Thursday, July 28, 2011

Much Better: Hall DFA'd, Burriss Sent Down

Okay, Pat Burrell was not released. Bill Hall was. And Brandon Belt was not sent to AAA. Emmanuel Burriss was. This is good news, because these moves are exactly what the Giants should have done. But that blatant error on the part of CSN made me write a rant post that now looks kind of dumb.

You can still read it here if you like.

A lot of it still applies. There's stuff about Beltran, and while Belt hasn't been sent down, we heard today that the Giants envision him in a role similar to that of Travis Ishikawa last season. In other words, Brandon Belt will mostly be a pinch hitter/defensive replacement. And Huff is still starting. Which is terrible. So that rant still applies. Also, ALEX HINSHAW?

I don't know about you but I haven't been this excited for a game since Opening Day. I'll say Carlos Beltran goes 2-for-4 with 2 singles and 9 RBIs. Oh and he'll also make the pitcher balk. That talented.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Too Much to Handle

What a freakin' rollercoaster. I don't like rollercoasters. They make me throw up. I can't know this because I've never been on a rollercoaster, but I'd like to think I'd throw up if I ever got on one. That's how I avoid them. And recent events are confirming my worries.

Let's start at the beginning.

The Giants acquired Carlos Beltran. You know that. What you may not know is how it all went down. The Giants traded Gary Brown. Damnit, I thought they could get him without giving up a top prospect. Wait, they're giving up Zack Wheeler. No! Wheeler's even better. They're trading Wheeler and Brown. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FUCKING SHITTING ME. Oops, they're just giving up Wheeler. Okay...I hate whoever put that rumor out there. It's very possible that the Giants are giving up Wheeler, Eric Surkamp, and Francisco Peguero for Beltran. Dead. Wait, the Giants may be getting more than just Beltran. OMG REYES?! Shutup, that isn't happening. In the end, they gave up top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler in the deal, a fairly steep price to pay, and a price I wasn't willing to pay up until today. But I trust the Giants in evaluating pitching prospects and the thought of Beltran in the lineup is jus too exciting, so I'm okay with the deal.

That's not to say this isn't a huge risk. Beltran has a pretty significant injury history and is likely a two month rental. If the Giants don't win the World Series or if Beltran gets injured and Wheeler goes on to be a star, yikes. But I've decided it's a risk worth taking. Okay.

It get's announced that Beltran will play RF, with a Schierholtz/Ross platoon in LF. Small quibble, but Schierholtz is a very good right fielder, not to mention the skill it takes to play that position at AT&T park. And why is Schierholtz getting platooned? It doesn't really make sense to give one of your better players LESS playing time, but that will be a common theme later in this post.

Matt Cain is Matt Cain. Getting shit done.

Now there's the business of clearing a 40-man and 25-man roster spot for Beltran, who will be arriving and starting tomorrow. What's this? Brandon Belt is optioned down to AAA AGAIN and Pat Burrell is released to make room on the 40-man roster. Whoa.

At first glance, the real baffling move is to send Brandon Belt back to AAA. The Giants have one of the worst players in baseball this year playing Belt's position right now. There's that whole not playing your best players theme already. And it's not like they can blame this demotion on Belt's struggles at the plate, which was at least a somewhat legitimate excuse after his first demotion. Belt has barely played, but when he has, he's hit pretty well (no hits against Clayton Kershaw, one of the best lefties in the game, so who cares). And, wait a minute, Emmanuel Burriss is still on the Major League roster? That guy as an OPS+ of 41. But he's FAST!! Give me a break. The Giants don't really need him for depth - Keppinger, Fontenot, and Crawford all play SS. The case can even be made that Crawford should be sent down before Belt. For all of his great defense, he can't hit, and isn't going to get much playing time going forward.

But the decision to release Burrell might be more mind-numbingly dumb. It wasn't necessarily that surprising because Aaron Rowand is owed too much money to be cut, of course. But Pat Burrell had the 3rd best OPS on the team this season. He really can still hit. The worst part is that he did NOT need to be released to make room on the 40-man roster. Steve Edlefsen. Clayton Tanner. Alex Hinshaw (What the hell is this love affair with Hinshaw, who is AWFUL?). Bill Hall. These guys are all not very good. Why keep them? It's so un-sabermetric, but clubhouse chemistry is very important and we have every reason to believe that Pat Burrell was a big part of that. I'd love to think a team won't grab him or maybe he can retire and stay around the team. But as I pointed out, he's too good, and a smart team will pick him up.

