So, since I have a penchant for writing huge posts like these, I figured I'd take a look at the Giants' performance so far and rate individual players performances with a buy, sell, or hold. These aren't with regards to trades or anything, just with maintaining those levels of performance over the course of the season. As always, I'm happy to discuss any of my rankings or predictions, especially since I think a lot of people aren't going to be happy with what I have to say about the pitching staff. Also, if any of you are unfamiliar with the statistics I'm using BABIP is Batting Average on Balls in Play, a measure of how often a ball put in play goes for a hit for individual pitchers. There are some factors that can influence it, but by and large it hovers at around .290 for major-league pitchers.
April Giants Review
Overall Record: 13-11
Pythagorean Record: 12-12
Starting Rotation: 156.1 IP, 3.68 RA, 135 H (7.8 H/9), 86 K (5.0 K/9), 69 BB (4.0 BB/9), 6 HR (0.3 HR/9)
Barry Zito: 31.1 IP, 4.02 RA, 26 H (7.46 H/9), 19 K (5.5 K/9), 14 BB (4.0 BB/9), 1 HRA (0.3 HR/9), .260 BABIP
Verdict: Sell - So far in the season Zito has posted a K rate lower than last year's and a BB rate higher, his ERA surviving thanks to a miniscule home run rate and a very good hit rate (the latter helped out by his low BABIP), although Zito. Now, his peripherals will likely not remain quite as poor (switching from the AL to the NL, at the very least, should help here) but there's also no way his home run rate or hit rate stay so low.
Matt Cain: 35 IP, 1.54 RA, 12 H (3.1 H/9), 23 K (5.9 K/9), 17 BB (4.4 BB/9), 2 HR (0.5 HR/9), .118 BABIP
Verdict: Sell - Obviously he won't maintain a 1.54 ERA or a .120 BAA, but beyond the unsustainable hit rate I've actually been a little disappointed with him. His strikeout rate has been subpar this season and his walk rate high, it's just been that impossibly low hit rate that keep it from hurting him. I fully expect his K rate to climb significantly and his walk rate to drop a bit over the course of the season, but I thought it was worth noting that his start hasn't been quite as amazing as it seems. He's had a big helping of luck to go along with his skill. A note about his BABIP, although .118 is clearly impossible, Cain does have the hallmarks of a pitcher who will be able to keep his below average over the course of his career: extreme fly-ball tendencies with a large number of infield flies, a strikeout pitcher, and one of those guys who just has a knack for keeping his hit rate lower than expected, an ability shared by only the greatest of pitchers (well, and knuckleballers and other freaks, but I prefer the Greg Maddux comparisions).
Matt Morris: 32.1 IP, 4.45 RA, 36 H (10.0 H/9), 14 K (3.9 K/9), 15 BB (4.2 BB/9), 1 HRA (0.3 HR/9), .315 BABIP
Verdict: Sell. Sell. Sell. Do I even have to tell you? The most astounding thing about Morris's start to the season is that his ERA isn't in the fives, hell, he's actually been hit unlucky, take a look at the BABIP. His deceptive start has been due to a couple of factors, only one of which he can be credited for: like the rest of the staff his HR rate has been low. He's had a good one since moving to San Francisco, but he won't keep it as low as it's been. The other factor is his four unearned runs. Now, his strikeout rates, while still bad, will get better than they have been, but Morris is still an implosion waiting to happen. I'm more confident about Russ Ortiz.
Noah Lowry: 31.2 IP, 4.26 RA, 28 H (6.5 H/9), 16 K (4.5 K/9), 16 BB (4.5 K/9), 1 HRA (0.3 HR/9), .259 BABIP
Verdict: Sell. Yes, it seems most of the staff is a sell, but that will happen when your success has been largely the result of unsustainable home run and hit rates. Other than, obviously, Matt Cain, Lowry is the poster-child for this as his strikeout rate has been very mediocre, his walk rate high, but his .259 BABIP a good thirty points lower than you'd expect it to be. Like Morris he's a good chance to start regressing immediately, and coupled with his plummeting K rate last year and the fact that lefties with fringe stuff always walk a very fine line we have an extremely alarming trend.
