Thursday, May 18, 2006

A's vs. Giants: Farm System Production

Not to pick on Ann Killion regularly but she made this point today in her column about how the A's have more home grown players than the Giants. In the past, that would have been as obviously as "are frog's butts waterproof" or "was Charlie Finley cheap" but with the influx of Giants prospects coming up and contributing over the past two seasons, I wondered if that was still true.

A's Vs. Giants: a Mixed Bag

I have no idea going in which way this will turn out, though obviously I think it will be a close race else I wouldn't bother doing this. And, to make this fairer, I will not count any player picked in the first 10 picks of the draft because the odds of finding a player there is so much greater than anywhere else in the draft, exponentially greater. A team that has a lot of these have an unfair advantage in any draft comparison because it is much easier picking up a star player in those picks than possibly all the rest of the picks in the draft altogether.

For the Giants, we have 10 players who qualify:
  • Jeremy Accardo
  • Matt Cain
  • Kevin Correia
  • Brad Hennessey
  • Noah Lowry
  • Scott Munter
  • Pedro Feliz
  • Lance Niekro
  • Jason Ellison
  • Dan Ortmeier

Technically, Accardo is not drafted but was signed as a free agent when he went undrafted, but I count that as the Giants could have picked him up with the 51st round pick if they wanted to. Feliz likewise, but he is most definitely a product of the Giants farm system.

For the A's they have 7 players:

  • Joe Blanton
  • Ron Flores
  • Huston Street
  • Bobby Crosby
  • Mark Ellis
  • Dan Johnson
  • Nick Swisher

Two names omitted were Barry Zito (9th pick of 1999 draft) and Eric Chavez (10th pick of 1996 draft), so in number including them would still have the Giants having more home-grown talent than the A's. But that's skewed right now because Ortmeier is only here because Alou is out on the DL, so I guess we could call it a tie. But the main point is that I wanted to see if Killion's impression that the A's have more homegrown talent is true and, as we can see, that's not entirely true.

Quality Beats Quantity

Of course and obviously, the A's still have a huge edge in quality. They have 6 players playing key/starter roles in Blanton, Street, Crosby, Ellis, Johnson, Swisher, 8 if you include Zito and Chavez. As far as starters go, which ultimately is more important, we only have four: Cain, Lowry, Feliz, and Niekro. And our four contribute much less to the team's success than the A's players. Though if you go strictly by results this season, the A's only have Swisher, Zito, and Chavez doing well, while the Giants at best has one, Feliz, if you stretch what is considered doing well, though obviously he has been contributing a lot, though I guess some could include Hennessey.

So there is still a gap between the A's and the Giants, but the gap has fallen greatly over the past two seasons with the Giants actually having more homegrown players on their 25 man roster but still have less quality than the A's in terms of overall production by homegrown players.

But the gap looks to get closer going forward, Zito looks be to going elsewhere after this season, and the Giants have a crop of homegrown talent ready to join the team over the next two seasons, including Kevin Frandsen, Brian Wilson, Jonathan Sanchez, Merkin Valdez, Todd Linden, Dan Ortmeier, Freddy Lewis, EME, Nate Schierholtz, Travis Ishikawa, Marcus Sanders. Others who may also make the team include Joe Bateman, Eliezer Alfonzo, Adam Shabala, Pablo Sandoval, Joaquin Waldis, Dan Griffin, Ben Copeland, Sharlon Shoop, Shairon Martis (first no-hitter in WBC), Pat Misch, Chris Begg, Mike Mooney, Brian Horwitz, Antoan Richardson, and I'm sure I'm missing someone but I'm trying to get this out before lunchtime is up. Oh, two guys doing well this season and getting good press in Steve Shelby's writeups lately on McCovey Chronicles are Nick Pereira and Alex Hinshaw. Not that the A's don't have their crop too, I just don't know (or care to know) their system that well.


  1. John Seal, A's fansThursday, May 18, 2006 3:18:00 PM

    Interesting arbitrary decision to exclude Zito and Chavez in order to prove your point. The bottom line is that the A's have traditionally developed players and used them, whilst the Giants have developed players and flipped them for grizzled old men with bad backs and zimmer frames. It remains to be seen how many of these Giants prospects will actually stick. I quite like some of them--I think Merkin and Martinez-Esteve are particularly intriguing, and Ishikawa looks promising--but when Steinbrenner dangles Bernie Williams in front of Sabean's nose, will he be able to resist? As for the A's, well, if history is a guide, by 2008 Kevin Melillo will relieve Mark Ellis of duty and Jeremy Brown or Kurt Suzuki will have replaced the rotting carcass that is Jason Kendall. Jason Windsor will be pitching in the bigs soon, and barring injury, Travis Buck, Jared Lansford, and Craig Italiano will be knocking on the door not long after that.

    The A's build their teams around the youngsters they develop. The Giants plug them into the line-up when the AARP crowd are nursing their owies. Big difference in philosophy.

  2. And yet 40% of the Giants roster is made up of youngsters who are homegrown.

    It is not entirely arbitrary. From my research, 45% of the Top 10 picks from 1986-1999 were either useful, good, or a star. That's roughly being a starter, useful players were defined as players who were good enough that their teams kept them into their arbitration years and played them.

    In contrast for the next 90 picks in the draft, only 15% of them were useful or above. And it gets worse from there, picks 91-100 saw only 6.9% become useful or above (good or star accounted for 1.5 percentage points of that so 5.4% were useful) and I'm sure it gets much worse later in the draft. And the 100 picks basically covers the first two and half to three rounds, they then hold another 47 rounds.

    That's triple the success rate of finding a useful player for a Top 10 pick, that would skew the results for any comparison if one team got more Top 10 picks over the recent past. And hence why it was not so arbitrary part, I knew the A's had more Top 10 picks than the Giants.

