Thursday, February 28, 2008

Strategy vs. Tactics, Baseball Style

I just have to vent, again, about media types who think they can offer their "expert" opinion on strategy and tactics when they just don't get it. I can understand when fans post this illogic emotional statement, but to do it publicly, you got to have higher standards.

I won't point my finger this time, since this is something I've seen fans say, but this columnist wrote something that many fans have been saying but not understanding. A couple of off-seasons ago, the Giants stated that they will try to get younger in the future, as their strategy. Because they then signed Barry Bonds, Dave Roberts, and Benjie Molina, these people say that the Giants were lying or at least not truthful with themselves. Baloney.

Strategy vs. Tactics

This type of stuff happens all the time in business. A company may have a strategy, say, focused on signing higher margin contracts in order to boost your overall gross margins. That is the general corporate goal, and the signing of higher margin contracts is their strategy to achieve the higher margins.

But companies don't always have one goal guiding their strategy. Another unspoken goal is to maintain your revenue level, if not tack on a healthy bit of growth, to please the shareholders. If a huge contract comes up for bid that you determine that you need to win in order to maintain or grow your revenues, then you try to win that contract, even if the margins on that contract is not supporting the overall strategy of focusing on higher margin contracts. Sometimes other priorities overrule one of your strategies.

Youth vs. Winning

This is what happened with the Giants. I don't agree with it for 2008, but the Giants, while they had Barry Bonds on the payroll, was going all in to try to win. That has been the overall goal of the Giants organization as long as Barry Bonds was on contract. And if you were paying a player $20M per season, you better try as hard as you can to win, else why pay him $20M? Out of the goodness of your heart?

So each year, they spent what they could to get the players they needed - and generally they signed the best player available on the free agent market - and try to win it all. Obviously, that has failed the past few years, though that includes a season where Bonds was out all season but not many fans seem to accept the fact that any team losing a $20M ballplayer is going to have a hard time winning, it is still Sabean's "fault" that Bonds banged up his knee and couldn't play. Not many realize that taking such a position implies that they are saying that Bonds either should not have been signed to his $90M contract or that he should have been traded.

I wouldn't have gone their route, I would have tried to sign Vlad or another marquee player instead of bringing in these journeyman players, but I could accept that they Giants were at least trying to win, as my route would have involved significant risk of losing because some positions would be in the hands of youngsters or bottom of the barrel free agents.

So for 2007, if you are trying to win, you don't bring in prospects who are not that highly rated to start, you get major league professionals. They lambaste the Giants for signing Bonds because he's old, but the truth was that he was still the best available free agent out there, young or old. And they did try hard to sign some younger players like Carlos Lee, but were rebuffed. If they won't sign with you because, say, they have a huge ranch near the team they signed with plus the state has no income taxes, what can you do? They were willing to go higher, but Lee basically told the Giants that he got what he wanted from Houston, so don't bother.

You don't sign Bonds and then don't fill the other open positions with better players. People whine about why didn't Fred Lewis get the chance instead of signing Roberts, but frankly, none of the well-known prospect publications listed Fred Lewis on their Top 100 list - heck, he wasn't even near the top of the Giants Top 10 list - which shows that he's not really as good as some Giants fans think he is. The experts can be and have been wrong, but usually they are pretty much on the mark.

So while they tried to execute the youth strategy, they failed at it, but how can you succeed when one of your main targets basically tell you that no matter how much more money you want to offer, he's going with Houston? I think that was a key factor in why the Giants finally signed Barry Zito, because their statement about getting younger would seem hollow if they didn't get someone younger, and Zito qualified.

For 2008, again, people lambasted Sabean for signing Vizquel, but, again, who was a better option out there? Royce Clayton? David Eckstein? Cesar Izturiz? Heck, Neifi Perez or Cody Ransom? Vizquel is the best fielder of the free agent class, hands down. If they knew that Adam Everett was going to be released and available, maybe they wait, but if Vizquel signs with someone else, you are screwed defensively and forced to sign one of the other guys. And why not Vizquel? He is loved by the fans, he still plays good defense, and his offense isn't bad if he was batting 8th, which he was by the end of the season.

You don't go with youth just to go with youth if you are trying to be competitive. I would have preferred that the Giants just blow off 2008 and try out young guys, but if they are going to be competitive, they had to sign Vizquel, there was no better option, let alone younger option.

And people forget that they Giants signed Rowand, who has a good bat, potentially great bat, and who is young at 30. People can say that he is not "young" but there are no players who are good and young available on the free agent market. There are players like that available in trade, but you saw what the cost there would have been, a Lincecum or Cain. And his salary is the fair market price for a player who is a bit above average offensively and good defensively. If Rowand is more like 2004 and 2007 than 2005 and 2006, we just got a huge bargain.

People also don't give credit to Sabean that the Giants didn't sign any of the retreads they could have signed for 1B and 3B, no Sean Casey, Tony Clark, Shea Hillenbrand, or Eric Hinske, no Aaron Boone or Jeff Cirillo or Hinske again. Basically, they have left 1B and 3B open, with Ortmeier clearly getting the chance to start at 1B, and I think they have been keeping 3B open in case Durham returns to being a good hitter and push Frandsen to 3B. I think that's why they haven't pulled the trigger on Crede.

But wait, these fans are not satisfied with Ortmeier or Frandsen at 1B or 3B, they aren't good enough. But they are young. Those are the hard choices that have to be made in following your strategy, some tactics will fulfill one strategy, but negate another, life is not perfectly black and white. Sometimes you have to accept that one strategy takes a hit while you fulfill another strategy.

Your Opinion About Sabean is Showing

That's why I think that issues like this is related more to the writer's viewpoint on Sabean. If they don't like Sabean, they find fault with any discrepancy in his public statements. That's why politics is so nasty today, people mudsling like this and the media just eggs them with stuff like this. Like I said, strategy and tactics are not black and white, there are often valid reasons why you don't toe the line with a stated strategy, because another goal overrides that one. But that don't matter when you clearly don't like what a person has done and think they should lose their job.

