Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Sabean Draft Dodging: As Bad as Pundits Say It Is?

As long time readers of mine know, clearly I believe that Sabean's habit of purposefully losing draft picks by signing a free agent before the deadline, while unorthodox, can be justified by the lack of talent available for any draft pick after the 10th pick of the first round, let alone after the 21-30th pick range that Sabean normally drafted in.

While I don't totally agree with this - there should be some limit on this, though I'm not sure at the moment what - I at least feel that I can understand why he made this unorthodox move for the drafts from 2003 to 2005. I tried to explain this in my series of articles on the draft - which I hope to review again this season in hopes of winning more converts - but not everyone either understand or agree with me. And that is fine with me - can't please everyone, as the Ricky Nelson song goes - but my interest is always piqued when anyone disagrees with this method because perhaps I missed something or didn't take things far enough.

During spring training, while perusing my Baseball Prospectus 2006, I ran into a quote that got me thinking. In it, they point out that Matt Cain is a great example of why the Giants should not follow his course of action of punting draft picks and basically mock him with that statement. So that was the genesis of this post. I also wanted to examine what they did since Baseball Prospectus has a history of disparaging Brian Sabean's methods and, in particular, his deliberate loss of 1st round draft picks by signing free agents just before the deadline. They clearly are not Brian Sabean fans.

They're Not Alone

Now, today Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury jumps on this topic too, with his column blasting Sabean's draft methods, so I felt the immediate urge to get this out, so I apologize if some parts are a bit disjointed and perhaps incomplete; I tried my best to get everything just right but sometimes you read things so often you just miss obvious mistakes. I was also originally going to compare BP's study with mine to answer my critic's questions, but I'm making that into a separate post now, coming soon to a blog near you.

What Tim and BP did, I compare with gamblers' regret, who look at the Keno board or poker hand or lottery pick numbers and exclaim, "If only I had picked that other number or asked for another card or placed another bet, I would have won." That is so simplistic! I will cover BP later as first I'll tackle Tim's column.

If Only

Tim played the game of "If Only" with the Giants drafts under Sabean. I will try to tackle his points in order. His error is the same as I have seen with most other digs at a GM for poor draft selection, so I'm only singling out Tim because he happened to publish his column today and I happen to be working on a post regarding this topic. Otherwise, I like Tim's writing most of the time.

Tim's First Point: Point Out the Good Ones Without Context

First, he noted Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, who were picks by the Phillies, then Morgan Ensberg and Lance Berkman by the Astros, including that Berkman was passed over by the Giants when they picked Jason Grilli 4th in 1997. Chase Utley was the 15th pick of the first round; all the picks that Sabean has given up that caused people to get all steamed up at him have been much later in the first round, they were in the 21-30 range and higher. So there's no way he could have picked up Utley with the picks he punted. In addition, here are the odds of finding a star player of Utley's caliber in the 11-20 pick range as suggested by my research: 15 to 1. So obviously the Phillies beat the odds in picking Utley.

But if you like those odds, you'll love the ones against picking Ryan Howard in the 5th round with the 140th pick of the draft. Now, my stats only went up to pick 100, but that's not too far away, so lets assume the odds are similar: my research suggested odds of about 250 to 1 for picking a star if you had a pick in the 60-100 pick range of the draft. Like finding a needle in the haystack, no? And it would have to be a pretty large haystack to miss Howard, he's a big boy! This would mean that after five years of picking, on average you will find one, and that's the average, it would not be statistically significant at that probability until probably around 7 or 9 years.

OK, now lets go with Morgan Ensberg. He was picked in the 9th (!!!) round with the 272nd pick of the draft. I would guess that the odds would go much higher nearly tripling the pick number, so I think it would be safe to say that the odds would be much greater than the 250 to 1 odds for Howard, probably over 1000 to 1 odds, I would think. So Tim wants the Giants to be gamblers? Those are all long odds.

