On Friday, we went through FanGraphs’ Steamer projections for Giants hitters in 2020 and, well, the results were not encouraging.
The algorithm sees the combined defensive performance to provide more value than that hitting line, but it’s worth noting that the roster is in such a state of flux that the playing time predictions Steamer used for its calculations might not come close to reality. All told, the current roster projects to be +13.3 wins above replacement by FanGraphs’ measure.
Keep that number in mind as we get to the end of this review of the pitching side.
First, a quick review of how Steamer did last year:
Steamer 2019: 203 IP, 3.91 ERA, 4.00 FIP, 183 SO, 57 BB, 26 HR
Actual 2019: 207.2 IP, 3.90 ERA, 3.90 FIP, 203 SO, 43 BB, 30 HR
Steamer 2019: 65 IP, 3.08 ERA, 3.17 FIP, 78 SO, 24 BB, 6 HR
Actual 2019: 65.1 IP, 2.76 ERA, 3.23 FIP, 96 SO, 21 BB, 10 HR
Steamer 2019: 165 IP, 4.25 ERA, 4.24 FIP, 134 SO, 47 BB, 22 HR
Actual 2019: 181.1 IP, 3.90 ERA, 4.59 FIP, 140 SO, 49 BB, 28 HR
Steamer 2019: 55 IP, 3.43 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 54 SO, 18 BB, 5 HR
Actual 2019: 54 IP, 4.17 ERA, 4.81 FIP, 41 SO, 12 BB, 9 HR
Steamer 2019: 45 IP, 3.43 ERA, 3.61 FIP, 55 SO, 23 BB, 4 HR
Actual 2019: 56.2 IP, 2.86 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 70 SO, 33 BB, 4 HR
Steamer 2019: 159 IP, 4.44 ERA, 4.54 FIP, 78 SO, 53 BB, 22 HR
Actual 2019: 99 IP, 5.64 ERA, 5.69 FIP, 71 SO, 36 BB, 21 HR
Steamer 2019: 55 IP, 3.63 ERA, 3.73 FIP, 45 SO, 20 BB, 4 HR
Actual 2019: 62.1 IP, 3.32 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 55 SO, 13 BB, 6 HR
Steamer 2019: 65 IP, 3.52 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 56 SO, 20 BB, 6 HR
Actual 2019: 67.1 IP, 3.61 ERA, 2.86 FIP, 68 SO, 18 BB, 4 HR
Clearly, Steamer couldn’t project a juiced ball wreaking havoc on the results, but I’d say these are pretty well in line. Dyson and Melancon were much better than their projections while with the Giants and then after going over to their respective team in those July trades basically normalized their season lines to something closer to the projection.
Watson’s injury might’ve had something to do with his being so far off, but it’s probably safer to say that projections made in November are highly volatile. Still, let’s take a look at what the computers are saying already about next year.
182 IP, 4.17 ERA, 4.29 FIP, 157 SO, 52 BB, 25 HR, 2.1 fWAR
This is actually pretty good. The software would have us believe that a 34-year old a year and a half removed from Tommy John surgery will rebound to have his second-best year with the Giants. Let’s take this projection and be grateful.
Since Cueto’s stellar 2016 (18-8, 219.2 IP, 2.79 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 198 K, 45 BB), blisters and elbow issues have limited him to just 216.1 IP in 38 starts and an underwhelming 98 ERA+ (4.24 ERA/4.64 FIP, 187 K/75 BB). That includes his four starts at the end of this past season, the first two of which were pretty damned amazing (zero runs allowed in 10 innings, 3:1 K/BB, four hits total allowed), before giving way to a pair of horrendous starts to close out the season (nine runs allowed in 6 innings, 1:1 K/BB, seven hits total allowed).
It’s also worth pointing out that the first two starts were against the Pirates and Marlins and the latter two against playoff teams, Atlanta and Los Angeles.
That 2.1 fWAR in 2019 would’ve put him in the same cohort as Merrill Kelly, Joey Lucchesi, Tanner Roark, Wade Miley, Ivan Nova, and Brett Anderson. Solid and useful. Just ignore that salary. But also, hope that this is the line he approximates.
146 IP, 4.06 ERA, 4.20 FIP, 141 SO, 47 BB, 21 HR, 1.6 fWAR
I pointed out in the transaction analysis after the Giants claimed him from the Rockies that there are some similarities between Tyler Anderson and Madison Bumgarner. It’s not that he’ll replace Bumgarner emotionally or even performance-wise, but for less than $5 million, the Giants might’ve just signed a guy (provided he recovers from knee surgery) who would easily meet the lower range of projection for Bumgarner in 2020.
To wit, Bumgarner’s 2020 Steamer projection is 2.0 fWAR.