21 comments:

  1. I have to agree. I think the team would have looked younger if there had been a market for Lowry, Durham, Aurilia, Roberts and Winn, but there wasn't. Sabean actually showed a lot of restraint by only signing Rowand and Vizquel, and I think this team will be a continual work in progress. As soon as there is a decent market for a veteran, Sabean will move them. If not, we'll get the draft picks.

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  2. I'm not necessarily disgreeing with what you said here, however......you do convienently leave out the fact that one of the reasons the Giants are not able to infuse a lot of youth in their offensive positions is because of many years of neglect by the front office on developing offensive talent. That does fall squarely on Sabean's head and he should be.....and is... roundly criticized for this failure.

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  3. That's another thing that's been starting to bother me, this thing about the offensive talent not being developed.

    It is hard to develop any talent, offensive or otherwise, when your best picks are late in the first round.

    As I showed recently on MCC, the Giants have been OK in terms of drafting in the first round, suggesting that they have done all they could have to develop talent.

    The thing is, when you are limited in terms of developing talent by the poor draft position you get when you are winning regularly, you have to make a choice between pitching and hitting or else you end up scattering your efforts. This is because you don't have a lot of ammo in the gun, so to speak, so you have to ration them carefully. They chose pitching.

    As I've written in the past, focusing on pitching benefits you in a myriad of ways, particularly in terms of developing players for a larger percentage of your roster quicker without relying on trades to fill in those last few positions of need. Perhaps I should redo my article from a few years ago, when I was writing for another site, and post the update here so that more people can understand what I am talking about.

    Again, I like what the Giants have done in rebuilding the past few years with regards to their pitching staff. It is almost 100% home-grown and have good players in significant roles contributing. If Wilson and Correia come through, I would say that their rebuilding is pretty much done with regards to their pitching staff, any newcomers would be gravy and creates more trading chips for us to get the hitters we need.

    There is no team that has rebuild totally from within AND both hitting and pitching completely either. There is always a mix of success and failures in one area or another, it is a choice made by each team what they want to rebuild.

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  4. Hello Martin. Well, I am back from Africa and fighting the jet lag. I have read and understand your research that shows when you're picking in the 20s in the first round you have something like a 5-7% chance of getting a useful player. So, I do agree the Giants have done extrmely well stocking and restocking their pitching - and moving away from a situation where they have to either trade or sign FA pitchers. And, looking down the road their situation as far as pitching looks even better. Of course, the haters will be howling when someone like Threets or Sadler is traded for a position player.
    You have said before but omit this time, that the other part of the strategy is to draft speedy, defensively competent middle IFs and OFs for LF and RF. And as we see (Ort, Bowker) that also allows for moving a player to 1b.
    So, from the outside, it looks to me like the strategy is to stock the pitching half of the roster from within, as well as the middle IFs, C, CF, RF, possibly 1b and much of the bench. That means, if it works, the team only has to fill thru trade or FA 3b and LF.
    But, when you look at the team, while this strategy is sort of present, it doesn't seem to be particularly acted upon. The Rowand signing, for example, while a good signing in a vacuum, is kind of counter the strategy. NOt only is he not a 3b or LF, but he takes a spot that, theoretically, is fairly well stocked in the minors (I conced that, for the most part, the players in the minors are more then Dave Roberts types than the Rowand types, but that is what they have repeatedly drafted.
    I understand your argument that s atrategy is not to be followed as a straight line, that, if you are going to be creative and successful you deviate from the plan at various times. And the Rowand signing can be justified on a number of levels. But I am rather dissatisfied with the stunting of the development of a number of position players that we have drafted. I understand, or concede, that it may have been necessary to consider winning enough games in '08 to 'stay close' in order to sell tickets, and that is a legit consideration. But if you are going to have (and likely start) the Durham, Omar, Aurilia, Roberts, Winns, and now Rowand, you have only left 1 position, 1b, to be filled from within your own system. Sorry this is sort of rambling (blame the jet lag). But my criticism would be that the "strategy" is hard to find, or murky, when it comes to actually playing the prospects that we do have. In otherwords, I do not really see a Sabean plan for evaluating, at the MLB level our several prospects (principally Frandsen, before the Omar injury, DAvis, Lewis, Schierholtz, maybe Bowker, Velez, Ochoa). I suppose it appears to be a mish mash as it is one part playing to win and fill the stands and one part building for the future. Still, if we can "trust" Sanchez, Misch, Correia, Wilson, etc, why can't we give a bigger role to the afore mentioned position prospects?

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  5. I've read your statistcal analyses on this subject and it has nothing to do with your success rate or not in the first round of the draft. To me, it is apparaent that there is a serious lack of planning on the part of the front office for the minor league system to not address the number of offensive positions they were going to have to replace at some point in the near future when their strategy of signing aging veternas was being implemented at the major league level. Yes, they've developed some pitching.....2 studs and the rest we don't agree on the relative quality of. There is absolutely zero in the near future for hitters. This shows a complete lack of attention to detail by the front office's part.

    They should have been backfilling the minors with offensive talent and given them the time to develop, so that when this group of aging veterans stated breaking down (big surprise), there would be something there for them to draw on. Now it's either a problem with their scouting and an inability to find talent or it's their complete refusal to address the very looming issue that is now upon us. It is a failure by the front office of epic proportions and to say that they did OK because they developed a few pitchers is just sticking your head in the sand. There is no rationalizing this failure to properly plan.

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  6. Again, you are missing the point of my analysis, and just going shallow with your understanding. Picking prospects that far back in the first round is almost like getting lottery tickets in terms of finding a good player, the odds are that low.

