Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rowand in the NY River?

I posted much of the below on another site that had a rumor that the Yankees want Rowand for maybe Matsui and also posted it on El Lefty Malo, so I thought I should put it here as well.  I tried not to make it look too distorted in the flow, plus, as always tweaked based on new thoughts I had:

First off, compared to contracts out there, Rowand is very reasonable, OK if he is average, a bargain if he is out performing. The "problem" is that he's been average more often than outperforming during his career.

However, that's the (real) problem when people who are unfamiliar with a player's background. One reason one year was bad was because he smashed his face on the fence catching a ball. He was batting over 900 OPS when that happened, below average after that. So forgiving him that season (or better crediting him for the great hitting before his injury), he only has the one unexplained poor season and two very good seasons (plus the good start to his injury year) plus 2008, which also started well.

When a young player has an inconsistent year like 2008, you have to wonder whether he's just that inconsistent, but when you have a vet with a history of doing well when not injured, you have to wonder about his 2008 performance (as noted above) being marred by injury: he had roughly 950 OPS first two months of the year, then high 600 OPS rest of the season (think Durham's 2007).

A veteran don't usually do that over such an extended period of time, doing that poorly, without an injury to account for it. He did injure himself severely early in April, but soon was hitting well again, and there is no reported injury that accounts for the severe dropoff after May.

However, something similar happened to Randy Winn a couple of seasons ago, he injured his leg (fouled a ball of his shin if I recall correctly) and while he did return to starting, he didn't hit well at all the rest of 2006 and refused to blame that injury though most fans thought so and reporters asked him repeatedly if that was the case.

Most Giants fans that off-season were complaining about Winn's contract like they are doing now with Rowand's contract. Then he had an OK, Randy Winn-type season in 2007, and fans were in love with him again and he was a fan favorite in 2008 again.

Rowand is today's Winn. Change all the complaints about Rowand, put Winn's name, that was two years ago.

A hitter can go on hot streaks and cold streaks (Durham's 2007), but Rowand's problem has appeared to be injuries that linger on when he should take it easy and heal properly first.   And he is only 30 years old, if he was hitting his peak, he wouldn't hit around 950 to start the season then 600-something the rest of the season, he would struggle offensively like Vizquel did last season and this season.

That's the problem with mechanical forecasting systems, it doesn't capture nuances like this for Winn and Rowand, or any player with an injury. Not that mechanical forecasts aren't great, but you have to know it's limitations.

Rowand has been a very good hitter for a significant amount of ABs. He's also been not so good as well, but much of it can be attributed to an injury he suffered earlier that season.   He has been more a good hitter than a bad hitter when there isn't an injury involved.

Still, I wouldn't go on the record as saying that he's going to be very good in 2009 since there was no official explanation for his drop in 2008 (unlike, say, Morris's drop when it was revealed that he broke a rib but pitched anyway - and poorly - the rest of the season).

I wouldn't go the other way either, as another factor that nobody mentions is how AT&T depresses right-handed hitters stats, which, while not as bad as against lefties, can still be significant. In 2008, he hit .256/.328/.386/.714 at home and a more robust .287/.350/.434/.784 on the road.

So his poor/average season was actually more average to good overall when considering his road numbers.  And I think that is a much better comparison point for any homepark where hitting is skewed either way, whether Giants, Dodgers, Padres for pitcher's parks, or Reds, Rockies, D-backs for hitter's parks.  And consider this: the average NL CF hit .267/.334/.426/.759 whereas Rowand, even with the AT&T downturn, still hit .271/.339/.410/.749 overall, right about average, clearly above average based on his road numbers.

2009 will be his put up or shut-up season. I think that there are a lot of indications that he can be a regularly good hitter - and not even accounting for playing in CF, mid-high 800 OPS would be good for most offensive positions - but there has been enough bad times to wonder if he'll just be a yo-yo the rest of his career, much like how Pete Reiser shortened his career, both length and magnitude, with his multiple injuries.  Still, despite his off-season in 2008, he was still an above average hitter in CF (based on his road numbers).  Think of how good he could be uninjured.

Rowand said before the season that he's learned it's not good to put himself in position to injure himself but then he went ahead and did it within a week or two of joining the Giants. Adrenaline and sheer will, I believe, allowed him to play unfettered by the injury but it eventually caught up with him in June. Or so it seems. Hopefully he has finally learned his lesson and hopefully he will be all healed for 2009.

