You may remember the hubbub in the offseason about the Giants’ PECOTA projection, which gave them an 84-78 record and chance to make the postseason. The latest projections have the Giants finishing with 82 wins and, therefore, not making the postseason.
Why is that? It turns out (stage whisper) THE GIANTS CAN’T SCORE RUNS. If you just take their average runs per game (4.08) and multiply it by the remaining games (61), you get 248.8, or 249 runs. These updated PECOTA standings give them a little bit more help:
Before the season, the system projected 700 runs scored for the Giants. 4.08 runs per game over the final 61 gets them 661 and if you add PECOTA’s numbers instead it’s 671.
Obviously, PECOTA is a more advanced and accurate system than my piddly little divide and multiply method, but they both produce the same general result: not a lot of offense is coming down the pike.
The runs that will be coming get an assist from Evan Longoria and Joe Panik’s returns and, with any luck, a resurgence of Buster Posey’s power following a recent cortisone injection into his hip. Brandon Belt hasn’t dropped off so much, but if he could heat up again, that would be great. Alen Hanson and Gorkys Hernandez have both cooled off considerably, but still offer enough to be more than adequate fill-ins.
You might argue that, Well, Bryan, you absolute idiot, if they can’t score, they can at least pitch better — that’s what’s gotten them to the postseason every other time, you moron.
Sure! Of course run prevention will always be a part of this. In their recent playoffs run, they’ve allowed totals of 583 (2010), 649 (2012), 614 (2014),and 631 (2016). That PECOTA projection for the remainder of 2018 says they’ll give up 695, guaranteeing they’ll miss a shot at the Wild Card Game. Run prevention is definitely an area where they could improve.
On the other hand, here’s how the rest of the National League playoff hopefuls project out the rest of the way (by runs scored & runs allowed)
ATL 758 715
PHI 729 697
WAS 734 676
CHC 826 684
MIL 724 662
STL 740 714
PIT 726 731
LAD 775 704
AZ 717 636
COL 777 782
Figure the Cubs and Dodgers are the division winners. This puts the potential Wild Card field at 6 (Diamondbacks, Brewers, Cardinals, and two out of Braves, Phillies, and Nationals) including the Giants, whose 695 projected runs allowed puts them in a comfortable slot with Atlanta, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Colorado (who I didn’t include in the 6 team field, but could still very much be a factor, making this a 7-team field). There are simply more runs scored right now.
Where the Giants don’t stack up is on offense. Their feeble output is no match against the field and with very few moves available to them or even being contemplated, it appears this will be the reason why they don’t contend down the stretch.
What we’re really talking about here, though, is about 40 runs. The Giants don’t need to match the offensive output of the other teams, they just have to get close to create the necessary “weirdness” and wild swings of luck.
Where could they possibly get 40 runs from? If we’re generous and say that the return of Longoria and Joe Panik give them 15 more runs than the projection (remember: every 10 runs equals 1 win above replacement), then that means the Giants are about 2.5 wins above replacement from staying in the race, potentially. Where can the Giants find this value?
Their obvious upgrade needs are in the outfield. Left field, specifically. Is there a 2.5 win outfielder on the trade market? If there were, it certainly wouldn’t be someone the Giants could afford. To put it in perspective, Manny Machado is projected to be a 2-win player over his remaining games with the Dodgers.
C.C. Sabathia was worth 4.6 fWAR when the Brewers traded for him back in 2008, but that deal was made at the beginning of July. A trade for a pitcher still feels like it’d be tough for the Giants to pull off and it doesn’t seem like they’d be able to land someone who would provide so much value that it would overcome the team’s lack of offense.
Last week, Eno Sarris played with Statcast data to see if any current players could conceivably have a better second half. He looked at expected numbers versus actual numbers as generated by that data, and came up with 15 players who stood out as ready to perhaps positively regress to the mean over the season’s final months.
Among those named was Evan Longoria, whose expected OPS (.810) was nearly 100 points higher than his actual OPS (.712). The only players with greater disparities who are not on playoff teams are Alcides Escobar (.522 actual, .644 expected) and Chris Davis (.506 actual, .615 expected).
The only “interesting” player on that list is the Orioles’ 26-year old left fielder, Trey Mancini. Last season, he posted a 293.338.488 line with 24 home runs in 586 plate appearances. This year, on a dreadful Orioles team, it’s 221.293.366 with 12 home runs in 382 plate appearances. Doubtful the Giants would want to get him (65 walks, 235 strikeouts in his career and a bad defender) and doubtful the Orioles would want to trade a youngish player when they’re starting a rebuild.
Bruce Bochy cajoled his guys to play better and after surveying the landscape, he’s right. That’s the only way this has any chance of working out in the Giants’ favor down the stretch.