Monday, November 24, 2014

2015 Giants Depth Chart: Starting Pitching Part II

In this post, we'll cover the starting pitchers who finished the season at AA, High A and Low A.

AA:

Ty Blach, LHP- 8-8, 3.13, 141 IP, 5.81 K/9, 2.49 BB/9, 1.07 GO/AO.  Blach pitched effectively, but the K's fell off.  That is an ugly ratio.

Clayton Blackburn, RHP- 5-6, 3.29, 93 IP, 8.23 K/9, 1.94 BB/9, 1.95 GO/AO.  Blackburn missed some time with injury, but put up strong numbers. The groundball ratio is particularly impressive for this high a level of play.  Got in some additional innings in the AFL and said he was working on a cutter or slider. Candidate for a mid-season callup in 2015, but the innings jump may be a limiting factor.

Chris Stratton, RHP- 1-1, 3.52, 23 IP, 7.04 K/9, 4.70 BB/9, 1.29 GO/AO.  High A- 7-8, 5.07, 99.1 IP, 9.24 K/9, 3.26 BB/9, 1.52 GO/AO.  Stratton's ERA was better in AA, but his peripheral numbers were way worse, albeit in a small sample size.  He's an enigma at this point.  Will 2015 be his breakout season?

Steven Snodgrass, LHP- 11-6, 3.56, 5.89 K/9, 2.81 BB/9, 1.51 GO/AO.  GB pitcher who pounds the K zone.  Could be a Jeremy Affeldt type lefty reliever in the making.

Kyle Crick, RHP- 6-7, 3.79, 90.1 IP, 11.06 K/9, 6.08, BB/9, 1.16 GO/AO.  As you can see from the K and BB numbers he's still got premium stuff with a huge wild hair up his nose.  BB/9 has been remarkably stable since day 1.  He's gotta find a way to bring that down.

Adalberto Mejia, LHP- 7-9, 4.67, 108 IP, 6.83 K/9, 2.58 BB/9, 0.64 GO/AO.  A bit of a disappointing season for Mejia, but he was one of the youngest players in the league.  Starts the 2015 season with a 50 game suspension.

********************

High A:

Joe Kurrasch, LHP- 8-4, 3.05, 91.1 IP, 4.83 K/9, 3.25 BB/9, 0.81 GO/AO.  Strong flyball tendency with a low K rate is not a recipe for future success.

Matt Lujan, LHP- 6-2, 3.42, 71 IP, 8.75 K/9, 2.92 BB/9, 1.39 GO/AO.  High A- 6-2, 2.19, 70.0 IP, 8.49 K/9, 2.70 BB/9, 1.47 GO/AO.  Very interesting numbers for the kid from San Francisco.  Got a late start due to TJ surgery, but is putting up consistently solid numbers.  Move him up and see what happens!

Joe Biagini, RHP.  10-9, 4.01, 128 IP, 7.24 K/9, 3.23 BB/9, 1.36 GO/AO.  Big RHP who the Giants are going out of their way to nurse along.  Those are workhorse/innings eating numbers.  Again, move him up and see what happens!

Kendry Flores, RHP.  4-6, 4.09, 105.2 IP, 9.54 K/9, 2.73 BB/9, 0.94 GO/AO.  Peripherals still look good.  Let's see what he does on AA.

Pat Young, RHP- 9-6, 6.13, 111.2, 7.50 K/9, 3.79 BB/9, 1.14 GO/AO.  Cal League hitters apparently did not think his stuff was as nasty as it looked to me on the video.  Needs just a little bit of everything here, a few more K's, a bit better command and needs to put the ball on the ground a bit more.

Nick Vander Tuig, RHP- 3-2, 5.06, 32 IP, 5.34 K/9, 1.41 BB/9, 1.81 GO/AO.  NVT did not appear until the short season started and was then brought along slowly with mixed results in a small sample size.  2015 will be a key season for him.

************************

Low A:

Luis Ysla, LHP- 6-7, 2.45, 121.1 IP, 8.53 K/9, 3.34 BB/9, 1.11 GO/AO.  Pretty good numbers.  Needs to bring the BB/9 down a bit to succeed at higher levels.

