Monday, November 03, 2014

How the Giants beat a mirror image of themselves

FanGraphs did a nice analysis of the World Series vic last week.

Tony Blengino notes that they're not really the exact same club and makes two key points

-- The Royals have a better outfield defense but the Giants have a superior infield defense

-- The Giants offense (because of AT and T Park) is vastly under-rated.

Here's the end of the article -

The Royals clearly measure up as a superior defensive club with regard to fly balls and line drives using this method. This is clearly not a surprise, considering the superior speed and instincts of their four primary outfielders, Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Nori Aoki and Jarrod Dyson. In the infield, however, the Giants have a very significant advantage, with a superior 88.2 ground ball multiplier, a better mark than any 2013 club.
It should be noted that the Giants’ defense improved significantly in the second half of the season. A number of factors caused this, and without any one of them, it is quite unlikely that they would have even made the playoffs. Panik replaced Brandon Hicks at second base, which turned out to be a major offensive and at least a slight defensive upgrade. The biggest change occurred in the outfield, however, and it was largely a matter of addition by subtraction.
Michael Morse may very well be the single worst defensive outfielder in baseball. He hits the ball really, really hard, but every advanced metric agrees that he gives back with his glove any offensive value that he provides. Less obviously, the loss of Angel Pagan actually turned out to be a defensive plus. The Pagan of a couple years back was a pretty solid defensive player, but even when healthy this season, wasn’t the same guy. Gregor Blanco turned out to be a defensive upgrade in center, and anyone they put in left – light-hitting Juan Perez, never-played-the-position before Travis Ishikawa – was certain to do less harm than would Morse.
Once safely ensconced in the World Series, with the DH now in play, the Giants were able to put their best offense/defense combo unit on the field for the first time all season. Their offense is plenty good enough to carry Juan Perez in left field when Morse is the DH. It is a near elite level offensive club, with a lights-out staff ace, and a surprisingly good defense, with no glaring individual weaknesses.
When you get down to it, defense is played by a team, not a group of individuals. The defensive strengths and weaknesses of each club’s individual members affect each player’s positioning. The Royals likely have superior individual defenders to the Giants – my eyes and the publicly available metrics say as much. The Giants’ individual defenders, however, are pretty solid in their own right, and the big-picture, macro level numbers suggest that their defense “plays up” as a unit.
There are a number of ironies surrounding the 2014 Giants. They signed Michael Morse to play left field, and wound up winning the World Series, in large part due to their team defense. Each of their championship clubs has featured highly paid mopup relievers such as Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum. Such imperfections cause one to lose sight of the big picture, though – they have quietly assembled a club that does lots of things very well, though you sometimes have to look a bit closer, and from a different perspective, to notice them. Hail to the victors – this was no fluke.


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