10.28.2005

The Giants Future Stars' War: The New Hope

In a Silicon Valley far, far away from the Major Leagues, a ragtag band of non-first round draft picks struggle to bring back the glory of the Orange and Black. Winning the California League Championship was just a battle won, but the war rages on at the Major League level as Darth Lasorda tries to re-build the Dodger's Star before the Orange and Black can bring in their reinforcements.

The Dodger Empire has had a number of good drafts, and have begun construction on their next generation of Dodgers' Stars, perhaps even more powerful than the Dodgers' Stars of the past. If their insidious plan is completed, and they have up and comers like Edwin Jackson, Greg Miller, James Loney, they will be a formidable opponent for the small band of prospects at San Jose struggling to make their way to the majors.

Will the new Giants be able to use the Orange side of the Force and triumph or will they succumb to the Dodgers and their evil use of the Blue side of the Force?

San Jose Giants - The New Hope

Brian Sabean noted in his post-season conference that this batch of prospects will be kept together to build chemistry and that long-term planning of the roster will focus on NOT blocking the path of any of the possible starters to the major leagues. It also helps that most of top position prospects are on that team, including Eddy Martinez-Esteve, Nate Schierholtz, and Travis Ishikawa. Kevin Frandsen was also on that team last season but was promoted eventually to AAA by season's end. Jake Wald, John Bowker, Brian Buscher, Clay Timpner, and Todd Jennings were also on the team and performed nicely. There were some nice pitching performances as well, mainly in the bullpen, though some starters had their strengths to build on.

I decided on San Jose first because this team was specifically singled out by Sabean as the Giants top prospects of the future, so I wanted to go over how the annointed ones did in the 2005 season. In a series of posts, I will go over some data crunching I did. I pulled together the batting and pitching data for the California League and calculated some ratios. I will provide my findings over a series of posts, maybe 3 or 4 in total.

How I Did This

First, I want to acknowledge a couple of resources without which I would not have been able to do the following analysis. Critical to this is, of course, the numbers, which I got from Sports Wired's The Baseball Cube. Not only does it already have 2005's numbers on-line but it also provided the ages of each player, which allowed me another datapoint and dimension to analyze on.

In addition, I got some of the ratios for analysis from a great publication, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster. This book is available on Amazon.com and at their main subscription website, baseballhq.com. They also have a companion subscription website, rotohq.com, that focuses specifically on fantasy baseball related stuff; not sure what the difference between the two sites are as there is fantasy stuff on their main site as well. Their inspiration is Bill James' original work in the early 1980's and they provide Bill Jamesian-type of analysis in their annual books, though with a fantasy focus - there is no chapter analyzing each team, but a lot of data on every player and all AAA and AA prospects. I will be buying their 2006 edition when it comes out later this year; I highly recommend it if you enjoy discussion of baseball analysis and their findings, as I noted, it is a lot like the stuff Bill James did, more in his spirit than anything else I've read.

Descriptions of the ratios they used are available here, along with their thoughts on what is good/acceptable and bad. I've also used my ranges for the more commonly used ratios that most sabermetricians use everyday. In addition, I will note the players who were in the 80 percentile or better for each ratio. I feel that will give a nice indication of how they performed relative to the other players in the league.

Ratios Used and Ranges

These are the ratios I used and ranges of good and poor performances. Here are the hitters ratios:
  • Batting Average: everyone knows, above .300 is good, under .250 is bad; Elite is above .330.
  • On-Base Percentage: I have found that above .350 is good, under .300 is bad; Elite is above .380.
  • Slugging Percentage: I have found that above .450 is good, under .350 is bad; Elite is above .500.
  • OPS: I have found that above .800 is good, under .700 is bad; Elite is above .900.
  • BB%: Equals the percentage of total plate appearances is walks, "Walk Rate" as Ron Shandler refers to it. He has found that above 10% is good, under 5% is bad, generally, though it depends on the hitter.
  • Contact%: Equals the percentage of AB in which a hitter makes contact, "Contact Rate" as Ron Shandler refers to it. He has found that above 85% is good, under 75% are free swingers.
  • BB/SO: "Batting Eye" as Ron Shandler refers to it. He has found that above 1.0 to be good, correlated to a .300 BA hitter, while under 0.50 is bad, a free swinger who either has a low BA or tends to be streaky.
  • AB/HR: I like this stat as it gives you an indication of the hitter's HR power. Players in the 20-30 AB range are 20-30 HR hitters, lower means elite HR hitter, higher means average or worse.