    The odds are substantially lower once you get out of the first round. By the second round, you have about a 3-4% chance of finding a good player. That is approximately the odds of rolling a 2 with a pair of dice. By the start of the third round, the chances have dropped to about 1-2%, so that would be like the odds of rolling a 2 and then flipping a coin and getting heads.

    The consequence is that the odds is overwhelmingly against any team selecting a good player with any particular pick, even a pick in the first round (9 to 1 odds against in the 21-30 spots; that's like the odds of rolling a 5).

    Unfortunately, I didn't have time to go through all the rounds, it was a bear just going through the first 100 picks. But the odds dropped by about 3/4 from the 1st to 2nd, and 1/2 from 2nd to 3rd, so let's assume that the odds drop by just a quarter with each successive round. Thus the expected probability of finding a good player drops by a quarter each round.

    Starting with .11 for the first round (late 1st round pick), then .035 for the second round, and .0175 for the third round, and subtract a quarter for each subsequent round all the way to the 50th round, the last round for most team drafting, the expected value of finding a good player in the draft is 0.25, which means that for every 4 years of winning (and getting a low first round draft) the odds are that you will find ONE good player out of 4 years of drafting 50 amateurs or 200 players.

    Even if I reduced the rate of decline to 15% each round, the odds is still 34%, or roughly every three years you find a good player via the draft when you are winning and drafting in the end of the first round. One good players out of 3 years of drafting, a total of 150 prospects.

    With a success rate that low, how do you expect a team to PLAN to fill out a team with good players. I'm assuming a good team will want at least 4 good hitters in the lineup (lead-off, 3rd, 4th, 5th), 2 good pitchers in the rotation (average pitcher as #3), and 1 good closer, for a total of 7 good players.

    You can maybe sign 1 good free agent player per year, 2 if you are lucky, but the odds are that they probably will be good for only 2-3 years at most then are not good anymore, so they have a short shelf-life, and really, signing good free agents is not a game every team can play, nor is there a big enough supply for each team to get one (even if there is, it is a zero sum game). You can maybe find one good international free agent every 3 years, as the competition is keen for that type of talent.

    That still leaves you with a short-fall in terms of total good players on your team when you are winning and finding low odds when drafting.

    You complain about two studs and the rest are not quality in your opinion. Well, most teams don't have much more than two studs in the rotation (most don't even have two), the rest of the pitchers are average or worse, and in the bullpen, you have one stud (hopefully) at closer and maybe another at set-up, but again most teams don't have these either, most of the pitchers are not good, they are average or worse.

    So the Giants are ahead of most teams in terms of their pitching rotation, how many teams have two pitchers who have a history of sub-4 ERA as their #3 and #4 starters? Most teams would be lucky to have pitchers who can get their ERA into the mid-4 range for the #3 and #4 slots.

    Plus, if the Giants had been drafting hitters equally with pitchers, then our rotation won't be so good and the bullpen would even be worse, but we would have a few more good hitters. Don't you see that this is a zero-sum game, for every pitcher you don't draft and instead get an equivalent hitter, while your hitting improves, your pitching is that much worse.

    And really, if you look over the free agent market for hitters versus pitchers, you rarely see really good pitchers going on the free agent market anymore, whereas you can still pick up good hitters via free agency. And pitchers have a short shelf-life as it is, and particularly so after 30, but hitters are able to keep it going into their mid-30's regularly.

    So it makes total sense to me to focus on pitching where you can and add hitters where you think they are clearly the best value left. Is it better to have good hitters in their 20's or good pitchers in their 20's when you know that you will have to use free agency to obtain the rest of your team? It is better to have the pitchers, they are young and relatively still healthy and you control them cheaply for 6 years, while you can still obtain good hitters on the free agent market and add to your team that way, whereas the pickings are slim in the pitchers market, plus you are mostly signing pitchers to pitch for you into their mid-to-late 30's, when they are more likely to break down.

    Imagine putting together a team focusing just on hitters from the free agent pool over the past few years: Vlad, Beltran, Ordonez, Lee, plus many others. Now try to do that with free agent pitchers. As ridiculous as it seems, you don't see a lot of good pitchers, and the pitchers who are good have big question marks on them, like AJ Burnett (injury) and Zito (declining peripherals). Most teams don't let their good starting pitchers go on the free agent market. That shows how rare they are.

    When you are winning, you have to conserve the valuable resource which is your draft picks. You cannot fill all your needs for good players using just the draft. If you focus mainly on pitching, you build up a better pitching staff faster because pitchers can fit into any of the 11-12 roster spots, whereas hitters are not as flexible, as most MI can't suddenly play a corner position offensively.

    In addition, as I reported, research on The Hardball Times have shown that for every +/- runs you add via hitters or subtract via pitching, your win rate increases more via pitching than hitting, for equivalent decreases and increases, respectively. Plus, as I reported before BP research showed that once you get into the playoffs, it is not offense that wins in the playoffs, it is pitchers who can strikeout a lot of hitters, closers who are good, and good defense (plus teams who try a lot of steal attempts, which is not the same as being successful in stealing; that is what the Giants are planning with their offense).

    Basically, the Giants are following Baseball Prospectus's recipe for winning in the playoffs, they have pitchers with high K/9, they hope Wilson will be the dominating closer, they have a good defense, and they plan on being a running team. It is like they read that chapter and is following it.

    To fill out the rest of the roster, you try to pick up one or two good offensive players each season and soon you have a good offense to go with your good pitching/defense.

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  7. And that's the strategy the Giants have been following, allfrank.

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  8. You get so lost in your details, that you miss the big picture. The bottom line is that the front office failed to properly keep the talent stream vital. I'm not complaining about the 2 stud pitchers; I'm damn glad we have them. What I am comnplaining about is that we are in the position of having to field the lineup of sub-standard offensive players that we will have to field dy in and day out for the next few years. The is no hope in sight for that changing in the near future. Youcan run out all the good pitching you want every day, but if you can't score runs, you won't win.

