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Monday, October 29, 2012

Ratto: Giants are the new platinum standard of modern baseball

And fly like Ratto from non-sinking ships. Ratto overboard!

And they became one of the genuinely special operations of the past 40 years. Only four franchises, Oakland, Cincinnati, New York (twice) and Toronto have won multiple World Series so close together, and if you want to quibble about the definition of dynasty, then by all means do.

But two in three means you’re no longer lucky, and you’re no longer merely grinders. You’re a team with a high profile, something that makes Sabean’s teeth grind.

...You see, one championship is a party. Two in three years is a statement. In the new baseball, which looks more and more like hockey in this way, the real trick is not to dominate the regular season but to create some space by the start of September and then go foot-to-floor for as long as one can manage it.

This is the real Giants Way. The fundamental truth that stands the game’s principal dynamic on its head. Specifically, the postseason starts on August 1, and doesn’t get serious until September 1. And it ends, or at least it could have ended, on November 1.

The Giants in 2010 and 2012 have won 61 of 90 games from September 1 forward. That’s how postseasons are owned.

...They are a tough out now, these Giants. A piece of post-expansion history, with those A’s and those Reds and those Yankees and even those Blue Jays. They are the new platinum standard of modern baseball.

Repoz Posted: October 29, 2012 at 06:25 AM | 117 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: giants

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   101. Bhaakon Posted: October 29, 2012 at 08:31 PM (#4287834)

I think people are getting it wrong. Sure, having a postseason tournament militates against the best team winning. But baseball just isn't important enough to make a fuss. There's only one sport whose towering significance requires that the best team as far as it can be determined, win the championship without a playoff.

College football.


To be fair, I think that a playoff is better than having coaches, players, and sportswriters vote and factoring in some secret statistical formula. Could you imagine how awful it would be if baseball's champion were determined by the guys who brought you the gold gloves, MVP voting, and the Elias free agent compensation ranking formula?
   102. TerpNats Posted: October 30, 2012 at 09:59 AM (#4288166)
The worst part of the modern postseason is how it's rendered seasons like the Nationals' an afterthought. Why was that fanbase subjected to a home Game 5 that far removed from the World Series against an obviously inferior team that left their fanbase disappointed, if not embittered?
A bit disappointed, to be sure, but seeing the Nats get that far in the first place -- and having playoff baseball in Washington for the first time in 79 years -- makes all the difference. Nothing is assured in life, but with a relatively young roster, the Braves good but with some holes to fill, the Phils in phlux, the Mets in the rare position of being an underfinanced New York franchise, and the Marlins a mess, the Nats should have several more chances at postseason play for the rest of the decade (along with a chance to grab the brass ring). As the old Cy Coleman song goes, for D.C. baseball, the best is yet to come.
   103. Ben Broussard Ramjet Posted: October 30, 2012 at 10:58 AM (#4288216)
As I pointed out directly above, it isn't like such a setup is unworkable in modern sports, there are probably more professional sports leagues in the world who do it that way than not. Ironically enough, the English league is set up that way because it modeled its league structure and scheduling after professional baseball.


And in the 20 years of the English Premier League, only 5 different teams have won the title, out of at least 40 or so to be part of the top flight during that time. Blackburn once, Man City once, Chelsea thrice, Arsenal thrice, and Man Utd 12 times. There's a great deal to be said for a little bit of volatility in the results of a sports league.

With the number of complaints about the Yankees' late-90s dominance of baseball, imagine how much complaining would have been done had they won 12 out of 20 World Series since 1992, rather than (double-checks) 5? And if 27 out of 30 MLB teams had combined to win only two World Series in 20 years?
   104. Booey Posted: October 30, 2012 at 11:29 AM (#4288247)
With the number of complaints about the Yankees' late-90s dominance of baseball, imagine how much complaining would have been done had they won 12 out of 20 World Series since 1992, rather than (double-checks) 5? And if 27 out of 30 MLB teams had combined to win only two World Series in 20 years?


Sounds like the NBA. Since 1980, only 9 franchises have won the title in 33 seasons. With the Lakers winning 10 and the Bulls winning 6, until this last summer those two teams had literally combined for half the championships in the last 30+ years.

