Sunday, February 17, 2013

Getting the Band Back Together

Saturday was the first full team workout. That means it's probably time to start getting my thoughts together about the 2013 Giants. The most obvious aspect of the the 2013 team is that it looks remarkably similar to the 2012 team that won the World Series. 

There's a part of me that says: isn't that what the front office did for the 2011 team? However, I think that the 2012 team had much stronger players than the 2010 team. There's an easy way to encapsulate the difference: the continuity of 2012-2013 is based on a core set of players who've come up through the Giants' system, who I'd like to think have not hit their ceiling. It's still possible, for instance--and this isn't just spring training talking--that Brandon Crawford could improve on his .248/.304/.349 slash line. Admittedly, he struggled during the first half, but showed a marked improvement during the second. I'd take either his August (.281/.329/.359) or September (.288/.351/.409) for 2013--although there's no way that September .380 BABIP is sustainable; August's .327 is a more modest request. To put the numbers in perspective, his season BABIP was .307, while ZiPS projects a .230/.292/.340 slash line for 2013, which I think is too low given that Bruce Bochy seemed to be fairly careful with platooning Crawford to get the best performance out of him. (See also Hank Schulman's piece on this subject here).

And Brandon Belt has room to improve as well. Eno Sarris at Fangraphs has an interesting piece on Belt's turning point, about learning to love the line drives, during 2012 if you're interested. And you should be.

By contrast, the strategy for 2011 seemed to be: 'We just need to catch a few career years as the veterans role downhill, just like last year.' Aaron Rowand. Aubrey "Infield Fly" Huff. Miguel Tejada. Orlando Cabrera. Okay. That's enough of 2011.

Well, not exactly. The Giants, to get the band back together, have also brought back two important pieces of 2010, who were traded after the 2011 season to the Mets for Angel Pagan: Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez. You probably don't want to look at their 2012 numbers. The odds are that Ramirez, who is a non-roster invitee, will be competing for the longman role in the bullpen, which admits of numbers that are closer to his 2012, but it would be nice for him to settle into a season like 2011, with a 2.62 ERA (133 ERA+) and 8.7 K/9. It might help his case that the competition--the likes of Chad Gaudin and Sandy Rosario--aren't exactly inspiring (inspiring yet...?).

And Torres, the fan favorite of 2010...what is there to say? He was a crucial part of the 2010 team, and while he struggled in 2011 he never caught the ire of fans as did Rowand, Huff, or Tejada. As for 2013, he'll be judged on his ability to platoon against lefties to Gregor Blanco's right handed opponents. Over his career, Torres' numbers as a right handed batter are slightly better than him batting left handed, thought the splits are much more drastic in 2012:

vs RHP as LHB 262 226 44 7 5 3 .195 .292 .310 .602 .246
vs LHP as RHB 171 147 42 10 2 0 .286 .382 .381 .763 .362
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 2/17/2013.

Yes, drastic. But since I'm currently obsessing with BABIP, look at the difference there. While that's not sustainable--his career number is .309--the OBP is impressive enough. Nevertheless, left field could get crowded this season, with Belt, Brett Pill, Blanco, and Torres potentially spending time out there. As we know with Bochy, that's determined by who has the hot bat. Until then, Torres is saying all the right things:
Torres said the Mets tried to bring him back and the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers expressed interest. But throughout the process, he was eyeing only one destination.
“This is home for me,” he said. “San Francisco gave me an opportunity when I was in the minors to make the team, and gave me a job. I won the World Series here. I really appreciated those things."
Speaking of 2010 post-season heroics, Cody Ross will be patrolling the outfield for the Diamondbacks for the next three years. Would we really want to see Torres in Dodger blue?

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