Russ Ortiz: 26 IP, 4.50 RA, 33 H (11.4 K/9), 14 K (4.8 K/9), 7 BB (2.4 BB/9), 1 HRA (0.3 HR/9), .360 BABIP
Verdict: Hold. And here we have proof that we are living in Bizzaro World, Russ Ortiz's effectiveness so far is pretty much the most "real;" if anything he's been victimized by bad luck if you take a look at his huge BABIP. That said, there's definitely likely to be some change on the horizon; his K and BB rates will likely both climb from where they are and his hit rate should drop significantly. His HR rate, like the rest of the staff's is also due for an upward adjustment, but overall if he's really back to his old self he hasn't done anything to deter those predictions that he could be good for 180 league-average innings from the #5 slot. Now, there's obviously an implosion chance given just how awful he was in the last two seasons and how he'd been declining before then, but nothing has transpired so far in the season to make that any more likely than it was a month ago.
Bullpen: 56.2 IP, 4.13 RA, 58 H (9.2 H/9), 39 K (6.2 K/9), 22 BB (3.5 BB/9), 7 HRA (1.1 HR/9),
Verdict: Hold, more or less. The bullpen is a fair mix of players who have been hit lucky (Taschner, Hennessey, Benitez) and hit-unlucky (Sanchez, Chulk). As a result, while few pitchers ERAs so far reflect their levels of performance (common amongst relievers), overall I would say they were about right. Going forward, I really like what I've seen from Kevin Correia, deceptively high ERA be damned, and Jonathan Sanchez while I expect to see Hennessey and Taschner particularly fall back down to earth. Benitez needs to lower his walk rate but it hasn't all been illusions on his part - that strong strikeout rate gives hope to the thought that with his health back he may finally be an effective reliever for us.
Overall Offense: .255/.311/.398 with 42 2B, 8 3B, 19 HR, 66 BB, and 11/7 SB/CS.
C Bengie Molina: .291/.325/.430 with 8 2B, 1 HR, and 3 BB.
Verdict: Hold. Molina has been a pleasant surprise for me; I worried that the more expansive outfield in AT&T might kill his power stroke but he's made up for any drop in HR power by stroking doubles at a nice rate. He's surpassed by expectations slightly but not in a manner that seems impossible for him to keep up, and I'm optimistic that he can continue this pace more or less for the course of a season. One thing I'd forgotten to take into account for my projections was that moving from the AL to the NL is easier for hitters as well, which seems to have been reflected so far. His plate discipline is as terrible as the Giants are accustomed to, but at as weak a position as catcher that's really not as much of a problem.
1B Rich Aurilia: .287/.320/.415 with 8 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, and 5 BB.
Verdict: Hold, more or less. Moving from that bandbox in Cincinnati seems to have effected Aurilia's home run stroke so far, but he's been a doubles machine like Molina to help make up for it. I'd expect his OBP to climb a smidgen over the course of the season, and while I've been relatively happy with Richie's performance it is still below average for a first baseman and I'd hope that Sabean takes this into account when he's looking for a bat at the trading deadline or before.
1B Ryan Klesko: .282/.333/.359 with 1 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, and 3 BB.
Verdict: Buy. I see his OBP climbing over the rest of the season as he's generally been a patient hitter, but I can see a very real possibility that with his power stroke gone (back injuries will do that to a hitter) he won't get as many pitches out of the strike zone and even that may desert him. If he continues to hit as poorly as he has I hope Sabean will consider cutting bait; carrying as many first basemen as we do hampers defensive flexibility and Klesko really only "plays" the outfield to the same extend as, say, Kevin Frandsen could.