Only two franchises (Philly and Dallas) have a lone championship in that span. Every other team has multiple titles or none at all.
   105. BDC Posted: October 30, 2012 at 12:17 PM (#4288304)
The point is that adding layers upon layers of playoffs pretty much has to have a significant effect on how success in the regular season is perceived. And many of us feel that the overall result lessens our enjoyment of the season

My enjoyment of the regular season is closely bound up with sitting outdoors with beer and hotdog and seeing a mix of new and familiar players doing the same old things for the (for me) thousandth time; I like the fact that there are 81 chances at that, and I like the games when they are meaningless, in a perverse way often more than the pressure-packed ones. But I also live in a major-league city and I am extremely parochial, following details of the Rangers closely and barely knowing a dang thing about NL teams that they don't play in a given season.

But to the extent that pennant races are now much watered-down things, the expanded postseason really does cut down on the enjoyment. The Rangers went into Oakland for the final series having clinched a play-in berth. Losing three straight and the division sucked excessively, but there was another game in hand to get to the same place that winning one of the three would have led: a berth in an eight-team tournament that might have featured a hot opponent and an early exit. (I hope that does not sound like sour grapes. I'll take whatever grapes I can get, and I would have loved to see another couple of playoff games in Arlington this year.)

And in addition, I really find my interest in the first and even second playoff rounds diminished over my interest in the two-round LCS and WS back in the day. (And I suppose in the single WS back in that day, with the caveat that you are never more interested in anything than you are at nine years old in a World Series that features Bob Gibson and Denny McLain :)

In 2012, with the Rangers eliminated, I was invited to follow a bewildering set of four concurrent playoff series that I couldn't see on TV anyway because I don't have cable. I really didn't pay much attention till late in the SF/St.L. series, which I could see on broadcast and which by that point was the only show anyway. And I don't think my weak-willed fandom is to blame. I used to watch both LCS and the WS fanatically. I still watch the WS fanatically. But now there's just too much to process, and none of it is of as much significance as it used to be.
   106. 6 - 4 - 3 Posted: October 30, 2012 at 12:35 PM (#4288330)
Not watching the World Series because it favors a slightly suboptimal matchup of teams (according to one's ad hoc, a priori beliefs about relative quality) is like saying that you wouldn't want to sleep with Megan Fox because she has a clubbed thumb.

That is, while your observation of an imperfection may be valid, you are completely missing the point of what makes the postseason sports exciting.
   107. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: October 30, 2012 at 01:06 PM (#4288373)
I was invited to follow a bewildering set of four concurrent playoff series


I don't mean this snarkily but what was bewildering about the series? The lack of cable certainly makes seeing the games challenging but I don't see what was particularly confusing about the series themselves.
   108. BDC Posted: October 30, 2012 at 02:29 PM (#4288462)
No, the box scores and lineups were comprehensible on their own, Jose. But when you keep doubling the number of things to follow at the same time, you reach a point of information overload. Playoff systems tend to double in size every so often, and the earlier rounds become more and more of a blur as a result.

Edit: And I guess I should say, not having cable is irrelevant to that point. That's my own priority and idiosyncrasy. The overload would be worse if I was trying to watch every game of all four series.
   109. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: October 30, 2012 at 03:33 PM (#4288539)
I like baseball, but I wouldn't consider myself a die-hard fan. How many games I watch on TV or the internet is closely correlated with how well the Cubs are doing; this season I think I watched about 15 innings total of all games in the regular season, no more than one or two in any one game. I paid attention to the main narratives but in a casual, watch SportsCenter kind of way. But I was plugged in to the playoffs and watched all or nearly all of about 14 games, including the first three games of the World Series. I'd wager there are a lot of fans like me, and the expanded playoffs is exactly the way to maximize our viewership.
   110. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: October 30, 2012 at 08:33 PM (#4288819)
I think people are getting it wrong. Sure, having a postseason tournament militates against the best team winning. But baseball just isn't important enough to make a fuss. There's only one sport whose towering significance requires that the best team as far as it can be determined, win the championship without a playoff.

College football.

The BCS isn't a playoff? The correct answer btw is of course the other football, you know the one that actually involves more feet than hands.
   111. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: October 30, 2012 at 08:34 PM (#4288822)
Also, if anything is stupid, it's actively promoting a system that would all but guarantee that the Yankees can buy about every other title.
   112. Moeball Posted: October 30, 2012 at 08:48 PM (#4288831)
The fact that they won in '10 and '12, and not '02 or '03 is randomness.