In addition, if Tim must use Morgan Ensberg as a shining light for the Houston franchise, then he should show more patience with Sabean as well: Morgan was a total failure as a major leaguer until he was 28. Plus, he had a horrible sophomore year, pushing his stock way down. It was only when he was 30 years old, last year, that he became good enough for anyone to point a finger at him and laugh at other people passing him up in the draft.

On the other hand, Sabean has a player who has shown more promise at an earlier age than Ensberg. At the age of 26, which Niekro was last season, Niekro had been in AAA for 2 seasons already and spent his first season in the majors, hitting .252 with 12 HR in 278 AB for 46 RBI. At 26, it was Morgan's FIRST year in AAA and it would be another two seasons before he would have his breakout year. So if Tim likes Ensberg so much, then he should give Sabean until Niekro is 30 before he judges Sabean's drafts a failure.

Lastly, at least for this first point that Tim made, I have a lot more to cover, he knocked Sabean for passing up Lance Berkman and picking Jason Grilli instead. Here's the first 16 players picked in the 1997 draft, the Giants weren't the only one picking a dud and passing over Berkman:

  1. Matt Anderson (Berkman way better; FYI, happens to be at AAA Fresno now)
  2. J.D. Drew (Berkman better)
  3. Troy Glaus (Push, perhaps Glaus better since he's a 3B)
  4. Jason Grilli (nuff said, I agree, bad pick)
  5. Vernon Wells (Berkman better so far, Wells younger and CF)
  6. Geoff Goetz (Never made majors; AA highest)
  7. Dan Reichert (Short MLB career)
  8. J.J. Davis (Berkman way way better)
  9. Michael Cuddyer (Berkman way better)
  10. Jon Garland (Push, Berkman arguably better to me )
  11. Chris Enochs (Never made majors; AAA highest)
  12. Aaron Akin (Never made majors; A+ highest)
  13. Kyle Peterson (Short MLB career)
  14. Brandon Larson (Short MLB career)
  15. Jason Dellaero (Brief call-up)
  16. Lance Berkman
So if Sabean was wrong for passing up Berkman, then arguable 14 of the 15 teams who picked ahead of Houston were wrong too and the last probably wouldn't mind having him now over Glaus. And Sabean was facing coin-flip type of odds for his 4th pick. One would think that picking 4th would be pretty good for finding a good player, let alone a star player, but only 43% of players picked in the 1-5 picks became at least a good player in my study.

But if one likes Houston's drafting record, how about these guys?
  • Tom Nevers
  • Tony McNight
  • Robert Stiehl
  • Derick Grigsby
These are guys that Houston picked in the 21-30 pick range in the first round since 1990, same pick range as Sabean has had to deal with for almost his entire tenure as GM because his teams won so much, same pick range as he punted in avoiding the pick. The last two flamed out in A-ball, the first one only made it to AAA, and the second one was the only one to make the majors but only played there for parts of two seasons.

Tim's Second Point: Praises A's When He Should By His Logic Diss Them Too

Next he disses Sabean for passing up on Huston Street in 2004 and, by extension, praises the A's. Well, then he needs to diss the A's too and big time. They also passed up Street too, MULTIPLE TIMES. They picked Landon Powell (highest level: short season A-ball) with the 24th pick, Richard Robnett (highest level: short season A-ball) with the 26th pick, and Danny Putnam (highest level: high A-ball) with their 36th pick, before picking Street with their #40 pick. At any point, another team picking in between could have snagged Street too, but didn't. The only two picks out of the 39 ahead of Street to make the majors so far is Justin Verlander #2 Detroit and J.P. Howell #31 Kansas City. Other players of note: Jeremy Sowers (Indians - #6, AAA), Jered Weaver (Angels - #12, AA), and Stephen Drew (D-backs - #15, AA).

KC, by the way, picked Matt Campbell with the pick they got from the Giants for Tucker. I cannot find him at all in the Minor League Baseball website. He only made low A-ball in 2005 so I guess he quit. The player the Giants traded Tucker for, Kelvin Pichardo, is 20 years old this season, and he is not currently playing in the minors, so he is probably going to show up in one of the rookie leagues, or perhaps short-season A-ball at Salem-Keizer.