    And yet even when we include these Top 10 picks back in, which I did in my final analysis, the Giants still have more homegrown players on their team. Which was the origin of my quest, the statement of contention by Ann Killion that the A's had more "homegrown player", she didn't say starter or good players or any qualifiers of any type, she just said homegrown.

    And I was trying to be fair in noting that it is more important to count good starters in the comparison, not just compare homegrown players period, which shows that the A's still have a more productive bunch of homegrown players.

    And if I didn't make clear, I was not trying to denigrate the A's farm system, I was just trying to compare the Giants with what I consider to be a good example, a benchmark, if you will, against which to compare our progress against.

    As much as I loathe the A's - a result of years of boorish A's fans who decided to pick on me when I was growing up - I admire what Beane has done with his farm system and his team.

    And just because one cannot understand why something works, doesn't mean that it is not worthy of consideration, Sabean has won in every year he has been GM of the Giants until last season and got the Giants to the World Series, that is more than Beane can say. In fact, an article, I think on The Hardball Times or Baseball Prospectus, analyzed the value of players as they aged and they found a bubble in late aged players where there is value in them mainly because they were good enough to still play at a level to stave off the younger players and yet they are paid less, given Sabean's methods a saber thumbs up, though they still wouldn't do it themselves, if I recall correctly.

    As funny it is to mock his penchant for elder citizens of baseball, and I can laugh along as well, some are pretty good, for the most part he has not picked up players who were clearly on the deep downside of their career, like Bernie Williams. Grissom and Tucker were still productive, so was Sanders and Durham, Benitez came off a career year, Vizquel and Matheny have performed to the performance standards of previous years (and better in some aspects), Alou has produced (when healthy and he's been that for the most part), and even Finley has produced. His only unmitigated failure has been Alfonzo, he was productive the way we expected for maybe half a season out of the three seasons he was with us, and he was probably the youngest of the bunch, assuming you believe his stated age.

    Thanks for your good comments and giving me a chance to explain myself and my methods. Take care.

  3. Ooops, I meant "givING Sabean's methods a saber thumbs up" up above.

  4. And here is the link to the article, which is on THT:

    I found it an interesting read.

    Just to be clear to people who recently started reading my blog, I've written for a while on Sabean's methods to see if I could work out the logic of why he does what he does, even before my blog, as a volunteer for a popular website. I don't agree with him all the time (should have signed Vlad) and don't put him on a pedestal, but generally approve of his moves as GM on the whole. So far. I think his legacy (and his job) will be on the line regarding how he navigates the post-Bonds era with the millions he doesn't have to pay Bonds anymore and the prospects he develops (or not) from the farm system.

    If what he does is BS (and not his initials), I will say that as well, I just haven't found a lot of occassions to do so (Vlad, Vlad, Vlad, Vlad, Vlad, Nathan...).

    And even for mistakes, like Alfonzo clearly was, I try to give perspective there, that some fans forget. Because there really were no great options out there for 3B at the time he signed Alfonzo, mainly looking at David Bell and Bill Mueller, and he was looking for an RBI guy to plug in with the potential loss of Kent looming. He had to take the risk of signing Alfonzo because he had no other choice, it wasn't like Scott Rolen or Eric Chavez was on the market there, those were his main choices if I recall correctly.

  5. John Seal, A's fanFriday, May 19, 2006 7:08:00 PM hate the A's for the same reason I hate the Giants. (And I do hate them, with unbridled passion). I came to baseball late as an adult...1989 in fact. I started following the A's because, well, they were the hometown team. I didn't know squat about the game, and a very bitter Giants fan completely destroyed my baseball innocence by bitching and moaning about how evil the A's were. And here we are.

    Do you think Russ Ortiz still has that World Series ball on his mantle? :)

  6. I was a child and fell into it the way most young kids would on their own: the Giants got off to a very hot start, hotter than the A's, plus then I did an adult sort of thing and justified it logically by the fact that I was born in San Francisco so that's my team, even though I lived in the East Bay. So it was fated for me, because almost any other year, it would have been the A's who were better.

    But I'm glad that I was a Giants fan, I'm a huge comedy fan and Jerry Gordon's Golden Age of Comedy followed the games and I would listen until deep into the night to great comedy routines and more modern stuff, plus stuff people might find on Dr. Demento. Woody Allen, Abbott and Costello, Stan Freberg, Nichols and May, JFK impersonator (can't remember his name but he was famous for his time), Burns and Allen, Bill Cosby, Jonathan Winters, Bill Dana, George Carlin and his seven forbidden words on radio routine, Bob Newhart, etc.

    Plus it was always on one station, it would have drove me mad to have to figure out which station my team was going to be on each year and, worse, figure out whether I can get reception for that station where I lived. Even worse, many years it would be on a country western station.

    Yeah, there's a lot of these bitter Giants fans around, particularly (I'm guessing) those who came from my era or just before, not sure why they are like that. All I know is that baseball is a great game and I enjoyed the 70's and 80's and 90's and the Giants have played some great ball over the past 10 years since Sabean took over and they couldn't enjoy the games, even while we were winning and doing well. Which is too bad, there was a lot of good baseball played during that time.

    Thinking it over, "loathe" and "hate" are too strong a word for me to use broadly. I loathe the A's fans who like to rub things in my face - things are what they are - and I don't consider them to be nice people and I don't care to be around people who are not nice. For the most part, though, I feel nothing for the A's either way, I'm a big sports fan so I follow everything in the sports pages, but if the A's were to move to Portland or Las Vegas, I wouldn't care either way, or if they were to move to San Jose, I wouldn't care either.

    Yeah, I think Ortiz still has that ball on his mantle, it was a well pitched game he threw.



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