    In any case, it is painfuully obvious that the strategy that the Giants are following is a failure. You cannot possibly couch it in any other terms.

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  9. allfrank, hope your jet lag is not that bad (put me out before...).

    First, about Rowand, Rowand is head and shoulders above any of our prospects. He has already hit about 900 OPS in the majors twice. Has any of our prospects done that in AA or AAA twice? And the level of pitching and competition is worlds different between the high minors and the majors. Just because they are young does not mean that they are better than a good proven MLB hitter.

    Given that, I am hopeful from Bowker's excellent road numbers in 2007 that he might be a breakout candidate, he now needs to do that again in AAA in 2008. Obviously, the Giants are grooming Bowker as backup to Ortmeier in case Ort fails in 2007, as they are having Bowker devote time to learning 1B this spring training.

    When you are drafting in poor draft position, it is mainly Dave Roberts type of abilities available to you, mainly. The sure thing hunky hitters aren't around anymore, you either take the high risk sluggers or you take more surer things who are Dave Roberts type. Some work out, like Schierholtz basically has for the most part, but the vast majority have failed, which as I tried to show with the probabilities, is the likely result. It truly is finding a needle in a haystack.

    Though, it is partly circumstances too. EME has the ability to be a middle of lineup presence, if he can ever stay uninjured. Fred Lewis, when he was coming up the system, was envisioned by the Giants as eventually developing into a middle of lineup hitter, after starting off as a leadoff type. Obviously that never developed. Ishikawa was suppose to be a power bat as well, but never could get the hang of not striking out (though as Jon Mayo noted in his two articles, San Jose boosts strikeouts greatly and Connecticut kills balls hit into the air). Ortmeier was envisioned a 20-20 player coming up. Bowker and Buscher came in with high hopes of being good power hitters, but Bowker didn't show anything until last season and Buscher, while doing better with Minnesota, is still not that much of a power hitter. And of course there were Linden and Niekro, another two busts, oh and Torcato. There are other power hitters drafted, even in recent years. I guess it just shows that you can try to pick up players but the odds are just that low in general.

    The problem is that you seem to be under the mistaken impression that we have good prospects. Look any prospect book or site, and our position prospects rarely show up. Let's take the 2006 Minor League Baseball Analyst book, the first one out, for some perspective on the talent in our system. The top 10 prospects were Delmon Young, Juston Upton, Brandon Wood, Ian Stewart, Prince Fielder, Jeremy Hermida, Chad Billingsley, Stephen Drew, Andy Marte, and Francisco Liriano. Some misses, but pretty good overall.

    He also did them by position too. Top catchers, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Russell Martin. Top 1B, Prince Fielder, Conor Jackson, and Daric Barton. Top 2B, Howie Kendrick, Dustin Pedroia, and Ian Kinsler. Top 3B, Ian Stewart, Andy Marte, and Alex Gordon. Top SS, Brandon Wood, Steven Drew, Joel Guzman. Top OF, Delmon Young, Justin Upton, Jeremy Hermida. Top SP, Chad Billingsley, Francisco Liriano, Adam Miller, Matt Cain, Justin Verlander, and Jered Weaver. Top RP, Jonathon Broxton and Craig Hansen.

    Not many Giants on any of these lists. Kevin Frandsen 10th 2B. Marcus Sanders 15th SS. EME 22nd OF. Matt Cain 4th SP. Brian Wilson 11th RP. And they ranked the top 15 for the infield, top 45 for outfield, top 75 for SP, top 15 for RP.

    There are not a lot of legitimately good prospects on the Giants, pitching or position. Sure, we like the players - I have been rooting for Ortmeier to get a chance at 1B and Frandsen a chance somewhere - and they are high in our system, but that does not mean that they are that good in an overall sense.

    And I disagree about the spots open, the Giants have left 3B open in case Frandsen and Durham does well, so that Frandsen has a spot to go to. They appear committed to that, else they would have made a move to get some sort of 3B insurance other than Rich Aurilia.

    They want to make Durham compete to win 2B from Frandsen, thus why they openly said that at the end of the season. That forced Durham to get off his high horse and finally get himself into the physical shape during the off-season the Giants have been asking for years now or else he risks losing 2B to Frandsen. Competition is always good for getting the best out of people.

    Meanwhile, the Giants have been touting Frandsen as possibly getting to start at 3B, in fact, saying that they would be comfortable with him starting there. That leaves a spot for him to start at should Durham win 2B outright while Frandsen do well in spring training. If Frandsen flops, and this competition is meant to get the best out of him too, then they have Aurilia as backup for 3B while they figure out who to trade for. Crede would be a good option, particularly as the start of the season nears, because the White Sox will not want to keep both of them on the roster to start the season. That way we pay less than we would have had we tried to trade for him during the off-season.

    The plan is first for the prospects to do well in spring traiing. Clearly Davis can win the role as Roberts platoon buddy, but he has to do it first in spring training. Lewis needs to show that he can do the job too, he is basically competing with Schierholt for a spot, though I have to think the Giants want Nate to start somewhere. And who knows, maybe Nate goes gangbusters with his hitting in spring and convince the Giants to trade Winn to open up a spot. My point, all along, is that the situation is in flux, very dependent on the performance of all these players in spring training before we see the full effect of whatever strategy they are trying to follow. You don't know what the Giants are planning to do - and I know, it's killing me too - but the fuller picture won't show until probably one month into the season.

    And there is a reason Velez and Ochoa were released by their teams, allowing the Giants to pick them up, they never showed enough skills to convince their former teams to pick them up. Now they are showing more, but I think because of their lack of performance before, they need to show more before you go and open up a spot for them on the roster.

    I personally would have started Ochoa, just to see what he can do, but my plans were to blow off 2008 and see what we got. I don't have to answer to co-owners and explain that, though, nor do I have ticket-holders who I am beholden to provide a decent product on the field for them to watch. And Ochoa only had a so-so offensive year in the hit-happy PCL, and with the higher level of pitchers in the majors, he will be horribly overmatched most probably. People tend to forget that important point, but there is a huge leap in talent between AAA and the majors, and if he can barely handle the pitchers in AAA, how can he hope to handle major league pitchers?