Tim's Third Point: Will Clark and Matt Williams and Giants 2006 #10 Pick

Not to belabor my previous point, but the Giants got lucky with their picks of Clark and Williams. Over the 1986-1998 period, only 11% of Top 10 picks became stars. It is probably a bit higher if you just focus on just the Top 3 picks of the draft but the Giants are only picking 10th. That is still not good odds for a pick that Tim says is "their most significant selection since they took Will Clark second overall in 1985 and Matt Williams third the next year."

And I'm surprised he would make such hyperbole regarding the baseball draft, particularly since he covers all the major sports. In football and basketball, where the draft is much more important to the future of the sports franchise, the 10th pick of the draft is never a sure thing, and certainly is not a star, at least not right off, as Tim suggests that the Giants need from the draft: he wants results "almost immediately." And yet for baseball, which has not seen a player go straight from the draft to the majors in decades, he demands that the Giants find someone who would pay off immediately. Even for the 2004 draft where the A's netted Street, they were lucky, only two others have made the majors so far from the first 40 picks, let alone the Top 10, and the other two did not make big contributions last season.

Tim's Fourth Point: Brad Hennessey vs. Bobby Crosby

Again, it is easy to pick on teams and, to Tim's credit, he does note this in his column, but then goes ahead and did it anyway. So lets examine all the A's 20-30 picks so we get a taste of their success rate, from 1990-2004, since he liked 2004's pick of Street, and Beane is just continuing his predecessor's methodologies:

  • Don Peters #26 - 1990
  • Brent Gates #26 - 1991
  • Benji Grigsby #20 - 1992
  • John Wasdin #25 - 1993
  • Eric DuBose #21 - 1997
  • Bobby Crosby #25 - 2001
  • Jeremy Bonderman #26 - 2001
  • Joe Blanton #24 - 2002
  • John McCurdy #26 - 2002
  • Ben Fritz #30 - 2002
  • Brad Sullivan #25 - 2003
  • Brian Synder #26 - 2003
  • Landon Powell #24 - 2004
  • Richard Robnett #26 - 2004
So, over 15 seasons, the A's have had 14 picks in the 20-30 pick range. And 3 of them have turned out the way Kawakami demands that the Giants be getting all these years out of the first round picks that they have been punting, which works out to 20%, and frankly, I think it is a bit too soon to be calling Crosby and Blanton stars, particularly since Crosby appears to be injury prone and Blanton has started of so horribly this season, a sign that his low K-rate thus far in the majors probably hampers his prospects for a long-term career. Only Bonderman I would call a bonafide star in the making, a la what he pointed out the Giants need, another Will Clark or Matt Williams.

Tim's Fifth Point: Sabean Has Only Cain As a Good Pick

This is kind of ironic since the column came out the same day as the news of Lowry's good first outing against the Astro's the night before. He was the Giants 2nd pick of the first round of the 2001 draft that Tim's pointed out the A's picked Crosby after the Giants picked up Hennessey. If Tim is saying that he knows which player will have a mysterious tumor appear in the shoulder, TWICE, pushing back his development a few years, because Hennessey has shown the brilliance of his abilities multiple times last season, then he has a future as a tele-psychic or in the GM suite of a professional sports team. In addition, given Crosby's low .249 BA or low .326 OBP for his career prior to 2006 plus all the injuries, perhaps he should reconsider his argument and say that the A's blew it by picking up Crosby when they could have had Lowry, who is a career 19-13 with 3.71 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 2.3 K/W ratio prior to 2006.