Question 1 for Giants fans and non-fans of an analytical bent - do you think the pitching of the 2010 and 2012 SF editions was better overall than the 2002 and 2003 teams? I remember watching that 2002 WS against the Angels and, even with the Giants having a 3-2 lead in games and a 5-0 lead in the 7th inning of Game 6, I wasn't all that surprised when the pitching imploded and gave up 6 runs to let the Angels up off the mat.

I really think the 2010 and 2012 teams had better pitching staffs to work with, am I just not remembering this correctly?

Question 2 - is part of the reason the Giants' pitching jelled so well in 2010 and 2012 due to having a healthy Posey behind the plate? Is his value to the team defensively potentially even greater than his hitting?
   113. BDC Posted: October 30, 2012 at 09:05 PM (#4288848)
The BCS isn't a playoff?

It's a 2-team playoff, and it's fixing to go to 4, and if my theory in #108 is correct, it's a matter of time before it goes to 8.
   114. Bhaakon Posted: October 30, 2012 at 10:34 PM (#4288898)
Question 1 for Giants fans and non-fans of an analytical bent - do you think the pitching of the 2010 and 2012 SF editions was better overall than the 2002 and 2003 teams? I remember watching that 2002 WS against the Angels and, even with the Giants having a 3-2 lead in games and a 5-0 lead in the 7th inning of Game 6, I wasn't all that surprised when the pitching imploded and gave up 6 runs to let the Angels up off the mat.


If I had to rank the four teams, I'd probably go 2002 > 2010 > 2012 > 2003. For the sake of completeness, I think the 1993 team was better than all of them.
   115. Steve Treder Posted: October 30, 2012 at 11:55 PM (#4288963)
If I had to rank the four teams, I'd probably go 2002 > 2010 > 2012 > 2003. For the sake of completeness, I think the 1993 team was better than all of them.

Without thinking deeply about it, I agree.

And certainly, the pitching of the 2010/12 editions was better than the pitching of the 2002/03 editions. I doubt anyone would question that. But the hitting was clearly better on the earlier teams than the later teams. I love me some pitching, but hitting matters too.
   116. BochysFingers Posted: October 31, 2012 at 01:02 AM (#4288996)
Giants teams ranked, last 25 years. Source: My humble opinion

1993
2000
2010
2002
2012

2003
1989
2001
1998
1999

2004
2009
2011
1990
1988

1997
1994
2006
1991
2005

1995
1992
2007
2008
1996
   117. obsessivegiantscompulsive Posted: November 02, 2012 at 12:54 PM (#4290889)
The discussion here reflects how most people don't understand the peculiarities of the playoffs, and really, ultimately, of baseball. This is something I've been slowly realizing over time and it appears to be coming to a head now. Studies by both Baseball Prospectus and The Hardball Times investigated the connection between success in the playoffs and offense and defense. What both, using much different methodologies, found is that it is defense (pitching and fielding) that matters significantly in the playoffs. Offense - whether via BA, HR, walks, even SB - did not significantly affect a team's likelihood to go deep into the playoffs.

What my research into the playoffs and the success rate of pitchers and therefore their teams, when they throw a quality start (as defined by Shandler's PQS methodology, which is a saber version of QS) showed is that when a team gets a better PQS rating (DOM, DIS, other) from their starter than the other team, they won a vast majority of the time, 82% of the starts in the 2008-2011 playoffs. And obviously, having a quality start was a good way of increasing the probability of having a better PQS, and teams getting a high PQS (DOM start in Shandler's nomenclature or dominating) won 69% of the time, 82% of the time if you took out all the matchups where both pitchers had a DOM start. Clearly, it behooves teams to get a quality start in the playoffs and avoid DIS (for disaster) starts, where teams won only 30% of the time, 20% of the time when you take out the games where both starters had disaster starts. Thus, to maximize your team's chances of winning in the playoffs, you want to have a rotation of starters who consistently have high DOM percentages and low DIS percentages (as percentage of total starts).

