Earlier this morning, David Schoenfield, ESPN’s Sweetspot blog overlord, handed out grades on the Giants’ offseason. Dave looked at two areas — position players and pitchers — graded both, and then assigned a final overall grade. You can read the full post here, but the takeaway is this:
Overall Grade – B+
If Lincecum bounces back from his subpar 2012, the Giants should be as tough as ever — but the division figures to be a lot better, with the Dodgers signing Zack Greinke, the re-tooled Diamondbacks and the young and improving Padres. There isn’t any depth in the rotation after the top five guys, so a long-term injury could be a major issue. I also see a lot of volatility in predicting the performance of players like Pagan, Scutaro and Pence, and even Posey may due for a regression. Still, they’ve won the World Series twice in three years and that has to be respected.
The concept of certain players regressing is a legitimate cause for concern. Posey, in particular, is a prime candidate to regress a good bit — more on that below — as he posted career highs on BABIP (.368), walk percentage (11.8), and his rate of success on things like fly balls — 147-percent better than the league average — seem largely unsustainable. Before you jump up and cry foul, understand that the idea of regression doesn’t mean that Posey is somehow going to lose all of his skills and get worse as a player, but rather certain things — such as BABIP — are likely to even out and move closer to Posey’s established career BABIP of .339. I have no doubt in my mind that Posey is a high-average BABIP batter — his all-field hitting approach sprays line drives from foul line to foul line — but it’s likely that he’ll hit into more outs in 2013 than he did in 2012.
A major component of projection systems — any projection system — is regression. Let’s take a look at the 2013 ZiPS projections for some key players and compare OPS+ between 2012 and what’s projected for 2013.
|Player||2012 OPS+||ZiPS OPS+||Difference|
The biggest regressors: Posey (-32), Pagan (-18), and Blanco (-11). Even if Posey is a 139 OPS+ hitter in 2013, that’s still good enough to make him one of the most valuable players in baseball, but it’s likely that he’ll move closer to his established mean. Pagan, like Posey, is also coming off a career year on offense and he seems a good bet to move closer to his career numbers. ZiPS is bearish on Blanco and for good reason: he’s a 29-year-old batter without a great track record on offense.
However, ZiPS “believes” in Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt to repeat their performances from 2012. One way the Giants could make up some of the slack in Posey’s regression is to play Belt full time at first base. After 472 plate appearances last season, Belt is a guy that should be penciled in for full time duties, or about 600-650 PAs. That is, of course, dependent on how much Posey needs to play first base, but in any lineup permutation, Belt needs to be in there somewhere, as he’s arguably the third best hitter on the team behind Posey and Sandoval. That means Hector Sanchez should never start at 1B.
Pence looks like the same hitter he’s been for most of his career — average. He shouldn’t hurt the Giants on offense. Scutaro loses a little bit, which is expected giving his age and comps; Brandon Crawford loses a little, which isn’t that socking, either; and the LF platoon still looks problematic. The best way the Giants can upgrade their team is fixing LF, but that’s almost surely something that won’t be handled until the trading deadline.
Overall, back to Dave’s grading scale above, I think a ‘B+’ is certainly a fair grade for the Giants. The team has some concerns — Posey and Pagan regressing, Scutaro’s output, LF — but there’s nothing on paper that would suggest that the Giants can’t compete in the NL West. And stuff like LF should be easily fixable, in a way, since there’s a chance that because the baseline is so low, any upgrade should be, theoretically, easy to attain.