Baseball Prospectus Dig

"With first round draft picks like Cain, it makes you wonder why Brian Sabean is so eager to give them away." - Baseball Prospectus on Matt Cain in their Top 2006 Prospects section, Baseball Prospectus 2006 (copyright 2006; Workman Publishing)

While I like BP in general - I have their editions from 2003 to 2006 - I find that they have a blind spot for Sabean and his methods. As much as they like to play themselves up as looking beyond the obvious and using data to put a new light on things, they just love to give Sabean and his methods a poke any chance they get, like the above. A number of their comments have gotten my goat before - and that's generally their appeal for me, they can be quick to cut to the bone, like the best that Bill James had delivered effortlessly oh so many years ago - but I found the above to bother me a lot.

Selective Memory

Interesting, the use of Cain for making the case for not punting first round draft picks. It reminds me of the slogan for the California Lottery, "You can't win if you don't play." Why don't they instead list the first round draft picks for the Giants from 1987 to 2001 with their overall pick order (squemish Giants fans should hide their eyes and skip to the next section):
  • 1987: Mike Remlinger (16th pick overall)
  • 1988: Royce Clayton (15th)
  • 1989: Steve Hosey (14th)
  • 1990: Adam Hyzdu (15th)
  • 1991: Steve Whitaker (33rd)
  • 1992: Calvin Murray (7th)
  • 1993: Steve Soderstrom (6th)
  • 1994: Dante Powell (22nd)
  • 1995: Joe Fontenot (16th)
  • 1996: Matt White (7th; lost due to clerical error, ultimately fortunately)
  • 1997: Jason Grilli (4th)
  • 1998: Tony Torcato (19th)
  • 1999: Kurt Ainsworth (24th)
  • 2000: Boof Bonser (21st)
  • 2001: Brad Hennessey (21st)
These are the 15 first round draft picks selected before Cain's draft year. Up to the point of the Matt Cain pick, only Ainsworth was considered a top prospect out of these picks. At the point when Sabean punted his 2003 pick by signing Durham early, only Ainsworth and maybe Boof, out of these, were a top prospect. None had otherwise developed into a great player and only Remlinger and Clayton could be considered useful players. Given this horrible track record, one would be inclined to punt draft picks, if only to avoid their apparent incompetence in drafting (which, as my research suggested, was really just a lack of available, easy to identify, talent to draft; it becomes exponentially harder to identify a future valuable major leaguer after around the 10th pick of the first round).

How about the fact that Baseball America had rated Cain the 38th best prospect in that draft. Thus the Giants actually drafted him higher than BA thought he should be drafted, based on the talent pool for that draft. This is a pattern I've discovered with the Giants relative to Baseball America's pre-draft ranking: the Giants typically pick players before others think they should be picked. Even here, Sabean picked Cain sooner than the consensus.

I also remember the collective "huh?" that came out of the Giants drafting Nate Schierholtz in the 3rd round and he has become one of the organization's top three hitting prospects, where exactly depending on the outlet ranking him. And if you go back to all of Sabean's drafts and compare them to where BA ranked him, more often than not, the Giants have drafted players ahead of where BA thought they would be. While that was a negative in the early years because the Giants did not have a great number of successes back then, once the millenium came, Sabean has been a lot better in picking players in the draft. And signing players who didn't get drafted: Jeremy Accardo, who's pitching for the big club now, and Brian Horwitz, who has won two league batting titles in his two years with the team and is challenging for a third, were undrafted and signed by the Giants.

How about these players:
  • Bryan Bullington
  • Chris Gruler
  • Adam Loewen
  • Clint Everts
  • Scott Moore
  • Jeff Francis
  • Drew Meyer
  • Joe Saunders
  • Russ Adams
  • Royce Ring
  • James Loney
  • Denard Span
  • Bobby Brownlie
  • Jeremy Guthrie

These are the picks before Cain that I think the teams would now prefer Cain (other good draft picks that year include BJ Upton, Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, Jeremy Hermida, Khalil Greene, Scott Kazmir, Nick Swisher, Cole Hamels, Jeff Francoeur, and Joe Blanton). Do these teams feel as good about drafting these players as they would had they instead drafted Cain? Maybe in the future, if Cain should (unfortunately) ends up as a bust or if their pick suddenly blossoms into a star, or both. But at the moment of this quote, I don't think they are as happy with their pick as the Giants are with their.