In any case, the Giants had made a big point of signing him (the Gamer ad program which I enjoyed and, frankly, it was ultimately appropriate as there was no better gamer around than Lincecum) so I don't think he's going anywhere. Plus, he's our only true CF, Winn and Roberts are poor CF. And I think the Giants still believe they got the excellent hitting CF they thought they signed.

Randy Winn is the player who makes the most sense for the Yankees to trade for. He's a reasonable salary, only one year to his contract, produces well, plays 150+ games, can play all OF positions acceptably defensively on a short time basis, RF excellently as a starter, which is cleared by Abreu's free agency.

Plus, the last thing the Giants need is another OF like Cabrera or Matsui, Japanese or not, he's old (the Giants are reportedly looking in Japan more actively now anyhow, I would think they would go young and go relievers) and the Giants are now looking young and clearing their roster of the older players.

That vet strategy was the "Win with Bonds" strategy that didn't work; they are now looking younger and long-term now. The last thing we need is another old about average (and declining the past 4 seasons) OF or young below-average OF, particularly when AT&T kills left hitters.

Because we have plenty of OF options without trading for another. If we trade Winn, Schierholtz gets the chance to show his stuff in RF and I think he will do well, he's done well in short stints with us and well in AAA the past two seasons. He just needs the opportunity. In addition, the Giants have Dave Roberts as utility OF (LF-CF), plus probably John Bowker (LF-RF), perhaps Dan Ortmeier (all 3 OF) and Velez could play LF in a pinch (plus Sandoval, I would think, if necessary). Not great, but no reason to trade a good OF, whether Rowand or Winn, for an OF who, unlike either, is clearly declining in Matsui (OPS+ declining for years now) or a young OF who hasn't hit that well yet, and can't even hit for power in Yankee Stadium.

So unless they are giving up Cano or Jesus Montrero (and I wouldn't do that straight up if I were the Yankees), I don't see what the Yankees have that the Giants would be interested in. I would be interested in Wilson Betemit but not straight up, the Giants would need a prospect thrown in to even up the deal. But he's useful to them so I don't see them giving him up. I just don't see a match between the teams otherwise.  Or if they want to give up some young pitchers like Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes (again, not a deal the Yankees would want to do).   I suppose I wouldn't mind any of their young strikeout relievers, like Edwar Ramirez, Ross Ohlendorf, David Robertson, Phil Coke, or Jonathan Albaladejo.

How about Cano (he had a poor year in 2008, unexplained) and either Wilson Betemit or two of the relievers I listed for Winn (only one year but they can sign him to an extension, I'm sure he would do that)?

Lastly, the Giants have also expressed interest in Alex Rodriguez before, but I assume the Yankees are holding onto him. :^)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Value of Dominance in the Playoffs

As I've been harping on and haranging, you cannot overestimate the value of having a dominating pitcher on your team when in the playoffs. As I showed with my "Hey Neukom" series and various other posts previously, having a dominating pitcher can greatly help your chances of success in the playoffs and if you have two, like we do with Lincecum and Cain (and Sanchez could make three if he could consistently pitch like he did in mid-season 2008), you can really make hay.