Christian Jones, LHP- 5-9, 3.33, 110.2 IP, 8.13 K/9, 2.11 BB/9, 2.05 GO/AO.  I consider a GO/AO of 2.00 or more to be an elite GB pitcher.  Combined with a low BB/9 and he should do well at higher levels.

Joan Gregorio, RHP- 2-7, 3.57, 68 IP, 8.60 K/9,  3.57 BB/9, 0.88 GO/AO.  High A- 2-2, 6.75, 22.2 IP, 10.72 K/9, 5.16 BB/9, 0.39 GO/AO.  High ceiling RHP.  Was wild in San Jose to start the season.  Settled down after being sent down to Augusta.  Will probably give SJ another try in 2015.

Carlos Diaz, LHP- 6-6, 4.16, 101.2 IP, 6.73 K/9, 3.28 BB/9, 1.55 GO/AO.  Solid groundball ratio but needs to cut down the BB's.

Steven Messner, LHP- 7-5, 4.17, 110 IP, 6.71 K/9, 3.19 BB/9, 2.70 GO/AO.  A bit old for the level, but the extreme GB ratio is interesting.

Chase Johnson, RHP- 4-7, 4.57, 110.1 IP, 7.67 K/9, 3.26 BB/9, 2.07 GO/AO.  Johnson tends to run hot and cold.  The GB ratio is encouraging.  Needs to cut down on the BB's.

Robert Ramer, RHP- 3-5, 4.73, 45.2 IP, 7.88 K/9, 2.56 BB/9, 2.03 GO/AO.  ERA not exciting, but the peripherals look good.  Old for level.

**********************

Overall, the system produced an unsettling pattern of the higher ceiling guys not performing up to expectations and the lower ceiling guys doing better.  Patience?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thoughts on "Stuff"

When evaluating pitchers, we often use a term called "stuff."  What is "stuff" you say?  I don't know if anyone has ever defined the term.  It definitely has to do with quality of pitches.  It is also more than simply velocity as pitch movement is also an important component of "stuff".  One logical way of measuring "stuff" is by the ability of the pitcher to get batters out all by himself, without the aid of fielders.  The obvious measure for this ability is strikeouts.  Not all strikeouts are created equal though.  Some pitchers are better at getting batters to not swing at pitches that the umpire calls strikes.  Other pitchers are better at getting hitters to swing at pitches outside the strike zone.  A few pitchers are good at getting hitters to swing and miss at pitches within strike zone.  Intuitively, a pitcher who can get batters to swing and miss at pitches within the strike zone might be working with better "stuff" than pitchers with lower rates of the same measure.

With the advent of PitchFx and electronic systems for calling balls and strikes, we can measure how many times a pitchers induces a swing and miss at pitches inside the strike zone.  Thanks to David Laurilia who posted these numbers in his Sunday Fangraphs column.  He credits Mark Simon of ESPN.  Here are the Top 10 pitchers in MLB in order of their percentage swinging strikes within the strike zone last year:

1.  Chris Sale- 23.2
2.  Max Scherzer- 21.8
3.  Marco Estrada- 21.7
4.  RA Dickey- 21.1
5.  YUSMEIRO PETIT- 20.5
6.  Jacob DeGrom- 20.3
7.  Collin McHugh- 20.0
8.  Michael Wacha- 19.8
9.  Cole Hamels- 19.7
10. Clayton Kershaw- 19.7.

Just saying…...

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Blast From the Past: Ray Sadecki RIP

Ray Sadecki, the man who is probably best known to most Giants fans as the guy they traded Orlando Cepeda for, died last week at the age of 73.  Oh my!  I have 5 patients in my medical practice who turned 100 this year and 1 who turned 101.  73 is so young these days!  Sadecki reportedly died from complications of "blood cancer" which I would interpret as being some form of leukemia.

I have to confess that my personal recollections of Sadecki are that he was a terrible pitcher for the Giants while Cepeda won an MVP and a World Series with the Cardinals.  Those recollections are not completely supported by objective data.  Sadecki actually pitched very well for the Giants in 1967 and 1968, the years the Cardinals and Cepeda were running away with NL Pennants.