How about the A's disdain for high school pitchers? They are one of the major practioners of the sabermetric art within the MLB. Billy Beane is also one of their endorsers, his endorsement was on the cover of their book before. Would Billy agree with BP that it is OK to draft high school pitchers, as long as they turn out to be Matt Cain? These are the high school pitchers drafted before Cain: Chris Gruler, Adam Loewen, Clint Everts, Zack Greinke, Scott Kazmir, and Cole Hamels. Only Zack Greinke and Scott Kazmir would be considered picks as good or better than Cain, the rest are not yet in the majors full-time, though it is still early, they are all only about 21 years of age.

Bill James Disagrees

In addition, Bill James totally disagrees with the Matt Cain pick. I found this quote from his book on ESPN from a link on TangoTiger's website:
In The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (2001), James writes,
"The most phenomenal fact of life in baseball today is that major league teams
continue to use first-round draft picks for high school pitchers ... It has been
obvious for twenty years that this is a stupid, stupid gamble ... yet every
year, four to seven first-round picks are invested in these turkeys."
There you have it: a leading saber states that it is a "stupid" gamble to draft a high school pitcher.

Eatting Your Dog Food

It gets even worse: this advice they give Brian Sabean not only contradicts their own research, it contradicts the research by one of the writers of the prospect article! In a series of articles under their Doctoring the Numbers column, the writer analyzed the draft picks and one of the results of the analysis was:


The two salient conclusions from the last article were that:

1. College players taken in the first three rounds are about 50% more likely to reach the majors than high school players;
2. College players, on average, yield about 55% more value than high school players drafted with the same pick.

The shorthand for this is that college players are both more likely to reach the majors and more likely to develop into star-caliber players once they reach the majors.

While he backs off of this statement later in the series, noting that this advantage was largely dissipated during the 1990's, it is still clear from his research that drafting a pitcher, whether high school or college, is much riskier than drafting a college hitter. Yet here they are, advocating drafting a pitcher when it is so much riskier than drafting a college hitter.

One More Swipe At Kawakami

I thought I would end with an examination of Tim's last paragraph in his column today:

There's only the 10th pick in the upcoming draft, and either Sabean finds the
next Will Clark or else things are going to get very dark for a very long
time.

Again, nice hyperbole. The Giants farm system, since he didn't seem to notice, is the best it has been in years, probably the best since Clark, Thompson, and Williams roamed the system and, except for this triumvirate, the farm system could be the best it has been since the early 70's when it produced young starts like Dave Kingman, George Foster, Gary Mathews, Garry Maddux, John "the Count" Montefusco, and Ron Bryant. And in terms of pitching, probably the best ever for the San Francisco franchise.

Nice players today include EME, Schierholtz, Ishikawa, Sanders, and Horwitz among the position players and Valdez, Sanchez, Wilson, Accardo, Hennessey, Griffin, Joaquin, and Martis.

Overall: Pot Shots

Altogether, these are pot shots taken at Sabean which I think I showed above is unfair or, worse, untrue. But when an area like the baseball draft that is so unexamined so far, it is easy for people to misunderstand how hard it actually is to find and draft players of consequence. And particularly easy when one particular GM has made himself the king of first round draft picks given up. Hopefully I have shown how far off base these statement were from the truth of the matter.

4 comments:

  1. Martin, I agree with your statistical analysis: the odds of finding a good player in the draft go down dramatically after the first 5-10 selections. But I come to a different conclusion: we've got to get better at drafting! Bad odds aside, I believe it is the only game in town, for long-term stability. Free agency is not a panacea; I think it should only be used when one of your young prospects has clearly not worked out (I'm tempted to give Pedro Feliz as an example of this, but I understand your views on him - and I somewhat agree - so I'll resist).

