Results tagged ‘ San Francisco Giants ’

Billy Madison Bumgarner

by Eno Sarris //

Like Billy Madison in the movie of the same name, Madison Bumgarner had to go back to school to get his millions. After a lightning-quick ascension through the ranks and up the prospect ladder, Bumgarner had a rude awakening in the upper levels of the minor leagues as well as the major leagues last year. Now he’s gone back to school, spending much of the first half of this season in the minors. So far, so good back in the majors in 2010 as the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools spider graphs show. What can we expect going forward?

BumgarnerGrab.jpgLast year, Bumgarner was the #9 prospect in baseball and had finished two-and-a-half-years at Single-A with a strikeout rate above one per inning and a booming mid-90s fastball. It almost didn’t seem like he needed any more fine-tuning in the minor leagues, but he went to Double-A anyway because that’s what young pitchers do.

That’s when things began to go south. Reports of diminished velocity started coming through, and the results showed that something was off. His strikeout rate fell precipitously, down to 5.8 per nine in AA. The shine was off. The whispers started. A penguin was spotted. Even Bob Barker started talking trash.

The Giants called him up for a cup of coffee anyway, and in four games, his strikeout rate looked great (9.00 K/9), and you’d have been forgiven for thinking that maybe this velocity thing was overblown. Bumgarner would graduate with honors if he could put up a strikeout rate like that, even with the caveat that he was relieving, and that relievers usually enjoy a slightly higher strikeout rate. Unfortunately, his K rate masked a still-diminished velocity (89.3 MPH on his fastball), and batters teed up on him often, with a 1.80 HR/9 number that would have to change for him to be successful at the major league level.

This year, in Bumgarner’s return to school, he performed adequately but did not recover his former glory on the gun or in his peripherals. His 6.4 K/9 at Triple-A this year wouldn’t qualify him for notice on any prospect list without giving him heavy extra credit for his young age (he’s still only 20 years old). The reason he was able to contribute a 3.16 ERA was the fact that he still doesn’t walk people (2.4 BB/9 in Triple-A and 1.9 career in minor leagues). And while some reports had him regaining velocity with a change in mechanics, his re-found ability to hit 90 on the gun from time to time was not a full recovery. The scouting reports had him as hitting the mid-90s before the mysterious dip. Another way his reduced ineffectiveness was obvious was in the number of hits Bumgarner gave up per nine innings: 9.6. That was a full two hits per nine worse than his previous numbers.

So now he’s back in the majors, diploma in hand. His fastball is averaging 90.3 MPH compared to last year’s 89.2 MPH, and he’s only striking out 6.75 batters per nine innings. His 47.6% groundball percentage is OK, but not good enough to mitigate his poor strikeout numbers. He’s not walking anyone (1.61 BB/9), but that’s about the best thing that can be send for him right now… other than his 2.57 ERA. The worst part about his current numbers is that he’s been lucky. He has a .266 BABIP and a 82.7% strand rate, numbers which trend towards .300 and 70% across baseball every year. A few more dinks and dunks should fall in, and a few more baserunners will hit home plate. In short, he has graduated, but not with honors. He looks like a pitcher who can put up an ERA in the low fours and lock down the back of a rotation by not walking batters and having just enough stuff.

Needless to say, this isn’t what the Giants expected out of their prized arm. At 20 years old, it’s possible that he fills in his frame or finds some arm slot that works better for him. He’s still young. But if someone values his upside like he was still the super-prospect of old, then managers should go ahead and sell. His ‘real’ velocity is just not back. Or, as Billy Madison might have said, “OK, a simple “wrong” would’ve done just fine.”

For more on Madison Bumgarner and other quacktastic young pitchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.

Pat Burrell, The San Francisco Treat

By Tommy Rancel //

When Pat Burrell signed with the Tampa Bay Rays after the 2008 season, many saw a match made in heaven. The Rays needed a right-handed designated hitter who excelled against left-handed pitching but could also hold his own against righties. Burrell fit the bill.

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Nearly 18 months, $16 million, and 572 plate appearances later, the perfect marriage ended in divorce. Burrell never adjusted to life as a DH, or in the American League, or both. In the end, “the Bat” hit 16 home runs in his year-plus with the Rays – or $1 million per HR. Not one of those homers came against a left-handed pitcher.