    About the pitchers, all of them were brought up in relief roles, which has grown in importance over the years, but still are equivalent to the bench position player. Correia has put in a lot of time as a utility pitcher already; he succeeded. Linden also got a lot of time off the bench; he didn't succeed. Sanchez was brought up in relief too. Misch was converted and then brought up as a reliever. And Wilson has always been a reliever.

    In addition, Sanchez, Misch, and Wilson (and I would add Accardo too here) were striking out batters at over a 9 K/9 pace down in the minors. That's like a being 20/20 type hitter with a high average coming up the minors. That's rare talent either way. None of our hitters have really done that well in the minors except for Linden's 30 HR year, hence why they gave him multiple chances to show he can handle the pitching up here. And it's not just the Giants, lots of observations from fans watching him at AT&T noted that he had problems. That happens, again, AAA worlds different talent-wise than majors. We have not had many position prospects who were THAT good.

    Our best position prospects haven't really been that good. As noted, only Frandsen and EME rated for the 2006 season. This year, Villalona of course, Noonan and Velez at 2B, and the pitching of course.

    And I know some lament not picking, say, Jason Heyward with our #10 instead of Bumgarner, but we don't know what their prospects told the Giants when they kicked the tires, maybe Heyward really wanted to either play for the Braves or go to school. Do you want to risk not signing him and ending up having to re-pick in 2008? At minimum, it would be pick #11, and if other teams fail to sign, you get pushed back another pick. You could end up with a mid-round pick instead of a better odds #10 pick.

    And look at how fast the Giants were in annoiting Frandsen the SS until Vizquel comes back. They could have just stated that he is in competition with Bocock and Ochoa, but they gave him some peace of mind (and extra playing time) so that he can still concentrate on doing well enough to unseat Durham at 2B once Vizquel comes back, instead of worrying over beating out Durham and a bunch of other guys.

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  10. No Boof, you are missing the big picture. The big picture is winning a World Series. BP has laid out the formula for past success in the playoffs: high strikeout pitching, great closer, great defense, with a dollop of lots of stealing attempts. The Giants, whether intentionally or not, is following that script to rebuilding.

    The fact is that the Giants have been rebuilding the past few years and done a great job redoing the pitching rotation and now needs to work on the lineup. Rebuilds are not done cleanly for the most part, there are starts and re-starts, there are failures and success.

    So what if the lineup is sub-standard? The pitching is super-standard. Even with the poor performance projected for the lineup - which I disagree with regards to Roberts but am OK with the rest - the lineup is suppose to score about 4.2 runs per game. The pitching looks capable of doing that, given a Cain repeat (very probable), Lincecum improvement (very probable), Zito improvement (very probable), Lowry repeat (likely but questionable). That's .500 right there with no improvement in the lineup. With a few more prospects developing in 2008, we could have enough to trade for another good hitter in the next off-season and perhaps can sign one as well. Thus for 2009, the lineup would improve and the pitchers, being young overall plus more coming up, should improve as well, pushing us beyond .500. We are not that far away, given expected improvements, but yes, it could get screwed up somewhere. That's why Sabean only has a two year contract to prove his way is the right way.

    I won't say that the Giants are a success but I wouldn't call them a failure either. It's too early to make the call either way, that's why I was happy for the two year contract.

    I would say, though, that Sabean has been a unqualified success in rebuilding the pitching staff though. To call them a failure fails to take into account how well he has done the job of rebuilding the pitching staff with youth. And we have more to come, with Sosa, Bumgarner, and Alderson.

    And you can run out all the good hitting you want every day too, and you won't win with that either.

    It starts with a strategy for winning in the playoffs and ultimately the World Series. You have offered nothing except that you need hitting and pitching to win. I think the saying "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail" is appropo for your position.

    Now whether this is the Giants plan or not, I don't know, but they clearly have been guiding the rebuilding of the team along the lines of the findings of Baseball Prospectus's study of playoff success.

    At least there appears to be a plan being executed, and they have most of the parts assembled already, high K/9 pitchers, hopefully great closer, and good defense overall, plus the speed factor with stolen base attempts this season. Now they need the hitters to get them winning. That's way more detail than you can say about how to rebuild the Giants to succeed.

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  11. If you really believe that the Giants can win a WS with that strategy implemented the way this front office is implementing it, I've got to find our what you are smoking, because I have to have some of that. It's a fantasy.....never going to happen. This adminstration doesn't have the skill to pull it off. Yes, you have to have all those things that they say you need to win a WS, but you also need the players to pull it off. We have parts of some of it. The other parts are not within their reach for many years to come. This is, at best, a near .500 team for at least the next 3 years. Perhaps then, they might contend for something......because Sabean's 2 year deal will be over by then.

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  12. I think Boof's remarks regarding the Giants' failing to stock the minors pretty much ignores the facts and the circumstances. The Giants were trying to win it all (with Bonds) pre 2006 and, as part of that strategy, traded off a lot of their farm systm in order to try to build a team that could win - and they succeeded at that. But, it had a cost, and, so, guys like Liriano, Ainsworth and a number of other top players, mostly pitchers, were traded for major league ready players. Given that Sabean took a 90+ losing team and built it into a team that won for several consecutive years, including several playoff appearances and one WS appearance, the cost, I think, is worthwhile. I do think it is pretty remarkable how quickly Sabean has rebuilt the farm system. a) he has rebuilt virtually the entire pitching roster - 4 SPs and roughly half the bull pen, b) he has lots of near MLB ready pitching in the minors, to such an extent that in 2 years we will have a real surplus of SPs, and c) there are hitting prospects in the system. True, they are mostly in the lower minors, but guys like Bowker, Bocock, Burris are beginning to push themselves into the picture. I also agree with Martin's assessment that we care very close, I would say we are 3 or maybe 4 B+ type bats away. This team would be very competitive with just B+ production from 1b, 3b, and LF. We have adequate production from C, 2b, CF and RF so long as we could get above average production from the other 3 positions. Boof's 3 years of losing is just histrionic hyperbole. And if any of Ort, Schierholtz, Bowker, Lewis prove themselves this year, that leaves possibly only 2 holes to fill over the next 2 years - with plenty of pitching coming up to allow for a major trade or two.

