Your 2006 Giants: Finley Rebound Key To World Series
Sign of Decline or Injury Induced?
Finley injured his shoulder diving for a ball in the 2nd game of the 2005 season. He tried to suck it up and play through it but despite a good month in May, he wasn't able to handle it anymore and went on the DL in mid-June. He still could not do anything after coming off the DL until September, when he hit .271/.300/.500/.800 with 3 HR in 48 AB. That would suggest that he finally was healed by the end of the season.
So I looked at his charts on FanGraph, suddenly my favorite analytical tool. Looking at his R/L splits, he appeared to hit LHP as well as before (though small samples he still hit .271/.317/.441/.758 with 3 HR in 118 AB, not far from his career hitting vs. LHP) but his hitting vs. RHP really suffered, particularly his power. So it appears that the injury took away from his abilities to hit RHP. But there is clearly a downward trend, going down over the past three seasons so maybe it is a real trend. However, his BABIP (batting average balls in play) was still normal vs. LHP whereas it was very poor vs. RHP, which suggests that it was just bad "luck" in that balls that normally went for hits became outs instead, as BABIP is a metric that most players fall to the mean. Either way, something affected his hitting vs. RHP, but it appears likely that it was either due to injury or "bad luck bounces" since his hitting vs. LHP appears to be at career norms.
Another factor which made 2005 such a bad season was his pattern of reaching his offensive peak during the summer, basically at the time he went on the DL. And it is quite a peak based on past years' data. So that added to his reduced performance overall.
Lastly, the move to the Angels hurt him two ways. The Angel's ballpark really did a number on his home stats, obviously sinking his overall numbers. But his away wasn't something to write home about either, though he really truly was terrible at home: home .204/.263/.331/.594 with 3 HR in 181 AB vs. away .236/.278/.409/.687 with 9 HR in 225 AB (or 1 HR in 25 AB, still pretty good power). However, that's not necessarily going to get better with the Giants because our home park affects left-handed hitters like Finley much more than right-handed hitters plus he hasn't historically hit well in SF. Secondly, he has been an NL man, since 1991, and moved to the AL, where his experience with pitchers and defenses is not as useful as it was playing in the NL. Returning should help him in that regard.
World Series Factor
I believe that Finley being the hitter he once showed is key to the Giants World Series hopes, presuming they get there first. One, he will be getting a lot of playing time behind the top three outfielders during the regular season. If he can keep pace with their offensive production, overall, then the outfield contribution to the offense will be on a high level; if not, because he'll be seeing so many games (or a lesser replacement), he will drag down the offense.
Two, he will be a dangerous PH off the bench for the games he is sitting for veteran presence, hitting savvy, and HR power. That's something we haven't had except when Galarraga was here. In addition, if he's starting, then one of the other OF will be that dangerous presence on the bench. Third, in the 2002 World Series, we were relying on Dunston, Feliz, and Shinjo for DH, but if he's hitting the way he can, he can play LF while Bonds become our DH, which is a win-win there, both offensively and defensively. If we had a good hitter DHing for us in 2002, we would have won it.
Overall, it appears that Finley should return to form if he has recovered from his injury. His September rebound suggests that he returned to health because he could hit for power, which he couldn't do the three months before. In addition, he had a strong year hitting vs. LHP whereas his BABIP vs. RHP was abnormally low, around .220 when his BABIP vs. RHP has bounced around around .300 the previous three seasons, which suggests that he should rebound somewhat towards his established mean, though not necessarily all the way back, given his age plus rebounds don't revert to the mean as fast or as well as fall backs. The main negative is his poor history hitting at SBC, but small samples again.
Looking over his L/R splits over the past 10 seasons plus H/A splits, he has been able to do well overall whether hitting poorly at home or hitting poorly on the road. For his career, he has been amazingly similar whether at home or away. His L/R splits, assuming his hitting vs. RHP reverts back, even if he can duplicate his previous worse vs. RHP in the last 10 seasons - .277/.328/.453/.780 with 12 HR in 422 AB - that would be adequate production for a replacement during the season and great if we are good enough (and lucky enough) to make it to the World Series.