    As a model, I'd hold up the Atlanta Braves. They signed some great free agents: Greg Maddux, Terry Pendleton, and Fred McGriff come to mind immediately. But they put tremendous effort into their draft. And having low positions in the draft throughout the 90's (like us 1997-2005), they adopted the long view and took a lot of high-risk, high-reward high school players. Now I personally wouldn't have gone quite that far with the philosophy, but overall I agree with their plan. I'd *much* rather draft a Jeff Francouer-type prospect (no matter how he turns out in the future) than punt the pick and sign Michael Tucker. That's no disrespect to Tucker (although we should have realized that KC's park inflated his stats), he was a reasonable addition at the time. We just should not have forfeited a pick for him - he wasn't that important.

    You say that we have a promising crop of minor leaguers in the pipeline. I pray (literally) that you're right; that would mean that our drafting prowess has improved, even despite some forfeited selections. But, as you pointed out, given our low-in-the-order position (and forfeited picks) the same odds you point out are very much against your assessment of our minor league crop.

    I see the minor leagues as the only reliable long-term strategy for producing major-league excellence. Lefty, on his blog, disagrees with a recent article by Tim Kawakami (sp?), who said (paraphrasing here) that our draft this year will likely determine the Giants' success or failure for the next 5-10 years, that we must find the next Will Clark or Matt Williams. I would only add that this year's AND next year's drafts are crucial to the next 5-10 years. I think this year and next are etched in stone already (no matter which free agents we overspend on next year). Whoever arises from the Lewis/Ortmeier/EME/Schierholtz/Ishikawa/Frandsen/Sanders group will be the backbone of 2008-2009. After that point, this year's and next year's draft will determine whether we improve on that base, or decline. This draft will be a huge test of Sabean and his staff. We will immediately know if they have the right concept; it will take years to know if they have sufficient skill.

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  2. Actually, it was my post that disagree with Kawakami, or at least not Lefty's, I don't see anything there disagreeing with Tim but I did write that on this post.

    I agree that we need to get better. From the past few years, it appears that we have gotten better after the first few years of misery (Ainsworth and Williams were probably best picks of that early period, nuff said!).

    Don't get me going on the Braves. They stole, STOLE 1993 from us when the lame Padres traded McGriff to them and did not take one, ONE!, top 10 prospect off them for him, if the commish then had any balls, like Kuhn, he would have vetoed the trade.

    I agree free agency is no panacea, it should be used judiciously to fill in spots but unfortunately the poor Giants system created a lot of spots over the years.

    And I don't love Feliz, I know there's better out there, but I see it as akin to the parent of a stupid child (not that Feliz is one): he's doing the best that he can and you have to accept his limitations. I don't like it but the choice was literally him or Alfonzo, there's no genius trade where we get a Rolen for Erick Threets, no payroll to sign a high $ 3B, no good high $ 3B, frankly, on the market (with apologies to Mueller). It was pick your poison and Feliz I think is fine as long as he's batting lower then he's not going good and higher when he is. Team's don't live and die on their 7th place hitter.

    Back to the Braves, it is easy to point at how well they have done over the years now but you are forgetting the crucial flipside of that: Bobby Cox was the GM for 5 seasons of cellar dwelling (last place for 4 of 5 seasons, 5th place other), picking up the key high 1st round draft picks to fuel their initial run, plus a poor finish the year before at 66-96, which got Cox another good pick to start with. So if you are going to point them out as a success story, you will have to accept going with 6 years of utter and abject misery and last place finishes as well.

    That's why I've been writing about the formula for winning it all, which I'll call the Athletics formula, because I learned it from their team's history. Connie Mack and Charlie Finley were cut from the same cloth: cheap. Well, that's a bit harsh, how about their fans were cheap and wouldn't support them well enough when they were doing well, so they had to sell off their best players to pay the bills. Their history is filled with highs then crash and burns.

