Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Giants Won't Skimp With So Many Draft Picks

The SJ Mercury reported in the sports recently (sorry, thought I had posted this already) that the Giants will be picking the best option on the board when they pick, regardless of whether it is a Boras client or top high school player who plans to leverage his college scholoarship.

General Manager Brian Sabean said the club wouldn't limit itself to cheap,signable players when the draft begins June 7. The Giants plan to be aggressive, even if the player they like happens to be a Scott Boras client or a top high school player who plans to leverage his college scholarship.
This was the strategy that the Giants espoused last year and which I had been expecting them to follow again this year. So it is good to know, rather than to wonder.

The paper reported that the picks the Giants have this year early - 3 in first round, picks 10, 22, 29, and 3 in supplemental first round, picks 32, 43, 51 - signed for a total of $6.975M in last year's draft. This far exceeded what the Giants have spent in any draft before according to the report.

I would note here that with the $2.1M spent to sign Villalona last year (was not counted by reporter since not part of the draft) and $2.0M to sign Lincecum, the Giants still spent around $6.3M last year, so it would not be a huge leap to spend that much on bonuses this year versus last. Plus they overpaid Lincecum $200,000 over what one might expect based on the bonuses that had been paid already at the time of his signing, though toeing the line with the amount paid in 2005 for the #10 pick, so the Giants are not shy in giving out more money to keep the talent happy. Within reason, of course.

Giants Have Not Been Cheap, Just Different

The article also noted that the last time the Giants had multiple first-round picks was in 2001, when they selected Brad Hennessey with the 21st pick and Noah Lowry with the 30th pick. The picks were criticized at the time because neither were hard throwers plus the picks were viewed as financially motivated, the article added.

But as I showed in my post here, the Giants did not underpay them relative to the bonuses paid to the players selected right after them. For Hennessey, he got 11% more than the 5 picks right after him. For Lowry, he got 16% more than the 5 picks right after him. The Giants might have selected players that observers thought should have been picked lower but they weren't paying them like that. Their bonuses were in line with what the prospects picked afterward were getting.

Some critics of the Giants think the Giants are being cheap because they often select players were the critics are surprised that the player was picked so high, or was just surprised by the name itself, like Nate Schierholtz, when he was selected. I also did another study (sorry, can't find easily) where I examined how players were ranked pre-draft, and then comparing them to where the Giants picked them in the draft. In general, most of the picks, covering the first 3-5 rounds, were selected before where they were ranked, which can't be helped sometimes because your next pick often comes around in another 30 picks, but there were a lot of picks where the Giants selected the prospect more than 30 picks ahead of where they were ranked pre-draft.

While the Giants clearly march to their own drummer in terms of drafting (as noted already, Nate Schierholtz pick drew a lot of "huhs" and head scratching, though perhaps not today), and go their own way in terms of talent drafted, their bonuses still hew to the going market rates given other picks and are rarely under the bonuses paid to propects selected after them.

So the Giants have not been cheap with their talent, for the most part, but rather has followed a different path with their drafting strategy than the prevailing opinions, much like how Bill Walsh used to do all his scouting separate from the Combine and would surprise people with his draft picks. I think the Giants' rebuilt pitching staff, with mostly farm system developed players, shows the efficacy of his strategy thus far.

6 comments:

  1. Martin,

    I wanted to ask you about something that was referred to in your previous post.

    You wrote that "they (the Giants) also had five games (in May) scoring 2 or less runs ... (and) we went 1-4 in those games."

    My question: Might there be a way to statistically measure the likelihood of a given offense to get shut down (i.e., score two or less runs)?

    In other words, do some offenses do better at "manufacturing" runs and evening out their production? Or is it more accurate to say that run production is closer to random chance based on the total runs an offense will score during the season?

    My hypothesis is that Sabean/Bochy have consciously moved in the direction of small ball, partly because of our truly outstanding pitching talent and the limited amount of money and young talent available for the offense. I guess my question is whether small ball can be measured statistically. And by small ball I mean, in particular, not the measurement of total runs an offense will score but their ability to score regularly. In other words, in a 2-2 game, after six innings, the likelihood of the team to score AT LEAST one run.

    Any thoughts on whether such an ability is measurable (or alternatively, whether some teams actually do this)?

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  2. Martin,

    Your analysis of the Giants draft strategy makes total sense. So-called "experts" and media (and non-media) people who are quick to judge a draft picks have a huge flaw in their arguments. Most of them base it on "pre-draft rankings", which is created by whom?

    To take a page from your book, media-heads during the NFL Draft buzz echo the sentiments of Mel Kiper and that Mayock guy (on NFL Network). While their evaluation of talent may be decent to good, it doesn't at all reflect how teams view players.

    A good example is the 49ers. As you pointed out, Bill Walsh made a living on picking players that made people scratch their heads. Mike Nolan is doing that now as well. Like you said, they "clearly march to their own drummer", but shouldn't every team?

    Every team's (and GM's) philosophy is different. Who are the media guys (and whomever else) to criticize a draft pick that they feel will help their team.

    As long as a team goes into a draft with a plan and a vision and stick to it, they can say the draft was a success. They may rank a guy #10 on their board that another team ranks #55, but thats how they see the player, or how he fits into the plans.

    By the way, whats the likelihood that a high school kid taken in the first round chooses college over signing? I understand if the player was taken in later rounds, it's more common, but it's hard to imagine a kid passing up $1M guaranteed. Not saying it's what I would do, I'm just curious is all.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Barton, yeah, there are statistical methods we can use, but that assumes, normally, a bell-shaped curve (disclaimer, last stats class 20 years ago, might get a few terms wrong, but should have concepts right) plus when you are talking about, say, the 21 games in May or the season, random fluctuations will skew things plus each game's lineup is different.