On May 15th, the Rays designated Burrell for assignment. A few days later, the San Francisco Giants signed Burrell to a pro-rated contract for the league minimum. With the Rays fronting the bill, the signing came with little risk to the Giants. So far, they have been handsomely rewarded for their small gamble.

In 96 plate appearance for the Rays in 2010, Burrell hit .202/.292/.333 with two home runs. As a member of the Giants, he has 104 plate appearances – hitting .286/.365/.484 with five home runs. Look at those slash lines again. Burrell was a .200 hitter with an OPS of .625 with Tampa Bay. In nearly an identical sample size with San Francisco, he sports an OPS of .849 – the production the Rays thought they would get.

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It is hard to say what changed between the two coasts. In Tampa Bay, Burrell looked lost. He had no power and struck out 33% of the time. Although his batting average on balls in play was a reasonable .273 this year with the club, his .202 batting average was paltry. In San Francisco, he is back to spraying line drives across the diamond, and hitting a home run once every 18 at-bats.

There are a few theories as to why Burrell is producing for his new club. First, Burrell is playing in the outfield with the Giants. He has played 22 games in the field since joining the club. Of his 146 games with the Rays, he stepped on the field as a defender in just two of them. It has been suggested that some players have difficulty adjusting to a DH role.

Another more likely reason is the transition from American League to National League. Burrell would not be the first, nor the last, player to struggle after switching leagues – much less going to the AL East, the most top-heavy division in baseball. In early June, DRaysbay.com ran a story comparing hitters who switched leagues in the off-season. In their sample selection, players going from the AL to NL hit better than projected. Players moving from the NL to AL were right around average. 

Whatever the real reason for Burrell’s resurgence in the senior circuit, you should take advantage. Currently, he is owned in less than 10% of leagues and is started in less than 2%. If you have an outfielder on the DL in a mixed-league, or if Burrell’s somehow unclaimed in your NL-only league, be sure to scoop him up.

For more on Pat Burrell and potential waiver wire pickups, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.

Aubrey Huff: Underrated Fantasy Slugger?

by Eno Sarris //

There’s a slugger in San Francisco hitting long homers into the bay in San Francisco these days. Aubrey Huff is a lot less surly than the last version, though, and looks to be underrated by the average fantasy manager.

How else would you explain that a player with 12 home runs and a sparkling .307 batting average is about half of Yahoo leagues? There aren’t many 30-home run candidates available on the wire.

Perhaps owners can be forgiven for leaving Huff there – he had an underwhelming .241/.310/.384 line combined for the Tigers and Orioles last year. Moving to a park that suppresses home runs by 18.8% this year, he was an afterthought in drafts going into this season. Then again, Huff is a lefty, and according to Baseball Prospectus’ park factors by handedness, lefties slug .371 on average at AT&T Park, compared to .351 for righties (thanks to Bill Baer of CrashburnAlley.com for the nudge in the right direction). StatCorner.com muddies the water by pointing out that home runs have a mediocre 93 park factor for righties, but an even worse 88 park factor for lefties – meaning whatever extra-base hit lift lefties get comes from the huge gap in right-center, fueling a bump in doubles and triples. Either way, we should not have discounted Huff completely because of his move to his new park.

Amazingly, there was an outside chance we could have seen Huff’s power output coming. Huff has alternated from low-powered to high-powered performances his whole career. Look at the table on the HuffFlyGrab.jpgleft. It’s no clean-cut, easily explainable issue, but it’s clear that despite a general trend toward more flyballs, Huff has not had the corresponding trend toward a higher isolated slugging mark (slugging percentage minus batting average) that should have come along with that trend. After all, the batting line on the average flyball this year is .222/.217/.568, which produces an average ISO of .246, compared to groundballs’ .018 ISO. Another way of saying this is that Huff’s ISO has oscillated so much that it’s hard to discern a similar positive trend in that statistic.

Though weHuffGrab.jpg know that ISO doesn’t stabilize until almost a full season of data, we also know from Huff that his ISO has not stabilized over his whole career. Judging from the Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools spider graphs on the right, this looks like one of his more powerful years. 

In the years that Huff has had a .200+ ISO, Huff has averaged 27.5 home runs. A shot at that sort of power production this year is worth picking up in a league of any size. That he’s hitting in the middle of the order, and thus gaining plenty of RBI chances, only makes him more valuable. If Huff is available in your league, grab him immediately.

For more on Aubrey Huff and other surprising power options, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.
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