UPDATE: CSN, who reported this news, has failed. Pat Burrell is not eligible to come off the DL and can't be released yet. Still, the point stands and I wouldn't be surprised if he's released soon.

UPDATE #2: Holy hell, Brandon Belt isn't being sent down and this post is mostly worthless. What the hell happened at CSN today?

I don't know. I haven't processed everything. There's an argument to made that the biggest upgrade this team could make was replacing Huff with Belt, and that isn't happening. And a good player and great clubhouse presence is being dumped in favor of much worse players. I love having Beltran on this team, but the Giants are doing their best to screw it up.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Matt Cain's Career Year

You know how we feel about Matt Cain on this blog. If you don't, just read this. Carl Steward filled in for Andrew Baggarly on Friday night, and had a very surprising opinion of Cain's 2011 season.

There's a lot to say about Matt Cain's 2011 season. His strikeouts are up from the last 2 seasons, and his walks are down. He's getting more groundballs, and allowing fewer home runs. His success against lefties has been especially impressive, possibly due to an improvement in his changeup, which he throws mostly to LHBs. The percentages differ whether you use Baseball Info Solutions or Pitch F/X, but the conclusion is similar: Cain has evolved in his pitch selection (I am using the Pitch F/X numbers):

60.3% 4 seam fastballs, 12.8% changeups, 12.6% sliders, 11.6% curveballs, 2.1% 2 seam fastballs

58.5 % 4 seam fastballs, 16.0% changeups, 8.8% sliders, 13.4% curveballs, 2.8% 2 seam fastballs

48.3% 4 seam fastballs, 17.9% changeups, 11.7% silders, 13.5% curveballs, 8.2% 2 seam fastballs

Not only has Cain increased his usage of the changeup since 2010, but he started developing a 2 seamer, and is now using it a significant amount of the time. I can't faithfully conclude what these changes mean exactly, but the difference in approach could be a reasonable explanation for why Cain is enjoying a career year.

Cain has maintained low ERAs, BABIPs, and HR rates throughout his career while having only above average K and BB numbers, leading to two explanations from the statistical community: he's overrated and lucky, or he's the exception to the rule. Both views may now be outdated, because Cain's FIP this year is down to 2.87, almost a run better than his career average, and 15th best in the majors. His amazing 4.5% HR/FB this year means his xFIP isn't as kind, but at 3.51 it's still .75 runs better than his career mark. His BABIP and LOB% are normal for his career, in fact a bit worse, partly to blame for his Fangraphs-adjusted ERA (ERA-) being only just as good as the total for his career.

I've been paying attention to this development in Cain for some time, which is why Carl Steward's confounding article from Friday bothered me so much. I don't imagine Steward cares what Matt Cain's FIP is; someone who rates Ryan Vogelsong as the most effective pitcher for the Giants this year probably only knows wins and ERA. Yet Cain's ERA is lower than it was last year. None of what Steward wrote really made sense. He described some kind of weird pattern of Cain pitching well in one start and then poorly in the next, something I haven't noticed nor what the record suggests. It could just be a case of looking at the past with...whatever the hell that metaphor is.

"He hasn't been horrible, he just hasn't been the Cain everybody saw in 2010."

That's unfair, and completely wrong. And so is Steward's line about Cain needing to become the rotation's "horse" again. I don't love that term, but it does describe part of Matt Cain's profile: he has never been hurt, and he pitches many innings each year. He can be counted on. Steward would have you believe that he has not been as reliable this season. Meanwhile Cain leads the staff in inning pitched, and he's been excellent at going deep into games. Lincecum and Vogelsong (Vogelsong in far fewer starts) have both failed to get past the 6th inning in 5 starts this season. Bumgarner hasn't gone past the 6th inning 4 times. Cain, reliable as ever, has only failed this criteria once, April 20th in Colorado. Very equine of him.

Now stop saying mean things about Matthew Thomas Cain.