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1.08.2007

N.L. West Head to Head, Part 2: The Padres 

In my last post I got some flack for a) not evaluating benches and defenses and b) giving too much credit to the Rockies with my prediction of an 11-7 record against the Giants.

The author responds: First, Coors Field is a hellhole where KTVU broadcasts go to die. It's an extreme home advantage, and the Giants aren't good enough to make up for it at sea level. Plus I wanted to get a rise out of you.

Second, defensive evaluations are tough even with the newest, most-fangled statistics. But defense is important, OK, so I'll give a very brief eval from now on. Please don't swallow it all in one bite. As for benches ("we don't need no stinkin'..."), they're important if two teams are evenly matched in all other categories. We're talking, say, two or three at-bats per game and maybe two or three player/innings on defense, compared to 40 or 45 at-bats per game for the regulars. Benches make more of a difference when replacing oft-injured starters, but that comes down to luck, really. Why? A really good bench player will end up starting or heavily platooning, anyway (See Roberts, Dave), so guys who project as bench-and-bench-only aren't that good (see Ellison, Jason). When lifetime pine-riders replace an injured starter and end up performing better than the starter, it's usually not something we can predict. Usually. At least it's beyond my powers of statistical analysis, which extends slightly beyond pulling boogers out of my nose. Metaphorically speaking.

Third, if you want to know who won the Barry Zito caption contest, read to the end.

Bring on the Saint Douglas Fathers.

The projected lineups

G's

CF Roberts
SS Vizquel
1B Aurilia/Klesko
LF Bonds
2B Durham
RF Winn
C Molina
3B Feliz

P's

2B M. Giles
3B Kouzmanoff
RF B. Giles
1B Gonzalez
CF Cameron
C Bard
LF Branyan/(Cust? Sledge?)
SS Greene

Comments: When you run down those lineups, there isn't much reason to believe the Giants are better offensively. If M. Giles leads off, he'll likely get on base (career OBP: .361, ZIPS '07 projection: .356) as much as or more than Roberts (career: .344, ZIPS: .350), though he's not as much a threat to steal. SF has the OBP advantage with Vizquel batting second, but B. Giles's OPS will likely match or top whoever bats 3rd, and A. Gonzalez is not yet 25 and could easily match or top a declining Bonds. Bard seems a better batsman than Molina, and Greene is slightly less sucky than Feliz. Branyan is strictly platoon, but with a good platoon partner could easily top Randy Winn's output. It's not hopeful.

Rating: N at SF, O at SD

The projected rotations

S.F.

Zito
Cain
Morris
Lowry
5th guy

S.D.

Peavy
C. Young
Maddux
Hensley
Thompson

Comments: Peavy very very good. Probably better than Zito. Chris Young very good. Probably as good as Cain this year, unless Cain's learning curve is more like a learning express elevator to the executive suite, baby, yeah! Ahem. Greg Maddux, in a pitcher's park, will be more like Dodger Maddux than Cub Maddux, approach 200 innings and not walk a lot of guys. In other words, he'll likely do what the Giants with fingers crossed hope to get out of Matt Morris. Hensley/Lowry? Both are wild cards. Let's go to the ZIPS:

Hensley 161 IP / 18 HR / 65 BB / 104 K / 4.14 ERA
Lowry 182 IP / 22 HR / 65 BB / 130 K / 4.15 ERA


Throw out the fifth starter as statistical noise, and you have two pretty well-matched rotations.

Rating: N at SF, N at SD

Projected Bullpens: Uh-oh. Hoffman, Linebrink, Meredith were badda-bing, badda-bang, badda-boom in the late innings last year. No reason to think otherwise this year, though Meredith can't possibly be that good. Can he? Gulp. And Hoffman has to decline at some point, right? RIGHT? Please, doc, I can't take it anymore!

Rating: OO at SD, OO at SF

Outfield defense: The Giants have no answer for Cameron. Winn is a bit better than Giles, and Bonds can't be any worse than Branyan or Cust. Cameron trumps all. Adv: SD. Infield: Gonzalez and Giles on the right side are plus-plus defenders, Greene is spotty at short and Kouzmanoff an unknown quantity at three-bee. Giants will be better on the left side unless Feliz sits, which for offense sake, we hope he does. Adv: None. Bench: Todd Walker! No, Todd Linden! Jack Cust! No, Mark Sweeney! Do I have to?

I say San Diego's bullpen and younger cleanup hitter gives the Pads a slight edge at this point. Unless S.F.'s young bullpenners have breakout years and all their oldsters hit the ball hard, S.D. takes 11 of 18.

*Contest winner is Paul, for the very first caption. Depraved, but with a frisson of self-awareness and overtones of pop-culture criticism.

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