Monday, August 22, 2011

Who Has the Better September Offense: Giants or Diamondbacks?

This might seem like a ridiculous question. The Giants are a horrible offensive team, while the Diamondbacks have Justin Upton and 10 other guys that can hit 450 foot home runs. The Giants team wRC+ is 79, while Arizona is at 93. But a closer look at the individual parts that will make up both lineups in the final month of the season reveals that there potentially isn't much of a gap.

San Francisco's ideal lineup would include a healthy Carlos Beltran and Brandon Belt playing, either at 1st base or in left field. Mike Fontenot gets the nod over Tejada and Cabrera at shortstop. The only decision is whether to play Belt at first base and Ross in the outfield, or Huff at first and Belt in left field. I went with Ross. Here's the lineup and their 2011 wRC+:

Ross - 96
Schierholtz - 105
Beltran - 145
Sandoval - 132
Fontenot - 89
Keppinger - 102
Belt - 91 (before his 4 hit game on Sunday)
Whiteside - 74

Now here is Arizona's:

Parra - 103
Young - 95
Upton - 147
Roberts - 114
Bloomquist - 76
Johnson - 89
Goldschmidt - 132
Montero - 107

Let's remove Goldschmidt and Belt for a moment. They both have a small amount of plate appearances, and I am pretty confident in saying Belt is the better hitter. That's an advantage for the Giants. But let's pretend it's even, and look at the rest of the lineup. Looks pretty even as well.

This is all dependent, of course, on the health of Carlos Beltran. If he isn't part of that San Francisco lineup, it changes everything. And just because the Giants might be as good as the Diamondbacks or possibly have an edge offensively doesn't mean they'll perform better, especially in the short period of a month.

Cap of the tip to Curse of Benitez for his close reading of Baseball Rulebook, Page 1, invaluable insight that guided my work and made this post possible.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Facts and Statisticinos About Tomorrow's Starting Pitcher

Check this out, loyal readers. Madison Bumgarner turned 22 this August, meaning his official age for the 2011 season is 21 (he was 21 on June 30, the halfway point of the season). He is having an historically great season for a pitcher his age, especially in the DIPS department. He's in his first full season, and he already has better command of the strike zone than his teammates Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum right now. Lincecum and Cain already had the "stuff" when they arrived in the majors; they had to add some quality pitches and "learn how to pitch" to become the aces they've been for several years. Bumgarner has a certain amount of "stuff"; he also seems to already have a great idea of "how to pitch". His K/BB ratio is 3rd best all time for a pitcher his age in a single season, and his placement barely changes if you use age 22 as the qualifier instead. Notice that the closest pitcher in recent memory is Brett Anderson, and he's not even that close. The only recent pitchers with K/BB over 3.00 on that list are Anderson and King Felix. Madison Bumgarner right now is doing something pretty unique. Imagine what kind of pitcher he could be in 2 or 3 years. Should we expect a development in either his stuff or his overall pitching ability?

Perhaps not. Every pitcher develops differently, and Bumgarner now could be close to the finished product. Maybe he never has another 2.60 FIP season. He could still be an excellent pitcher. Perhaps the improvement occurs in his ability to prevent weak contact. His .330 BABIP is very high and a product of bad luck and poor defense, but maybe part of it is attributable to his skill or approach. There could be a regression in his home run prevention, or even his strikeouts and walks.

But is that what we should expect? No. It's only fair and normal to think that he will get better in some respect. Which is exciting. And scary.