by 140 runs defensively.

Pitching is a component of defense. ERA is based off of the ineffective system of allocating ‘errors’ to specific fielders: I’ll use FIP (fielding independent pitching) to look at pitching on its own.

Fangraphs has the Giant’s team FIP dropping from 4.24 last year to 3.85 this year, a substantial improvement in performance. Here’s a closer look at individual players.

Name                     FIP(08) Name                    FIP(09)
Tim Lincecum         2.62     Tim Lincecum       2.33
Matt Cain                 3.91     Matt Cain              4
Jonathan Sanchez   3.85    Jonathan Sanchez 3.97
Barry Zito                4.72     Barry Zito             4.27
Kevin Correia          5.1       Brad Penny           4.89
Pat Misch                 5.44    Randy Johnson      4.95
Brian Wilson            3.93     Brian Wilson          2.53
Keiichi Yabu            4.06     Jeremy Affeldt      3.49
Tyler Walker          4.24      Sergio Romo          2.03
Jack Taschner        4.49      Bob Howry             3.84
Alex Hinshaw         4.82      Brandon Medders 4.13
Billy Sadler             5.37       Merkin Valdez       4.6
Vinnie Chulk          5.53       Justin Miller           4.91

Starting pitching does not change as much as one might think. Tim Lincecum is even better than during his Cy Young season, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez are about the same, Barry Zito improves dramatically, and the veteran signings provide a small boost over the young long-relief types. Still, these are substantial improvements that played their part in the success of the Giants this year.

The big difference is in the bullpen. At every spot the Giants experience a large improvement in FIP. As the bullpen pitches far fewer innings than the rotation, each had about the same effect.


The purely defensive component netted the Giants about 30 runs, as their team UZR improved from 16.2 to 45.8. Let’s see who the primary contributors were.

1B Aurilia/Bowker                     -2.1         ->   Ishikawa             9.7

LF Fred Lewis                            7.3           - >  Velez                   6.6

                                                                             Winn                         6.5

                                                                            Lewis                         4.7

CF Aaron Rowand                      -6.5         ->  Rowand               .8

RF Randy Winn                          16.1         - > Winn                   9.4

                                                                           Schierholtz             5.5

The big improvements are at first base and in the outfield. Travis Ishikawa netted 12 runs with his glove alone. Aaron Rowand recovered from his rib injury to post an average UZR. While Randy Winn was excellent as usual, Velez and Schierholtz took over two thirds of Lewis’s innings for a good improvement.


The Giants went from a bad team to a contender thanks to the efforts of Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Johnson/Penny, and Wilson/Affeldt/Romo on the mound and the work of Travis Ishikawa, Nate Schierholtz, and Eugenio Velez on the field while the offense of Pablo Sandoval neutralized the deteriorating hitting of our veterans.

Thoughts to keep in mind for the offseason:
When Randy Winn leaves we will lose our best defensive player. There’s a risk that we lose production in the outfield if Velez and Schierholtz regress as hitters.
A platoon between Ishikawa and Garko will hurt our defense, but not by much- we will face more righties than lefties. I would be wary of a free agent acquisition at first base; Ishikawa is the best 1B in baseball this season in UZR, so any player signed must be a very big improvement at the plate. A player such as Adam LaRoche (UZR: -2.4) would not be worth it after taking defense into account.
Freddy Sanchez’s UZR on the season at second base is 5.8. There’s a good chance for improvement there if resigned. However, upcoming knee surgery does not bode well for his range in the field.

The Giants will be experiencing some amount of regression in defense next year. The rotation should be at the same level if not better. Bullpen performance is erratic; we’ll have to see if Affeldt, Romo, and Wilson can build on their breakout performances, or fall back to the norm- unfortunately for the Giants, the latter is far more likely.

No comments:

Post a Comment