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Ten things I learned about the Giants in the 2016 Baseball Prospectus

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Brandon Belt was really good, and Madison Bumgarner reminds the computer of Hall of Famers.

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My friends at Baseball Prospectus have released another fantastic annual, chock full of information and statistical nougat. The start of baseball season is always fun, but the best part might be the deluge of baseball books at the start of the year. Won't you buy one for yourself, today?

I'm not in this one if it makes your decision easier.

My Baseball Prospectus 2016 arrived yesterday, and it's delightful and informational, as you would expect, and I would like to share with you what I've learned from it.

1. Brandon Belt was one of the 10 best hitters (min. 500 PA) in the National League last season.

This comes from the comment under Brandon Belt's profile, which reads:

Brandon Belt was one of the 10 best hitters (min. 500 PA) in the National League last season. That's not a misprint, so we'll say it again: By TAv, Brandon Belt was one of the 10 best hitters in the National League last season.

Which would lead you to believe, improbably, that Brandon Belt was one of the 10 best hitters (min. 500 PA) in the National League last season. No, really, it reads that Brandon Belt was one of t...

Sorry. I was surprised, too. And, of course, to believe that, you have to believe in some serious park effects. Specifically, that AT&T Park sucks the lifeblood out of normal hitters and leaves their husks to rot in the sun. Or fog. I can believe that. And under those circumstances, in the 2015 run-scoring environment, a hitter with a .280/.356/.478 line is actually pretty special. His PECOTA comparable players are Mark Teixeira, Adrian Gonzalez, and Justin Morneau, which is pretty fantastic company.

I'm sure this will end any remaining debates about Brandon Belt's usefulness.

2. Madison Bumgarner's comparisons are ludicrous

After every player capsule, there are three comparable players listed. Bumgarner got Felix Hernandez, Don Drysdale, and Dwight Gooden. That's a likely Hall of Famer, an actual Hall of Famer, and a reminder that you are mortal and temporary.

3. Johnny Cueto's comparisons are similarly impressive

Those comps: Whitey Ford, A.J. Burnett and Warren Spahn. Even if you aren't wowed by Burnett, he pitched effectively for an awfully long time. Cueto's continuing effectiveness is of great importance to us, and all of those pitchers lasted for a substantial chunk of time.

4. Okay, Jeff Samardzija's comparisons are really, really impressive

I'll stop with the comparables, I promise. But Samardzija's are Bert Blyleven, Mickey Lolich, and Steve Carlton. The worst of those three pitches was a three-time All-Star who threw 200 innings or more in 11 straight seasons. I'll bet the longevity is why all three of those pitchers made the list, and it's a good sign, considering Samardzija is with the Giants until 2020.

5. Just about everyone in the lineup takes a step back

Hunter Pence is worth an extra 3.4 WARP in the PECOTA projections, and Angel Pagan is worth an extra win, just by not being nearly as awful. But everyone else should be a little worried. Here are the net gains and losses from the 2015 actual WARP and the 2016 projections:

  • Hunter Pence, +3.4
  • Angel Pagan, +1.2
  • Denard Span, 0.0
  • Buster Posey, -0.1
  • Brandon Crawford, -1.9
  • Joe Panik, -1.5
  • Matt Duffy, -1.0
  • Brandon Belt - 1.0

The gains from Pence almost makes up for the all-around regression. Still, what goes up, must come down, at least when it comes to the Giants' infielders.

6. Jeremy Affeldt has one of the best breakout rate % on the Giants

Here's how breakout rate is defined in the book:

Breakout Rate is the percent chance that a player's production will improve by at least 20 percent relative to the weighted average of his performance over his most recent seasons.

Affeldt's, for some reason, is bested only by Samardzija. (Also, Samardzija has the best breakout chances on the team, as you might expect.)

7. Kelby Tomlinson had decent defensive stats as a shortstop in the minors

Each batch of stats for hitters has defensive numbers, going back through the minor leagues. Tomlinson was a slightly below-average shortstop in the minors according to the metrics. And when it comes to being a competent backup shortstop in the majors, slightly below average is actually pretty swell. Combined with his fair bat and impressive speed, that would make him quite the utility player.

8. Sam Coonrod's agent is Jeff Samardzija's brother

Well, I did not know that. Also, Jeff Samardzija's agent is not Jeff Samardzija's brother. Awkward! Or sensible. One of the two.

9. Hunter Strickland's top comp is Santiago Casilla

Which makes sense, considering he's the favorite to take over the closer's role this year or next. It's like Ben Affleck's top comp being Christian Bale, but with closers instead of bat men.

10. Kyle Crick had a really, really, really bad season

We know about the control problems and the regression. It didn't sound like a lot of fun, and we're all rooting for him to turn it around.

That written, his WARP in Double-A was -2.7. I've never seen that before, and I flipped around the book to see if there was anything close to that. There was not, at least not one I could find with a cursory look. It was a full win worse than Ryan Vogelsong's dreadful 2013, for example. It takes some serious work to rack up -2.7 WARP.

At least he can only get better?

Those are 10 of the things I learned from a new copy of Baseball Prospectus 2016, which is on my table right now, giving off that new-book smell we all love so much. Buy a few and hand them out at the office. You'll be a hero, trust me.