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  13. Frank, what you say about our minor league propects being traded off is off base. I challenge you to name one highly rated position prospect that has been traded by the Giants in, say, ......the last 5 years. Can you name even one? It is unlikely that you will come up with a name, because the GIants have not been able to develop one in at least that long, if not longer. Hell, I'd even give you a B+ prospect...but you probably wouldn't be able to do that either.

    That's the point here.....the Giants have failed as an organization to develop any position players in a long, long time. You guys keep saying that they've rebuilt the pitching staff and therefore, they've done a good job. I don't buy that. One-half or one-quareter of a job is not a good job in my book. If you did 50% of your expected production at work, wouldn't you be worried about being fired?

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  14. Boof, it isn't doing half the job, it is more like 8% of the job. You completely overlook the major league club and focus only on position prospects; you don't even focus on ALL prospects. Of course, if one can choose the rules for an argument, they are bound to win. Granted, you pick out the weak point of the organization, but then you focus on that to the exclusion of all else. And, of course, you ignore the rest of my argument.
    I just don't understand how you can take the position that it is reasonable to argue the competence of an organization by looking only at position players they have developed. You focus on the only argument you have any chance of winning and exclude all the rest of the arguments.
    It is true the Giants have done little as far as successfully developing position prospects. But you completely ignore that they have had one of the best winning records in all of MLB over a considerable amount of time (something like 7 years or so). Any team that does that is going to, at some point, pay the price. There is no avoiding the paying the price part. Even while that was going on, the rebuilding was going on. The results are right in front of you but you choose to ignore them. The results are a virtually home grown pitching staff. But it is not just the pitching staff, it is 2 backup catchers, 4th, 5th and 6th OFs with more in the wings, perhaps a 1b and a 2b, with a couple of very promising SS prospects on the way. Could there be more? Sure, but, to some extent those will be acquired by trading for them from the plethora of well regarded pitchers that populate our prospect lists

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  15. Oh, please. What does winning at the ML level have to do with the development of the farm system? One has nothing to do with the other unless you are trading off your talent to fill in at the ML level. We all know that certainly isn't the case for the Giants.

    Are you really trying to argue that the likes of Alfonzo, Rodriguez, Lewis, Ortmeier, Frandsen, Ochoa, Velez, etc. are evidence of good scouting & player development at the minor league level? You can really make this argument with a straight face? Do you really believe this? I can't believe I'm even reading this. I have no response to this argument because it's so ludicrous.

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  16. Boof, you say that "this administration doesn't have the skill to pull it off." So let's examine the skill of Sabean and gang in meeting the criteria of success playoff teams that BP has assembled via their study.

    Again, I have no idea if the Giants are following any particular strategy, but what I did was use BP's research as a framework against which to compare what the Giants are doing with what BP says needs to be done in order to maximize your chances of winning in the playoffs, and in particular, winning the World Series.

    Let's go over their execution of meeting the BP criteria for playoff and World Series success.

    1) High K/9 rate. To do that, you need to fill your rotation with high K/9 starters.

    Last year, the starters were above the average while the relievers were below. Together had a 6.54 K/9, which was below the NL average of 6.70 K/9.

    This year should see more of Lincecum while no Morris. Using the Bill James projections I've been using, the team will have a 7.42 K/9, which is significantly above the NL average for 2007.

    Looks like they have accomplished this portion, with things likely to get better with high K/9 pitchers like Sosa, Bumgarner, and Alderson looking like they will be coming up soon, and Kline gone soon and Lowry possibly gone. Given how fast they advanced Sanchez when he showed the aptitude, they will move up as fast as they show they are capable. And given the rankings the three have been getting on top prospect lists, expert observers believe they are capable.

    2) Effective closer. Now this is of great debate, there is no certainty. However, Wilson was very successful in AAA then in the majors last season. He looks like he got the stuff to succeed as a closer, and his high K/9 rate suggests that he can possibly dominate as a closer.

    Looks like the Giants are in good position to get this part done with Wilson. And even if he flames out, some observers I've read say that Alderson could come up quickly as a reliever, and given his ranking among top prospects after just a little pro experience, this suggests that he could be a dominating closer starting in 2009 (given how the Giants moved Sanchez up so fast) should Wilson fail to hold the job in 2008.

    3) Good defense. Obviously not as good now that Feliz is gone, and even worse now with Frandsen starting at SS, but good defense overall have always been a hallmark of a Sabean built team.

    The outfield look to be above average. Winn and Rowand have been highly rated/ranked by the Fielding Bible for RF and CF, plus Baseball Musing's PMR metric had Dave Roberts as a top fielding LF when he was playing for the Padres.

    The infield look to be improving in the next year or two. The middle infielding looks to be good soon. Durham has been a defensive liability for years now, but Frandsen should be taking over in 2009, and he is considered to be a good fielder. Vizquel is good for 2008 and perhaps 2009 if he earns another year or the team picks up his option. While not great anymore, he is still good.

    The corner infielders, however, are huge question marks. Ortmeier has been getting good press for learning the position, but we don't know if he can really do it. Still, his athleticism has been noted in many commentary on him, and that should aid him in his transition to 1B. 3B is a big question mark, but, again, given Sabean's preference to build a good defense, he should at least be average, whoever we acquire. Molina is not considered by many to be a good fielder, but we have Jackson Williams who is considered to be an excellent receiver, and who as a college draftee, should start higher and reach the majors sooner.