And as we know pitchers can be relatively consistent in throwing quality starts, so ideally you want a staff of pitchers who consistently throw quality starts. The Giants have that with Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, and Vogelsong. As poorly as Lincecum appeared to pitch, he still had 55% of his starts be DOM starts. Cain, Bumgarner, and Vogelsong were all over 60%, in 2012. Similarly in 2010, the trio of Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner were all above 60%, and Sanchez was high too. And as average as Zito is - and he is average, people keep on treating him as if he is a poor pitcher, he is not, he is just not equal to his contract, but he has been good for the Giants - when he is on, he is capable of having a number of quality starts (see his great start against Colorado in his first start of 2012; see his start to the 2010 season, ironic since he didn't make the playoff rosters, as when he is lost, he is lost).

BP's study went deeper than just identifying defense as the key to winning in the playoffs. They came up with three metrics by which teams doing well in them tended to do better in the playoffs. First off was having a pitching staff that overall has a high K/9. The Giants have had that in recent seasons, not so much in the years listed as "better" in the lists above. That is why they decided to study this, to find out why Beane's "stuff" didn't work in the playoffs, and one was that his staffs did not strike out that much. Second off was having a high WRXL closer (Wilson was that; Romo was pitching like one). Beane was lacking there as well, he thought relievers were easily replaceable. Lastly was having a top fielding teams (2010 was that; not sure about 2012). BP looked at all the A's playoff teams and none met the criteria until their last team.

This makes a lot of sense if you think hard about it. Pitching really does control the action. If it didn't, pitchers like Barry Zito or Bobby Jones or Jeff Weaver have no chance to be a playoff hero. Yet they were. We talk all the time about how the good hitters take advantage of pitchers' mistakes. Clearly, the best pitchers make fewer mistakes. And a great defense helps out when the pitcher makes a mistake and the ball is blasted (like all those balls that Blanco caught in the playoffs, or especially that one he caught in Cain's Perfect Game).

These explain why the Giants of 2010 and 2012 were able to do what the Giants teams in the past were not able to do. They had good pitching then that did not rely on strikeouts, but have great pitching now that is reliant on strikeouts. They also had good closers, able to shut down the other team cold. Couple all that with good overall defense.

And their offense was good enough. Clearly not as great as the offenses the Giants had previously, but as noted by two different studies by two noted baseball analytics organizations, offense don't really matter in the playoffs. Contrary to what most fans, including me, have thought for all of our lives, it is not offense that we should revere, it is pitching, particularly the strikeout pitchers (though I would note my opinion that if BP redid their study to include K/BB, that ratio might make their cut of metrics that matter in going deep).

I would also note that sabermetrics is failing to account for two traits that strongly define the Giants pitching staff. One is that both Cain and Zito are among the very rare pitchers who are capable of controlling their BABIP and keeping it much below the mean of .300. That skill is not captured in any of the advanced saber metrics out there in common use, in fact, they are penalized in these metrics as the assumption is that they are being lucky. The other is that the Giants pitching staff, however they do it, are capable of maintaining a low HR/FB ratio. Fangraphs first studied Cain, then the entire staff, and found that somehow - they speculated that Righetti has some secret sauce - the Giants as a team are able to prevent homeruns. However, again, they are penalized in any metric that assume a regression in their HR/FB ratio.

Thus, overall, these are the reasons explaining much of the confusion I have seen in the comment thread here. People, particularly sabermetrics, view offense as more important than pitching, when it should be the other way around, by a lot. Particularly as it relates to the playoffs. People consider it a total fluke that the Giants had that long string of good starts to end these playoffs, but they forget that basically the same group of starters (but Sanchez instead of Vogelsong) in 2010 had the longest streak of starts where the opposition was kept to 3 runs or less (can't remember the exact number, something like 20+ games) since the 1910's when the deadball era was still alive. The Giants have great pitching and fielding, and that shone again in these playoffs. And, again, it is defense - pitching and fielding - that helps a team go deep into the playoffs, not offense, great, good, or otherwise.

And for all the wisecracks about the Giants offense, the playoff lineup was the basic lineup since Scutaro and Pence joined the team and with them in there, the Giants led all NL teams in average run scored on the road (or was second, don't remember exactly) and, home or road, averaged 5.2 runs per game in August to the end of the season.
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