    Of course, that didn't matter much for Mack, since he had no draft. But even post-Finley, the A's followed the pattern of crash and re-birth, by enduring multiple years of horrible results, which gets them the good drafts to build on for the next good run. That got them Chavez and Mulder in the last round.

    Beane appears to be trying to jumpstart the team to avoid this cycle by trading away key players before they lose value, instead of letting them go for just a high draft pick, particularly since you have to offer arbitration to get that pick, putting you at risk if you don't really want to keep the players in the first place. He seems to have a deft hand at pulling off good trades like Sabean did early on.

    Contrast that with my (all of our) experience with the Giants. Mediocre from the 70's to the late 80's and really until Sabean came on, with the Rosen brief oasis that took advantage of the high picks we got prior to his coming on. For that, we got to pick lousy picks throughout our history, killing our farm system over the years, from the proud 50's and 60's to the abject 70's through 90's.

    I'll take your stance of agreeing to disagree on Tucker, but he did as well as advertised per his career road numbers prior to KC (which was a pain to calculate I might add). As I had explained in my article on him, in my pre-obsessive days, his KC days were skewed by the number of pitchers parks in his division and KC's home becoming a hitter's park relatively. And that was a pretty poor draft year, few of the players have even made the majors yet from that first round, so I think he made the right call ultimately as Tucker played well for us that year as a semi-starter, he only had problems after becoming a bench player, most players don't transition to that well. If Sabean didn't sign him, we would have had Hammonds and Mohr manning RF that year and that wouldn't have been pretty whereas Tucker played adequately for our team's needs.

    About what I say about the draft and how good the crop is today, I agree to an extent on that point. I know that many will fail - my main point is that our crop of prospects is the best it has been in a long time, not that we have a strong crop relative to other teams.

    And this suggests that Sabean does appear to know what he is doing regarding building the farm system and hence why I recommend patience to people who are denigrating Sabean's methods.

    What I like about his methods is what you said you like about the Brave's, his risk-taking. You praised the Braves drafting high school, but he has been drafting HS players often, missing with a couple of those early on with Torcato and Arturo McDowell, but then hit with Jerome Williams and Matt Cain, though Whitaker is still a question mark. He has been combing the independednt leagues to find players, though Zerbe is the best he's found so far. He's been signing non-drafted players, which has netted us Accardo and Horwitz. He has drafted player higher than expected, like Nate Schierholtz and generally all his early round draftees, BA has ranked most of picks to be lower in the draft than when he picked them. Some of his picks early on are not even listed on BA's Top 250 list. He has played the draft and sign (DFE) route with Marcus Sanders as our best prospect there. He has drafted players who are clearly injured but who were good beforehand, like Ainsworth and Brian Wilson. He signed Ishikawa to the highest bonus given a later round draft pick. He took on EME despite his lack of defense and iffy shoulders. He appears to have focused his Carribean focus to other countries like Venezuela and Curacao, which are not as well known as the Dominican Republic for baseball talent, netting Sandoval, Joaquin, and Martis.

    And to me, generally it is the managers who think differently, who take on apparent risks, at least to others and outsiders, that are calculated risks, that are the best managers. Keeping the status quo doesn't work when things are not going well and the Giants farm system had not been going well for years. These are all reasons why I think Sabean deserves to continue to be the GM of the Giants, at least until we see whether this crop of prospects pan out or not.

    As I noted before, a good crop don't mean anything if they don't develop, which I noted regarding the D-backs, their Baby-backs have been touted for years now but nothing has really come of them yet other than Webb, Tracey, and I'll give them Overbay. The Dodgers have been touted higher than the Giants for a number of years as well, with their prospects higher than our prospects, but we have a number of young players filling key roles already, and none of their's have panned out yet.