    More importantly, we've been without Roberts, who was a key component of our offense being more smallball in nature. 40+ steals at 85% plus success is huge.

    This was the formula the Dodgers used to win in the 60's, dominate with pitching (led by Koufax and Drysdale) and play small ball with Maury Wills getting on base and stealing bases.

    Obviously, when you rely less on the long ball, the peaks of offense you get is less often, and the scoring is more even.

    I'm sure someone out there has done something on small ball offense but I'm not aware of one.

    sfgfan, yeah, to a certain extent, every team should march to their own drummer; as in any business, you need to have a competitive advantage/edge and where better than talent evaluation and selection in pro sports?

    I'm OK with the media commenting on how different the pick is, their role should be disseminating information to us from a variety of sources, so they should be talking to scouting directors and consulting sources, particularly Baseball America, which is THE source for draft information. And if there are valid, logical reasons to criticize, I'm OK with that; however, most act like they are the end all and be all, you have to accept their word for it.

    What they have done a poor job of is in analyzing what happens afterward. Yes, anybody can see the Giant haven't developed many position players for a long time now. HOW ABOUT THAT ROTATION?!? :^)

    I think the odds are pretty good that the player will sign, with the exception of Boras clients. First round money, we are talking at least $1.5M, in the $5M range when you get to the top 5 picks. Most prospects honestly just want to play ball professionally and the money is just gravy - "Gee and I get paid too!" - to them. Some want to squeeze every dime he can get and Boras is the man to go to for that.

    And by first round, I mean the actual first round, not the supplemental picks. Money's still good there, but under a $1M so some opt for college instead after high school, hoping to get the money later while getting some education and life experiences.

    I think it's like with anyone else. Some want/need the college experience. Some know that a certain profession that doesn't require college is what they want to do and go do that for their career. Teams do a pretty good job of figuring out which high schoolers are willing to sign out of school or really want to go to college or really is just interested in the money. And there's nothing wrong with that, there are people becoming doctors because of the money, that's what makes our country great, people doing things out of their self interest that benefits society ultimately.

    For your info, I think Lincecum turned down around $1M the year before we drafted him - so there's an example of someone passing on $1M - when he was drafted in the later rounds by, I think, Seattle. He felt he was worth more. Then he got the Giants to pay above what the other picks had signed for would suggest, and he got what the #10 pick got the year before.

    But I don't think he was about the money, he felt he was worth a certain amount and wanted it, but the Mariners weren't willing to pay it, whereas he could have played hard ball with the Giants like Scherzer did with the D-backs, and held out for much more money - after all, he was seriously considered for the #1 pick plus won the Golden Spike award - but got what was a fair bonus for where he was picked, rather than what he might have gotten had he been the #1 pick. The money was the cherry on top for the professional opportunity to play baseball for him, but he wanted what was fair for the #10 pick. That's very reasonable, and now, very cheap, based on what he's done thus far in his pro career.

    He's probably the first player I can honestly say that he probably could have started in the majors immmediately and done well. Now I can say this, but it would have been stupid to say that back then, there are not many players who have ever not played one play in the minors and went straight to the majors, rarer still that they do well. But given all he has done, it doesn't sound so stupid anymore.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I totally agree about the lack of post-analysis. Kind of a "where are they now" thing that the media lacks. I guess it's primarily because there are so many players to track for each given draft in baseball.

    It's become more and more common now in a sport like football to have this analysis. In football, it is almost a given that by the third year of play, a player should give a pretty good idea of where he's going to be at for the rest of his career (skill/development-wise). That makes it easier to judge, as a writer could just write a "where are they now" three years after that draft.

    Baseball's development isn't as "set". Some players take 5-7 years to develop, and others take 1. The variance in draftee's ages probably plays a huge role in this. I'd imagine that if players were drafted out of highschool in the NFL, there would be a pretty big variance in development periods as well.

    As for "holdouts", I forget, but isn't the Royal's #1 pick last year still holding out?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yes and no. :^)

    Luke Hochever (sp?) was signed by the Royals, but he held out the year before under odd circumstances. Because teams knew he would be a hard sign, he fell down to the Dodgers, I think in the supplemental first round. After long negotiations (he is a Boras client so that's expected), he suddenly switched agents, agreed to a $3M (?) bonus, then switched back to Boras and reneged on his agreement. There was no way a team could continue to negotiate under those circumstances, so they eventually gave up and Luke entered the 2006 draft, whereupon Boras convinued the Royals to select Luke instead of Lincecum (yeah!).

    So, yes, to your point, he was another draftee who turned down millions, but came back and got even more from the Royals. To boot, I think he came down with some physical injury last year too, nothing serious, but still.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh, the scuttlebutt I hear is that while this worked out for Hochevar last season, Scherzer is not as good and there is a better crop of starters coming out this year, so, including his Boras connection, he might fall even further down in the draft - he was picked 11th last year, right after Lincecum, so if Tim was not there, the Giants might have selected him if they thought he was the best available - and find it hard to get the $1.9M he should have gotten last year, and this year his leverage is even less, unless he's willing to sit through another year in independent baseball. I can see him falling down possibly to the Giants 22nd pick, not that I would want to pick him, but the Giants said that signability will not deter them from a selection, best talent will.

    ReplyDelete

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