Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Why I Like the Giants Focusing On Pitching Prospects

I posted the below at McCovey Chronicles in this thread, but wanted to include it here as well. Basically, Baseball America had a column where the columnist sung the praises of building up a team using hitters and gave a number of examples of how teams turned themselves around using hitters. I have a number of problems with his examples, which I outlined in my post, follow the link there if you want to see that, but I wanted to address the issue of re-building with hitters or pitchers, I think he was seeing something there that wasn't there.

I can see why he wrote what he wrote, though. Hitters are more dependable, in terms of matching their prospects, in terms of consistency of production, in terms of longevity. That makes sense, the pitching motion is unnatural and therefore has led to a lot of injuries that don't happen to position players. And pitchers generally go up and down in terms of production, depending on age, injury, or seemingly random luck; pitchers just go up and down a lot. However, I disagree, I think a pitching first philosophy - like the Giants have done - works better.

Focus on Pitching Works Better

Here's how I see it. You find two young star hitters, you still need 2-4 additional good hitters to make them a fully effective offensive machine, otherwise you pretty much have what we saw this season with the Giants, a sputtering offense. Failed hitters, at best, turn into reserve bench players and not very good at that (Ellison, Ransom), otherwise, not really worth much of anything in trade, so they normally just get dropped. And sometimes you are stuck with two great hitters at the same position (see McCovey and Cepeda, Teixiera and Hafner), you cannot always fill out your roster in a smooth way with hitters, that is, fill all your positional needs via prospects.

It is a lumpy distribution most of the times, you get multiple prospects that you then need to trade off and you sometimes don't get full value because to make that trade you need two important qualities: 1) you need to have want they want and 2) more importantly, they need to have what you need. I would think most of the time, the guy you want is with a team that don't want what you got, you either go with a second (or third) choice with a team that wants what you want, or you try to work out a multiple team trade, a hard proposition most times, or even harder, trade to get what that other team wants then trade with that team.

However, if you focus on pitchers and find two young star pitcher, you have a strong rotation for the next 10 years, and you fill in the rest of the rotation with the not as strong prospects or free agents. In addition, any pitching prospect who fails as a starter, could provide a huge contribution as a key member of the bullpen and perhaps as your closer, another key member of the pitching staff. Or they can be traded, teams are always looking for pitchers of all kinds and most times the other team will take a starter even if they want a reliever, they figure they can convert him. Or you could swap failures, like we did with Torres to get Estes.

Pitching First Philosophy

So based on this rationale, I think a pitchers first philosophy, as the Giants have mostly followed under Sabean's tenure as GM, is the best way to build up a consistent winner, let alone re-build into a winner. It gives you many more valuable pieces towards building up your team using your prospects. It enables you to complete more trades because of the flexibility, enabling you to fill out your 25 man roster more via trades, rather than free agency, which is a cheaper proposition normally and allows you to get a player who fit your need better than just if you were limited to free agents. Plus there are no free agents during mid-season when you want to acquire players. This will help speed the team in re-building itself plus keeping the success continuing indefinitely into the future, as the cream will rise to the top in terms of pitching talent, improving the pitching staff over time, particularly the bullpen, and the spill off can be traded.

3 comments:

  1. Hello Martin -
    I agree with your analysis, but I altho think that the trite "good pitching beats good hitting" saying is actually true. Good hitters, it seems to me, are the guys that hve figured out how and when to get 'their' pitch and guys who just crush - and don't miss- mistakes. The really good pitchers don't (often) make mistakes, which is why post season is so often dominated by dominating pitchers. The trick is putting together a rotation that has 3 really good guys (for the post season) + 2 serviceable guys to get you to the post season.
    And I think getting to the post season is more likely with very good pitching and good defense + average offense than average pitching and very good offense.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very good thoughts, thanks for adding, I agree particularly with your last point about good pitching beats good offenses, on average. As the old saying goes, even the best hitters make outs 7 out of 10 times.

    That was a reason why I was hoping to re-sign Schmidt, though his missed start and circumstances makes me back away from him now. He and Cain would be a good pair at top, plus Morris, hopefully healthy and aclimated, and perhaps Lowry if it truly was injury that caused his poor year.

    That is why I put up the pie-in-the-sky pipedream thought on McCovey Chronicles of seeing if it was possible to trade Lowry in a package for Dontrelle Willis, where the main plus for them is savings of $5-7M with Lowry that they can use to fill other position needs, but get a pitcher in Lowry who, while not as good as D-Train, has been pretty good overall when healthy, in case their other young pitchers regressed or had sophomore jinx (having such a strong set of starters frees them to trade of Dontrelle). Plus we would throw in perhaps Niekro, Linden, Lewis, Ortmeier, because they are lacking in OF and at 1B: Niekro could platoon with Jacobs plus is good defensively whereas Jacobs was a catcher before, Linden has shown promise, Lewis and Ortmeier too, though not as much as Linden, as basically the whole outfield was disappointing in various ways, with Willingham the only one who performed as hoped.

    I know that there is probably a team who can offer more in terms of a good outfielder, but then that severely weakens the Marlin's rotation as they would then be betting that all three starters will continue to do well, which is a risk when you are talking about first year starters, see what happened to Damian Moss. By throwing in Lowry, the Giants would be giving the Marlins some insurance that the rotation will be OK overall.

    Plus similarly on the Giants side, if the Giants traded Lowry to get a position player, frankly, except for the TOP players like Pujols, Vlad, A-Rod, getting a good position player for Lowry would marginally boost our offense, as it looks to be average at best next year, and meanwhile reduces a strength - our rotation - into average, if not negative territory, with Cain, Morris, Sanchez, Hennessey, FA as the rotation. Trading Lowry to get D-Train improves our rotation greatly, pairing D-Train with Cain, plus Morris, FA, and Hennessey/Correia/Sanchez.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes, I like that idea a lot because I think you need two really strong guys at the top to position yourself for the post season. A post season rotation of D-Train, Cain, and the best performer out of Morris, Sanchez, et al would be very formidable.
    On another, but related note, I expect Winn, Omar (not as much as this year, but still good), Bonds and Durham to produce well next year. I advocate an Alou type, with Linden taking Finley's spot, and getting 300-400 ABs, to see if he really is the RFer of the future, but having that part-time (hence, Alou), veteran, production to fall back on if linden crashes and burns. And if we go with Wilson or Hillenbrand, I think we get decent (as in batting 6th) production. So, with your idea of D-Train, we would have a good shot at post season and a realistic shot in post season, based on starting pitching.

    ReplyDelete

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