    I have a good feeling about Ishikawa - and as I'm not a scout or expert minor leaguer follower - that's all my gut so you can take that with a grain of salt. But Sanders is already described as the fastest player IN THE MINORS, and he played so well last season, I expect him to eventually do something substantial in the majors for us. Brian Wilson seems to be a godsend and for all the crying I've been seeing about the lack of starters in the system, I think they would switch him in a heartbeat to a starter if they foresaw a need for one the next season, but right now we are pretty set at the majors for 2006-2007 with Schmidt, Morris, Lowry, Cain, Wright, Hennessey and Correia. That's why Sanchez was switched this season but it doesn't mean he can't be switched back next season.

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  3. Good response. I still say, as a matter of principle, you don't give up a 1st round draft choice for Michael Tucker. He was a useful player for us, just not (to me) worth a first-rounder.

    I totally agree with your assessment of the McGriff deal. That was outrageous, and it turned the season around for the Braves. Although the last 4 weeks of the season, when seeminly none of our pitchers could keep the other team's hits inside the park sure hurt us, too.

    Yes, I see that I attributed the Kawakami quote to the wrong blog - my apologies. I read too many back to back that day.

    I agree that Beane has been very wise to trade his "stars" before they get too expensive and/or injured. I was surprised that the one guy he kept was Chavez, rather than Tejada. I'd prefer to build around a slugging shortstop, who could always be move to 3B or the OF, than a 3B who can't be moved if needed. But maybe there were other issues that none of us will ever know about.

    I agree that Sabean seems willing to try new methods to improve the team - the Curacao connection is very encouraging, for example. The Ishikawa signing was so unlike us I didn't believe it at first. I just have this sense that, once Barry is gone, Sabean won't know how to act, and will make a foolish ML trade/signing. It will definitely be interesting, I'm just not optimistic.

    As I posted somewhere (I won't attempt to attribute it), the Giants drafted a HS hitter in the 1st round in 1990 and again in 1998, so if that pattern holds this year we may try it again. That would be an interesting trivia note.

    I enjoy your posts. Keep it up!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks Lyle, and I enjoy your posts as well.

    The problem with the Tucker pick is that for the pick we lost, the odds of picking up a player good or star player with that pick was 9 to 1 against. That means that only 11% of the picks in the 20-30 pick range actually became a good or star player (49 to 1 for a star player).

    If you like odds like that, Reno and Las Vegas is the place to be, roulette and Keno are the games.

    On top of that, it takes up to 4-6 years for most good and star player to first make the majors. With the choice of doing something good for the club now versus hoping (no guarantee he will ever make the majors, the vast majority never do more than get a short stint in the majors and never make arbitration) that the draft pick might yield a useful (i.e. Tucker type of guy) in 4-6 years, I would rather the Giants use the money for someone useful now. Get Tucker today for sure vs. hoping to get a Tucker, maybe, many years in the future.

    No problem about Kawakami, I wasn't offended, I just wanted to point out it was me, I get mixed up too.

    Maybe Beane was worried about the B12 vitamins Tejada was taking.

    About Tejada vs. Chavez, looking at the two, Chavez is two years younger, he became a good major leaguer at a younger age than Tejada, who struggled for many years before making good. Chavez's contract will cover mainly his prime peak years whereas Tejada's will stretch somewhat into his potential decline years in his early to mid-30's, as he's 30 now, right around the peak, and I think he has another 3-4 years on his contract, whereas Chavez is only 28 now. That's the best I could find.

    About Sabean after Bonds, just remember he was the one in charge of their scouting when the Yankees picked up many of their key parts to their World Series run. Of course, that was helped by some poor years where they lost a lot of games and got good picks, but still he was there helping them select those players.

    So yes, definitely interesting but I'm more hopeful than you are, though not entirely optimistic, we need to see how the current crop of prospects turn out. For example, the Dodgers have been lauded the past couple of years for their improved farm system but haven't really produced anyone I would call significant yet, and worse, none of their top prospects have done anything yet. Same for the D-backs for a number of years until Tracey and Webb made it plus they have good players down (though gained at cost of a couple of horrible seasons of losing).

    I will keep an eye out for the draft H.S. connection.

    ReplyDelete

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