2B Ray Durham: .279/.333/.430 with 5 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 8 BB, and 1/2 SB/CS.
Verdict: Buy. The biggest buy in the lineup, even if Durham doesn't hit my (or PECOTA's) optimistic expectations for the season he should definitely do better than he has thus far. He's looked really ugly at the plate in the last few games but looked better earlier in the season and has a long track record of success while not possessing the type of skill set that tends to really drop off a cliff at a more advanced age or anything. I'm not too worried about Ray-Ray.
3B Pedro Feliz: .236/.257/.485 with 3 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, and 2 BB.
Verdict: Hold. His batting average and OBP is bound to get higher than it is right now (I mean, nobody could really make that many outs, right?) but it's not likely he can maintain such a high SLG surrounded by such a bad line either. I don't understand why you ever throw him a fastball, seriously. Fortunately, Giants fans and Sabean alike have hopefully come to realize that third base is a spot that needs upgrading, so a first baseman acquisition would probably mean Aurilia getting a large amount of playing time at the dismally cold corner.
SS Omar Vizquel: .233/.281/.278 with 4 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 6 BB, and 1/1 SB/CS.
Verdict Buy, but I'm worred. Vizquel is at an age where guys run into walls and his stroke has looked very bad. Even today, he had a couple of hits against the Rockies but also turned in a swing against a high fastball that made Pedro Feliz look like Ted Williams. I'm rooting for him for sure, but not signing him to an extension is looking like an even better idea than it did at the time.
LF Barry Bonds: .356/.536/.814 with 3 2B, 0 3B, 8 HR, 23 BB, and 1/1 SB/CS.
Verdict: Hold or slight sell. It seems unlikely that Bonds would put up a 1.350 OPS over the course of the season, but with the IBBs starting to make their return it's plausible that he puts up an OBP-heavy enough one to make the rest of the season pretty close to equal in productiveness. He's friggin' incredible.
CF Dave Roberts: .243/.300/.365 with 0 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 6 BB, and 7/0 SB/CS.
Verdict: Buy. Another strong buy, Roberts's bat ought to heat up, especially if Bochy is more aggressive about sitting him against lefties, and those stolen bases and triples show that his speed hasn't gone. You worry about a player at his age who relies so much on speed, but as long as that doesn't show signs of decline than I'm not really worred. I think my pre-season prediction of .289/.360/.409 is still within reach, if maybe a slight bit optimistic now.
RF Randy Winn: .272/.315/.407 with 6 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 6 BB, and 1/3 SB/CS.
Verdict: Slight buy. Winn's bat has been limp for over a year now and it's pretty clear that even with the defense he is not an asset as a starting right fielder. The only possible positive you can spin that into is that it gives us even more flexibility when trying to acquire an impact bat. That said, I do expect his OBP to climb a bit, and boy is that where our team needs a boost. Oh, and a note for Bochy: RANDY WINN IS NOT A GOOD BASE STEALER. Don't run him if you don't like outs.
Overall: I expect an improvement to the lineup towards the low end of average, but it's definitely a point of weakness for the team. I expect the rotation to fall back to earth, hard, as unpopular a view as that may be, which is why I feel it is absolutely integral that Tim Lincecum join the big-league rotation as soon as possible. Ideally we should trade one of our two overachieving pitchers, Morris and Lowry, with my biggest hope being Lowry as part of a package for a Matt Murton or Ryan Church type. Those deals seem plausible to me. Regardless, any trade of those two for an above-average bat at first base or right field would be a big improvement, and combining that with opening a spot for Tim Lincecum in the rotation could even be enough to contend strongly. Talent-wise, this team right now is NOT the best in the division, we need a lot of things going right for us and which of these seems more likely to you: Noah Lowry and Matt Morris continue to post ERAs in the threes for the rest of the season or Tim Lincecum does his best Francisco Liriano impression all over the NL. Think about it.