    This is still incomplete, but the Giants have generally been a good fielding team overall during the Sabean era.

    Extra Credit) Stolen Base attempts. That's always seemed to me to be the odd metric, that high attempts show some correlation with playoff success (though not significant correlation). Still, that is something Bochy is not afraid to do - send baserunners - and something the Giants have said that they must do more of in 2008 in order to make up for the loss of Barry Bonds. I would call this a bonus on top of everything else above.

    Teams who are in the top 10 ranking among all playoff teams for the three areas not only got into the World Series, but usually won it, with the only loser losing to another top 10 ranked team.

    Teams who are among the lowest ranked teams hardly did anything in the playoffs, let alone reach the World Series.

    As the book says, it is not the secret sauce to winning it all, but of all the various offensive, pitching, defensive, and team metrics that BP tested, these three were the only factors which contributed significantly to playoff success.

    In other words, it is much like Billy Beane says, the playoffs is a crapshoot, but if you can build your team to have a high K/9, a great closer, and a good defense (with a dollop of aggressiveness on the basepaths), you have done all you could to maximize your team's chances in the playoffs.

    They didn't test for this, but I believe that another factor for winning in the playoffs is having two ace-type pitchers in your rotation who can dominate the other team. It is not as important when you have a 5 man rotation, the two only affect 40% of the games played, but in the playoffs, with a 3 or 4 man rotation, they can affect 50-67% of the games. That is a significant percentage. We have that with Cain and Lincecum.

    And you have not correctly represented my stance on Sabean. I've said that Sabean has done a good job thus far in rebuilding the team, but I am not sold on him yet, hence why I am happy with a two year period. I have to see more results to commit to him longer term.

    Rebuilding is not done just like that, you don't snap your fingers and viola, you have a good team. As you can see with any other losing team, it takes time to rebuild a team, I am allowing him time whereas you seem to think a team can be rebuilt in 2-3 years and if it does not come out of the bag fully-formed and running on all cylinders, then it is a failure.

    Teams take time to rebuild and develop. Particularly when the draft dries up your pipeline of talent coming into your system. That is one particular area that you have shown no aptitute for understanding, I've tried many different ways of explaining but you don't get it.

    Of course the job isn't done, the project is not finished yet. If you started a long-term project at work, do you have everything done somewhere in the middle of the project? No. Does that mean you are a failure? No.

    However, it does mean that you better have hit some significant milestones to show that you making good progress towards that goal.

    Good starters? check with good prospects coming up and really, .

    Good relievers? Working on it, but looking good right now on paper, let's see what happens on the field in 2008, plus we could have some better pitchers joining the bullpen in a year or two.

    Good defense? Big question mark at the moment, though good in OF, very questionable in the infield, but Sabean has generally tried to build a good unit overall defensively during his tenure.

    Right now, the team looks like it is capable of being a .500-ish team. The Bill James projections has the pitchers compiling a 3.88 ERA overall. Even if the team's scoring was as bad as the ZIPS projection of 4.0, the team would still be around .500. That is not bad for a rebuilding team, particularly one year removed from losing their best player in Bonds.

    Assuming further development by our young pitching staff, addition of another good bat (FA or trade) in the next off-season, particularly at 3B, and Nate Schierholtz replacing Winn in RF for 2009 (he has the power the Giants are missing, even if he just matches Winn's OPS), we could be actually competitive in 2009.

    That's a lot of ifs, but I think the Giants are in a good position to compete as early as 2009, with the caveat that having young pitchers is a relatively (key word, relatively) risky, some fans think that risk means really bad, when, again, it is just relative to how steady position players tend to be in producing and in staying healthy. It is worse, but not hugely worse, else no team would ever trade a good young hitter for a good young pitcher.

    Again, teams typically need many years to rebuild. The Braves took 6 excruciatingly bad seasons to do that before running off their string of winning seasons. Based on what I've seen in his comments, Boof would have cut off Bobby Cox halfway into that and say that he is doing a horrible job, just get rid of him.

    Lastly, Boof say that a poor offensive team would not be able to win. Arizona last season had an offense that was not above average at most lineup positions, only 8th for leadoff (out of 16 so barely top half) and 4th for the 8th place hitter. The rest were 10th or lower, leading to an average of 10.6 for the average rank, and a runs scored average of 4.4 runs per game. They still ended up winning the division.

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  17. Boof noted, "What does winning at the ML level have to do with the development of the farm system? "

    It has everything to do with it, that has been my point about my research all along but you just don't get it.

    Winning means poor draft position. Poor draft position means that your talent pool isn't refilled quickly, it could take up to 9 years before you find a good player using that first round draft pick, and if you do just that - which most people would call a horrible success rate - you are average for a MLB team.

    If you are losing badly and get a top 5 pick, it would take you maybe 2-3 years to find that good player. HUGE difference, which is something that you have not been able to grasp yet. A team losing like this would have 3-4 good players by the time the winning team finally selects his average 1 good player in 9 years.

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  18. Martin, I'm not expecting you to do the research on this, but do you know how many 'models' there are for rebuilding a team? I know that Atlanta has certain regional advantages that they very effectively take advantage of and that the Giants do not have and, thus, could not follow their 'model.' I guess I wonder how many models there are (I assume that not each team has a completely different model, some are merely variants on a theme). Sabean, coming froim the Yankees seems to be fairly heavily influenced by the Yankee model, which, in turn, relies rather heavily on FAs, older FAs at that.
    Next, there is some pretty impressive rebuilding going on around the major leagues (Milw, Clev, Az, Colo, Tampa, Minn, LAAofA, Oak). Do you see any commonalities? Younger, more stats oriented GMs? FA wars forcing (and allowing) poorer teams to rely on the draft? Do the Giants seem at least as good as these teams in terms of scouting, philosophy, use of stats? Or are the other teams clearly more 'modern' than the Sabean lead Giants?