126 IP, 4.17 ERA, 4.25 FIP, 111 SO, 49 BB, 15 HR, 1.3 fWAR
Webb certainly impressed the tech to get a very nice projection for a player across what would be his first full season in the big leagues. Webb gave up a lot of hits in his debut season, but he also struck out a lot of batters (8.4 K/9) while posting a very decent walk rate 3.2 BB/9) all at the tender baseball age of 22. Comparatively speaking, Steamer likes his chances going forward, projecting him to be a solidly decent back of the rotation option.
191 IP, 4.72 ERA, 4.72 FIP, 154 SO, 55 BB, 31 HR, 1.2 fWAR
Basically saying that he’s going to be about as good as he was last year . . . which was decent, by the way. The third-best season of his career. A 119 ERA+ when it was all said and done, but if you want to stick to FanGraphs’ system, then just a 1.5 fWAR and well in the bottom third of starting pitchers. Yeah, he’s making too much money for what little value he provides, but he provided value last year and projects to continue to do so in the final year of that big contract.
115 IP, 4.43 ERA, 4.50 FIP, 112 SO, 51 BB, 16 HR, 0.9 fWAR
This was the one I sprinted to find because I still see Beede as being a really interesting power arm for the back of the rotation. If you’re sensing a trend here, then you’re right: the Giants have five starters who would all be best served by sticking to the back of the rotation. Beede and Webb as either the fourth or fifth starter makes a lot of sense. Both of them have obvious talents but might not project, long-term, to be able to hang long enough to advance to the front of the rotation, so extracting as many useful innings out of them as possible without exposing them beyond that will be key.
But that’s the situation the team’s in with Samardzija and Cueto, too, only, neither of them flash 96-98 mph with their fastball.
55 IP, 3.71 ERA, 3.81 FIP, 57 SO, 21 BB, 6 HR, 0.5 fWAR
Not bad for a guy coming off forearm and elbow problems . . . if that actually winds up being the case. Relievers are by the very nature fungible. Gott is out of options, too, so I wonder just how much “stick” he’ll have on the 40-man roster. The Giants really did find something in Gott, especially after convincing him to ditch his sinker.
If he can be that mid-nineties power arm again, I like his chances of hanging around and meeting this projection, but healthy, lack of roster flexibility, and the general “here today, gone tomorrow”-ness of relievers makes this unlikely.
65 IP, 3.83 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 59 SO, 19 BB, 8 HR, 0.4 fWAR
Here’s the most interesting projection: Steamer gives Anderson a 26-save projection, meaning the analysis sees him as the Giants’ closer. Makes sense. After losing his rotation spot and joining the ‘pen, he was much better, and a full offseason and Spring Training to prepare could very well set him up for sustained success in a late-game or 9th inning role.
Still, in 2019, here’s the list of closers worth less than a win but more than 20 saves:
- Shane Greene - 0.9 fWAR, 23 saves
- Sean Doolittle - 0.7 fWAR, 26 saves
- Alex Colome - 0.6 fWAR, 30 saves
- Edwin Diaz - 0.0 fWAR, 26 saves
It’s rare, and it’s not the best position you want to be in if you’re a contending team, which the Giants don’t figure to be in 2020, so this is at worst a harmless projection for an ignorable role. It would also be a very good outcome for Anderson.
68 IP, 3.86 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 63 SO, 21 BB, 8 HR, 0.4 fWAR
Watson’s fWAR by year totals are a little jumpy: -0.3 (2011), 0.6 (2012), 0.6 (2013), 1.3 (2014), 1.3 (2015), -0.1 (2016), 0.1 (2017), 1.8 (2018), -0.3 (2019), but he’s never had a FIP above 4 nor an xFIP close to 5. He had both in 2019 and now the projections suggest he’ll be right back up around those numbers again. He’s an old reliever who’s trending in the wrong direction, but he still projects to provide some positive value.
The Giants’ pitching projections aren’t exciting, but they’re not terrible, either. Nobody is projected to provide negative fWAR (not even Dereck Rodriguez or Andy Suarez), and even guys like Jandel Gustave, Wandy Peralta, and Tyler Rogers qualify as replacement level (0.0). It’s not an enviable spot, nor is it lamentable. Clean up the top of the rotation and the picture becomes clearer.
Also clear: the Giants, as currently constructed on paper, don’t figure to be very good next year. Taken together with the hitting projection (13.3 fWAR), the pitching only adds 9.1 wins above replacement. The wins above replacement model says a team of all replacement-level players would win 48 games over the course of 162 games, so the quick and dirty estimate is, adding the projected pitching fWAR and projected hitting fWAR, a record of 70.9-91.1, or, 71-91.