Monday, December 22, 2014

A tough 2015 for the Orange and Black

Look, I don't understand a lot of ZIPs projections on Fangraphs, but here's what they say about next year's team. I disagree with their evaluation that Pence is due for a decline because he can't run as fast??? --

Batters
With regard to their field players, San Francisco doesn’t currently feature so much a stars-and-scrubs sort of configuration as they do a Buster-Posey-surrounded-by-roughly-average-players one. Posey is projected by ZiPS not only to record the highest wOBA among Giants hitters by over 20 points but also to play slightly above-average defense at a position that receives the largest positive adjustment in the calculation of WAR.

Of some note, perhaps, is ZiPS’ seeming pessimism regarding Hunter Pence. After averaging five wins per season over the last two years, Pence is forecast to produce only half that figure in 2015. In fact, there’s probably less decline projected for ZiPS than one might think at first glance. Pence, for example, has recorded nearly 1.5 wins due to baserunning alone over the last two years after having posted mostly just average seasons by that measure before that. Even just applying regression here accounts for some of Pence’s seeming decline.
Pitchers
The San Francisco Giants won the 2014 World Series and they did it (ultimately) with a rotation featuring Madison Bumgarner, Tim Hudson, Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, and Tim Lincecum — plus some combination of Jake Peavy and Yusmeiro Petit. That’s different, however, than suggesting that Bumgarner, Hudson, et al., are necessarily a championship-level rotation. Giants starters accounted for the third-lowest collective WAR among the majors’ 30 clubs in 2014, nor does ZiPS’ 2015 forecast call for much improvement in this regard.

One pitcher of note for 2015 — in particular for how projections might or might not be able to account for his unusual career and lack of arm speed — is right-hander Yusmeiro Petit. He recorded the second-highest WAR among all Giants pitchers in 2014 but also produced an ERA about a run worse than his FIP (a disparity he’s exhibited through his career). ZiPS regards that gap between his ERA and FIP as a real thing, thus rendering Petit’s projection less encouraging than it might otherwise be based on fielding-independent numbers alone.
Bench/Prospects
Neglected in the discussion of San Francisco’s batting core above but also the recipient of an encouraging projection is catcher Andrew Susac. His competence will allow Bruce Bochy to deploy Posey at first base for purposes of rest and against left-handed pitchers. Should recent acquisition Casey McGehee implode entirely, both Matt Duffy and Adam Duvall would appear to be potentially useful alternatives at third base. Among pitchers, right-hander Clayton Blackburn appears to be the most qualified among the Giants’ minor-league pitchers to prevent runs in the majors.

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