Ray Sadecki was a "Bonus Baby" for the Cardinals and therefore had to stay on the MLB 25 man roster for 2 years immediately after signing.  He made his MLB debut in 1960 at the age of 19.  He pitched successfully but tended to wildness.  His best MLB season in terms of Wins was in 1964 when he went 20-11, 3.68, 220 IP, 4.87 K/9, 2.45 BB/9. Wins for starting pitchers had more meaning back in those days because most starting pitchers threw a lot of complete games.  Anyway, the Cardinals won the NL Pennant by 1 game over the Phillies and Reds.  It was the year the Phillies blew a 6.5 game lead with 12 games to play.  The Cardinals went on to win the World Series over the Yankees. Sadecki started 2 of the games but did not pitch particularly well.

Sadecki's numbers collapsed in 1965 and 1966. He was traded to the Giants on May 8, 1966 for Orlando Cepeda as the Giants had to choose between him and Willie McCovey at first base.  We all know what Cepeda did with the Cardinals, but Willie McCovey was actually the right choice for the Giants to keep.  Sadecki did not pitch well after the trade frustrating many Giants fans.  He pitched much better in 1967 and 1968:

1967- 12-6, 2.78, 188 IP, 6.94 K/9, 2.78 BB/9, 24 CG, fWAR= 4.0.
1968- 12-18, 2.91, 254 IP, 7.30 K/9, 2.48 BB/9, 36 CG, fWAR= 5.3.

The Giants got exactly what they wanted out of Ray Sadecki which was a reliable third starter behind Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry.  The problems for the Giants and Ray Sadecki was 1.  The Giants failed to support him with runs and 2.  They traded Cepeda to the wrong team as he was what the Cardinals needed to become a great team and run away with the NL Pennant twice in a row while the Giants finished second both seasons.

Sadecki's numbers went south again in 1969 and he was traded to the New York Mets.  He pitched effectively for the Mets as a swingman/spot starter for the next 5 seasons and won another NL Pennant with the Mets in 1973 and appeared in 4 World Series games which the Mets lost to the Oakland A's.

After his retirement, Sadecki, who was from Kansas City, had a ball field in the KC area named after him.  He died in Mesa, Arizona.

Hot Stove Update: Giants Sign Two Minor Leaguers

The Giants made two minor league FA signs yesterday:

Carlos Triunfel, IF, AAA:  .223/.256/.330, 4 HR, 3.7 BB%, 17.1 K%, 321 PA.  Triunfel was once one of the hottest prospects in all of baseball, mostly due to an irrationally exuberant love of prospects who are young for their level on certain websites.  He was finally cut loose from the Mariners organization after his progress stalled out.   The above numbers were put up last year in the Dodgers organization in hitter-friendly Albuquerque.  Amazingly for a guy who has been around as long as Triunfel, he is just entering his age 25 season.

Braulio Lara, LHP, AA:  2-1, 5.01, 8.87 K/9, 3.66 BB/9.  Lara comes out of the Tampa Bay Rays organization.  He is entering his age 26 season.  That is a nice enough K/9 that I could see him developing into a lefty specialist at the MLB level.

It would be a surprise if either of these signings have any impact in 2015.

Hot Stove Update: LaRoche Signs With the ChiSox

There was a significant FA signing yesterday in addition to the small trades.  Adam LaRoche signed a 2 year/$25 M contract with the Chicago White Sox.  LaRoche will essentially take Adam Dunn's place on the roster and likely share DH/1B duties with Jose Abreu.  Those two will provide a nice L-R punch in the middle of the 'Sox lineup.  The Nationals had turned down a $15 M option for LaRoche and did not make a QO, so the White Sox do not lose a draft pick.

LaRoche has had a remarkably consistent career hitting at least 20 HR's every year starting in 2005 except 2011 when he lost time to injury.  His batting line last year was similar to what he pretty much does every year:  .259/.362/.455, 26 HR, 14 BB%, 18.4 K%.  He is a much better all-around hitter than Dunn, but is not a good defender at 1B.

As for the Nationals, I assume they are planning to move Ryan Zimmerman to 1B and letting Anthony Rendon become the permanent 3B.