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  19. Martin, I happened to be looking at BA and they had a chart of the Giants' top picks for the last 10 years:
    '98 Tony Torcato out of baseball
    '99 Kurt Ainsworth out of baseball
    '00 Boof Bonser Twins
    '01 B Hennessey Giants
    '02 M Cain Giants
    '03 D Aardsma White Sox
    '04 EME Giants

    I think this shows that Sabean hasn't done too badly as far as his drafting during the period in question. There is only one clear failure, Toracato, while 2 players play important roles on the current Giants. Three of the players were traded to try to bolster the team during their 'win now/Barry Bonds' years. It is too early to evaluate the '04 or '05 draft.

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  20. If you really want to boil it down, there is really only one model, or one over-riding philosophy: you build through youth, basically the draft.

    However one variant is the Florida and Oakland model of trading your past stars (i.e. now or soon to get expensive) to re-seed the future. That worked out very nicely in the Mulder trade for Oakland, the Beckett/Lowell trade for Florida. But the caveat there is the Hudson trade for Oakland or, to find an Giants miscue (easy), the Jack Clark trade.

    Atlanta, as you noted, focus on local prospects in their drafts, particularly high schoolers. Over time, that works out nicely as some will learn to play the game: tell other teams high price and/or playing college ball, wait to fall to Atlanta and sign for nice bonus for your favorite team. The Giants do a bit of that, Schierholtz is from East Bay, Foppert was from SF, as was Tyler Walker, but I think they could do more. However, they are screwed in that Oakland is around to suck off around half of the available prospects, and the region has less real estate (because of the bay) and thus less people for the size of area.

    Detroit appears to be ahead of the Giants by a couple of years following what I am hoping is the Giants model. They lose, get good picks which they use to get good high velocity pitchers like Verlander, Miller, and Porcello. Their pitching is excellent. They had a horrific offense a few years back, losing over 100 games, but with key acquisitions each off-season - I-Rod, Ordonez, Sheffield, now Cabrera - they got better and better in a very short time, to match their good pitching.

    I think you need that at a park that is pitcher oriented like Detroit. Young pitchers would look better than they really are (Jeff Weaver), so the park don't really bother them. Veteran hitters will know what they are capable of so the poor hitting there don't bother them as much (most young hitters would press, and question their abilities to hit in the majors), plus they have that nice boatload of free agent money to keep them happy.

    Minnesota is the only one where I would say that they have a competitive advantage in identifying baseball talent. Sure, any team could luck into a Johan Santana, but then to also snag Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano too?

    In Milwaukee and Tampa's cases, they only got all that talent from years upon years of unmitigated horrible baseball. You could add the Tigers to that until they lured Dombrowski to come in. When you are regularly selecting in the top 5 of the draft overall, it's like fishing in a barrel.

    Arizona is the example that has influenced my thoughts most. Twin aces - The Big Unit (Johnson) and the Big Whiner (Schilling). Jettison players, play the young guys, lose a lot of games, get great draft picks, plus jump on a signability draft pick (Stephen Drew) when talent falls to you in the middle of the first round (Tigers have made that into an art, though, with Miller and Porcello, and maybe Verlander, don't recall if he's a Boras client or not). The Giants need to do that with their pick from the Feliz signing, sign the best talent no matter the cost. That helps speeds up the rebuild process, getting higher probability prospects into your system.

    The Angels, really, has mainly bought their players on the free agent market, they are the Yankees of the West, with their billionaire owner who would prefer to overspend a lot (Matthews then Hunter) than see a losing season. They have highly ranked position prospects for years now and they really haven't produced a star I can think of, though Howie Kendrick is suppose to break that streak. Heck, I didn't follow their draft so closely, so perhaps they have been doing the same as the Tigers and Yankees and picking up the signability prospects and paying the over slot bonuses to stock their farm system.

    Colorado I haven't been able to get a good handle on them yet. Not really that highly touted really but jumped out of nowhere in 2007. They need to "show me" before I declare them impressive builders.

    As I noted, it seems to be harder and harder to find good pitchers via free agency except when he is a Boras client, while there are usually a bunch of good hitters every off-season that you can pick up for the right amount of money.

    Hard to say how "modern" the Giants are, when they are forced to sign whoever they can to take a position. People point to their low OBP hitters they signed, but really, how many high OBP hitters are on the market at low salary demands? And that has also strapped the Giants, they were at the budget amount with little to spend, so you get what you can because you can't just leave CF unfielded by a player, say.

    I will say that the Giants talk a good game in the past, but yeah, they didn't really get those "modern" type players.

    But what's modern anyway? I don't know how to categorize their pitching, but they are so good that it will be hard for the team not to be around .500, unless they buck the odds and have another season with a large negative difference against their Pythagorean.

    I don't know you can say that Sabean was influenced by the Yankees model, other than that is what good teams have to do when you are winning and the draft isn't doing much for you. Besides, Sabean left the Yankees before all the winning began, though they did all the winning with players who were drafted under Sabean's watch.

    The thing is, if you are going the free agent route, there really is not that many young players becoming free agents, most are older or even old, and a study showed that some good players experience a secondary peak in offensive performance around 36-37 years of age, making for a nice payday for them if they are free agents.

    The poor teams have been fighting over the scraps since Connie Mack owned and managed the Philadeplia A's over 100 years ago. He had a long series of booms and busts as he would find someone good, build up a team, then burn it down, selling them off to the Yankees and other teams.

    Ironically, you wonder if other teams are clearly more modern than Sabean, but he's been trying to figure out what the next phase of baseball is and he's made his bet that it will be focused on pitching, defense, and aggressive running ballclub. We will see.

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  21. About BA, allfrank, I would also add that it's not too early to evaluate the 2006 draft. :^)

    Some of the guys forget that a team is not made of all above average players, you will have your average, journeyman types playing key complementary roles on the team as well.

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