Here are the pitchers' ratios:

  • ERA: everyone knows, below 4.00 is good, above 5.00 is bad; Elite is under 3.50
  • h9: Equals the number of hits given up per every 9 IP. I have found that below 9.0 to be good and over 12.0 to be bad.
  • hr9: Equals the number of hits given up per every 9 IP; "homerun rate" as Ron Shandler refers to it. He has found homerun rates of 1.0 or less to be acceptable.
  • w9: Equals the number of walks given up per every 9 IP; "control" as Ron Shandler refers to it. He has found control of 3.0 or fewer to be acceptable.
  • k9: Equals the number of strikeouts per every 9 IP; "dominance" as Ron Shandler refers to it. He has found that dominance of 6.0 or more to be acceptable.
  • WHIP: Equals the number of walks plus hits per inning pitched; a common saber tool. I have found that rates of under 1.30 to be good, above 1.60 to be bad; Elite is approaching or going under 1.00.
  • k/w: It is the ratio of strikeouts to walks; "command" is what Ron Shandler refers to this. He has found that a ratio of over 2.0 to be acceptable.

These ratios were calculated, if they were not already provided, from the data I collected from The Baseball Cube. I will be presenting some data on these ratios in the following series of posts.


23 is Not Too Old for the California League

First off, I've read that 23 is "too old" for the California League. That has been the main criticism I've seen about Frandsen's performance for San Jose, downgrading totally his .351/.429/.467/.896 hitting. However, when I compiled all the players who played in the California League in 2005, the average age for the hitters was 23.29 years and for the pitchers was 23.74 years, with 23 the median age for both (it appears that whatever was the age of the player at the end of the season, that was his age in the data). It does get younger when accounting for players who played a significant part of the season in the league, but only a bit, with 22.84 years for the hitters with over 250 AB and 23.21 years for pitchers with over 45 IP, but that is still essentially 23 years old. So 23 is not too old for the league nor is it too young, it is just average for the league.

What it is, though, is too old for a great prospect to be still playing A-ball. But that's probably why the Giants moved Frandsen up so fast to AAA, to see whether he was as good as he appeared in San Jose. As most scouts acknowledge, he only has average skills but get the most out of them because of his great makeup. It is also, unfortunately, probably a maturity and point of view driven deeply home by first the uncertainty about his brother's health for a long time and next his brother's passing, just soon after getting drafted by their boyhood team.

Frandsen is a Bonafide Prospect

So while one should take his excellent performance in San Jose with some salt, neither should you downgrade it totally either: he was playing against people mainly his age, so he was neither advantaged or disadvantaged. So instead of getting too starry-eyed over his .351 BA and .896 OPS or too downcast on his age, we Giants fans should split it down the middle and view him as a good prospect with a good chance to make the majors and contribute.

As a comparison point, he batted a combined .314/.350/.457/.807 with 4 homers in 223 AB (56AB/HR) in AA/AAA after being promoted from San Jose. That's a pretty good OPS given his lack of HR power. Robby Thompson, in his full year in AA at age 23, did not do as well, hitting .261/.358/.396/.754 with 9 homers in 449 AB (50AB/HR). And Robby hit even worse in his previous two years in A-ball, giving no hint of what was to come until his AA year.

On the other hand, Frandsen has hit pretty well almost everywhere from college to the pros, except for his short stint at Norwich, where his OPS was only .708; but Norwich is a pitcher's park. And he did very well in his 20 game stint in AAA, helping to push his stats to the pretty good ones noted above, though that too must have some salt because it was at a hitters park at Fresno. So I figured that things should even out a bit by combining the stats for the two stints and, even though he had more AB at Norwich than at Fresno, he still had nice combined stats between the two places..

As noted in a previous post, Tidrow spoke glowingly about Frandsen. He said that Frandsen is a major league player and that Frandsen will definitely be considered for starting at 2B in 2007. He will be the starter at Fresno next year at 2B and probably will be called up to start should Durham see any extended DL time in 2006. Assuming he continues his progress - unfortunately he is not doing well in the Arizona Fall League currently - he should be the Giants starting 2B in 2007, if not sooner, depending on whether the Giants end up trading Durham mid-2006 season to pick up prospects and/or to save money on the payroll.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Lyle said...

I'm looking forward to your analysis. The DodgerStar must not be allowed to be rebuilt. Help me, Schierholtz-wan, you're my only hope.

Mon Oct 31, 06:44:00 AM PST  

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