Hot Stove Update: 3 Small Trades

The Hot Stove fire died down a bit as the market seems to want to wait for the Sandoval decision before throwing another log on the fire.  Meanwhile a series of 3 smaller deals went down, 2 of which were driven by the Rule 5 Draft.  Although they did not generate headlines, these deals could become significant down the road.

Deal #1:  Dodgers acquire veteran RHP Joel Peralta from the Tampa Bay Rays for fireballing prospect Jose Dominguez.  The teams also swapped minor league pitchers with the Dodgers receiving LHP Adam Liberatore while sending RHP Greg Harris to TB.

Joel Peralta, RHP, 39 yo, MLB:  3-4, 4.41, 63 IP, 15 BB, 74 K, 9 HR.  The Dodgers are obviously trying to bolster their bullpen.  Andrew Friedman went after someone he knew well in Peralta.  The dingers should come down pitching on the West Coast, which will help the ERA, but Peralta is 39 yo.

Adam Liberatore, LHP, 27 yo.  AAA:  6-1, 1.66, 65 IP, 15 BB, 86 K's. The Dodgers desperately need a lefty or two in their bullpen and Liberatore put up great numbers in AAA.  He was equally effective against RH batters.  If he can carry that to MLB, this could be a bigger part of the deal than Peralta.

Jose Dominguez, RHP, 24 yo.  MLB:  0-0, 11.37, 6 IP, 3 BB, 8 K's.  AAA:  1-2, 3.24, 33 IP, 18 BB, 39 K's.  Dominguez is a fireballer who can hit 100 MPH.  The pitch tends to flatten out and he has command issues.  His secondary stuff is marginal at best.  He has 2 drug related suspensions in his past, the last one in 2012.

Greg Harris, RHP, 19 yo, low A:  7-6, 4.45, 87 IP, 28 BB, 92 K's.  Nice K rate but marginal stuff.

Dodgers seem to get the best of this one as they get 2 potentially valuable bullpen pieces that can help immediately.

**********************

Deal #2:  Padres acquire minor league LHP Kyle Bartsch from the Royals for minor league OF Reymond Fuentes.

Reymond Fuentes, OF, 23 yo,  AAA:  .261/.337/.376, 13 SB, 17 BB, 27 K, 157 AB.  AA:  .324/.386/453, 4 HR, 12 SB, 16 BB, 37 K, 170 AB.  Fuentes came to the Padres along with 1B Anthony Rizzo and RHP Casey Kelly in the Adrian Gonzalez trade.  Fuentes hit .330 with 35 SB's in the minors last year but just .158 in a brief MLB callup.  Kind of tough to believe the Padres did not want him on their 40 man roster but that was the driver of this trade.  He profiles as exactly the type of OF the Royals are stockpiling.

Kyle Bartsch, LHP, 23 yo, High A:  5-5, 2.29, 55 IP, 12 BB, 52 K's, 7 Saves.  Nice numbers but scouting reports say fringe-average velocity.

Royals are the clear winners of this trade.  The Padres now have Andrew Cashner(acquired for Anthony Rizzo), Casey Kelly and Bartsch to show for the AGone trade.  I would say that trade did not work out the way either side hoped it would, although Cashner could be an ace pitcher if he can stay healthy for a full season and Kelly probably still has some potential.

***********************

Deal #3:  Cardinals acquire minor league 3B Ty Kelly for RHP Sam Gaviglio.

Ty Kelly, 3B/2B, 26 yo, AAA:  .263/.381/.412, 15 HR, 11 SB, 85 BB, 96 K, 456 AB.  Holy moly!  Just look at those K and BB numbers!  Man, I saw this trade and thought to myself that Kelly would make a nice target if Pablo ends up leaving.  Maybe one of the reasons the Cardinals went and got him was to prevent the Giants from getting him?  More likely he was not on the Giants radar at all, but it's fun to think about.

Sam Gaviglio, RHP, 24 yo, AA:  5-12, 4.28, 137 IP, 46 BB, 126 K's.  Nothing special here.

I would say the Cardinals were the clear winners of this swap of Rule 5 eligible players, although Kelly is blocked at both 3B and 2B in St Louis.

Friday, November 21, 2014

2015 Giants Depth Chart: Starting Pitching Part I

Despite winning their 3'rd championship in 5 years, the Giants come out of 2014 with their starting pitching looking more unsettled and precarious than it has in more than 5 seasons.  The roster as it currently stands has 1 ace pitcher and 4 major question marks with not a lot of help immediately available in the upper minors.

MLB Starters:

1.  Madison Bumgarner- 18-10, 2.98, 217.1 IP, 9.07 K/9, 1.78 BB/9.  Undisputed ace of the staff and one of the elite pitchers in baseball, especially in the postseason.  The best part he is still getting better adding in the high heater and the slow curve late as serious weapons late in the season and postseason.

2.  Matt Cain- 2-7, 4.18, 90.1 IP, 6.97 K/9, 3.19 BB/9.  We'll pencil Cainer in as the #2 until proven otherwise, but lots of questions in the wake of his early season ending elbow surgery.  Can he fully recover?  What will his velocity be like?  Can he succeed with the same stuff and approach he is used to?  We could be at a career crossroads for The Hoss.

3.  Tim Hudson- 9-13, 3.57, 189.1 IP, 5.70 K/9, 1.62 BB/9.  Will the offseason be enough to rejuvenate Huddy?  He was tremendous in the first half last year, kind of collapsed down the stretch and was clearly out of gas by the end of the World Series.

4.  Yusmeiro Petit- 5-5, 3.69, 117 IP, 10.23 K/9, 1.69 BB/9.  Petit took over Lincecum's spot in the rotation down the stretch and was tremendous.  He carried that into the postseason.  He may be the second best SP on the team at this point, but has a history of inconsistency.  Rags tweaked the curveball and made it harder and sharper.  Is that the key to a new consistency?

5. Tim Lincecum- 12-9, 4.74, 155.2 IP, 7.75 K/9, 3.64 BB/9.  Maybe it was coincidence but Timmy fell apart when Hector Sanchez went out with the concussion.  He seemed to get a bit stronger as the postseason wore on, but Bochy still clearly did not trust him.  $18 M says he will be back in the rotation  to start the season, but for how long?  He has steadily lost velocity each season and was under 90 MPH for his average FB for the first time last year.  Tough to see him turn that around and tough to see him as a finesse pitcher.

Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong are both FA's.  The tea leaves are telling me that Peavy is gone, but that Vogey will probably be back on a similar deal as last year.  Vogey might be the guy who goes to the long relief/spot starter role.

AAA:

Chris Heston(RHP)- 12-9, 3.38, 173 IP, 6.50 K/9, 2.65 BB/9.  Heston is probably the 6'th starter as it currently sits, but it is almost certain someone will be brought in for that role before the offseason is over.  If not Vogey, then 2-3 minor league signs with ST invites.

Mike Kickham(LHP)- 8-8, 4.43, 148.1 IP, 7.95 K/9, 3.88 BB/9.  Kickham got worse as the season progressed.  At this point, his career seems to be going backwards.  Frustrating to watch because he appears to have good stuff.  Can he turn it around?  

Jake Dunning(RHP)- 0-3, 4.57, 65 IP, 7.06 K/9, 3.60 BB/9.  Dunning was exclusively a reliever until the final 3 weeks of the season when he got 4 starts.  The beat writers had been reporting that the Giants thought he might have a starters repertoire.  He went 3.60 ERA with 15 IP, 2 BB, 12 K's in those 4 starts.  Kind of a sleeper for 2015.

Austin Fleet(RHP)- 4-2, 3.95, 43.1 IP, 6.85 K/9, 2.70 BB/9.  AA- 8-1, 2.78, 97 IP, 7.14 K/9, 3.34 BB/9.  Fleet has been slowly and quietly working his way up the minor league ladder.  He held his own in the PCL which is a notoriously tough place to pitch.  Another sleeper candidate.

Kelvin Marte(LHP)- 1-2, 5.45, 36.1 IP, 5.20 K/9, 1.98 BB/9.  AA- 8-3, 3.83, 5.69 K/9, 2.38 BB/9. As you can see, Marte is an extreme contact pitcher.  I saw him pitch a couple of years ago with San Jose.  He had a FB that sat 90-92 MPH with a nice breaking ball and a solid changeup.  Longshot to be an eventual back of the rotation MLB starter.

Because of volume, we will cover lower levels in future installments.