Fangraphs recently had a post by one of their writers about dominating performances, inspired by Cole Hamels's performance in this year's playoffs. He found that while Hamels has had a great string of starts in the playoffs, Cole's performance isn't even the best stretch of starts during the 2000's.
  • Cole Hamels: In 2008's playoffs, he had five starts, pitched 35 innings, gave up 23 hits, 2 HR, and 9 walks, and struck out 30, for a 1.80 ERA, 3.33 K/BB, 0.91 WHIP, and a 2.92 FIP.
  • Curt Schilling: In 2001's playoffs, he had six starts, pitched 48.1 IP, gave up 25 H, 3 HR, and 6 BB, and struck out 56, for a 1.12 ERA, a 0.64 WHIP, a 9.33 K/BB, and a 1.98 FIP.
  • Randy Johnson: In 2001's playoffs, he had six appearances (5 starts), pitched 41.1 IP, gave up 25 H, 2 HR, and 8 BB, and struck out 47, for a 1.52 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 5.88 K/BB, and a 2.06 FIP.
  • Andy Pettitte: In 2003's playoffs, he had five starts for a 2.10 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 3.09 K/BB, and 3.24 FIP. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Josh Beckett, as we see next, was even better and more dominating.
  • Josh Beckett: In 2003's playoffs, then a member of the series winning Marlins, he had five starts for a 2.11 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 3.92 K/BB, and 2.67 FIP in 42.2 innings.
  • Josh Beckett: In 2007's playoffs, he had 4 starts, pitched 30 IP, giving up 19 H, 1 HR, and 2 BB, and struck out 35 for a 1.20 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 17.50 K/BB, and 1.42 FIP.
As one can see, teams that had a pitcher who pitched outstandingly for them not only got to the World Series, but they usually won the World Series, with only Pettitte not winning, but he had the misfortune of meeting an even more dominating pitcher in Beckett that year.
That is six playoffs dominated in nine seasons during the 2000-2008 period.
Two Aces for Increased Playoff Success
As I have been advocating in previous posts and in my "Hey Neukom" series, having two aces are a key ingredient for maximizing our chances in the playoffs. As one can see above, just having one ace who can dominate throughout the playoffs just about guarantees a World Series championship. By having two aces, should one ace have an off playoff, you still have the other to try to drive the nails into the coffin for the other teams. And if both are dealing smoke, your team will be that much more likely to win the World Series Championship, like the D-backs did with Schilling and Johnson in 2001.
The Giants currently have two pitchers who can be those aces in Lincecum and Cain. Sanchez was also of their caliber for a long stretch of the season before it appears that his arm worn out from fatigue. That is why I have been saying that the Giants need to hold onto Lincecum and Cain, as teams are lucky to have one pitcher like either, let alone two, so we need to hold onto them and build from there because they are differentiators.
Trading one of the them to fill another need, particularly offensive need, just creates a bigger hole in the foundation of a successful playoff team. A trade would only help in getting to the playoffs, it won't necessarily help with winning it all. And I want to win it all or not at all, the playoffs is not enough anymore, though I won't ever get as bitter as the fans who were on usenet many years back.
I understand their humor, as I love black, gallows type of humor, but I soon learned that these people were seriously down on the team even though it was doing well. They couldn't appreciate the good times with the bad, they were still living in the 70's and 80's when the Giants were constantly mediocre. I would rather enjoy the good, even among the bad, as I did all those years.
Thus, enjoy Lincecum and Cain and hopefully the Giants will be able to construct a winning team around the two of them. Trading either of them is too large a compromise, as both can be dominating pitchers in short stretches, such as the playoffs. And pitchers, when they are dominating, can control games whereas even the best hitter ever, Bonds, could only do so much for his team even when he is absolutely zoned in on the pitches and hitting great in the playoffs. Pitchers, like they are, are rarer than any other players and just as coveted as Bonds, and more crucial to playoff success than most realize.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Players Have Chosen: Lincecum

I'm late with this but wanted to report that Tim Lincecum won both the Players' Choice 2008 NL Outstanding Pitcher Award, which is awarded by the Players' Trust (which the Players' Association created, and which is voted on by players), and the Sporting News NL Pitcher of the Year (also voted on by players).   

El Lefty Malo had some good analysis at his blog regarding how this award has differed from the Cy Young winners in the past, about 20% of the time.  Hank Schulman had some info on his blog, The Splash, about how two Cy Young voters came up to him and let him know that they voted for Lincecum (and that is out of 32 voters, two writers from every team's geographic coverage).   He also shared his thoughts about the Cy Young process in an earlier post (venting about how fans shouldn't blame the official scorer), about how voters in general are "very studious and look at a player's entire body of work", which is encouraging.   

However, he admitted that there could be a lazy voter or two who looked only at Lincecum's September and mark him down, and given the number of pitchers who can legitimately lay claim for the award - Johan Santana, Brandon Webb, CC Sabathia, and Lincecum, plus others who could draw a vote or three - the voters can be split at least four ways on the award and a vote here or there could make the difference between Lincecum winning or not.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sabean Knows Youth

I keep on reading how Sabean is out of touch with building a team with young players. Obviously, I disagree but I think too many people cling to their image of the Giants when Bonds was playing here, so I feel the need to write.

Rebuilds Take Time Plus It's Been Happening

First, you can only rebuild so fast using the draft to rebuild, there is not that much obvious talent available. After the top 5-10 picks, random luck plays a huge role in whether you find anyone of value or not, unless you are good at finding and selecting prospects. I haven't seen proof anywhere that any particular team has an advantage. Thus, it behooves a team, as per my Phoenix Rebuilding Strategy, to play poorly enough to get a Top 5 pick while keeping most of the fan base in the transition. The Giants have actually been doing something like that, living off of Bonds homerun chase, but doing poorly enough to get good talent in the draft with Top 10 picks and a #5 pick this year. The luck of two Golden Spike winners falling to us helped too.

While people have been crying over the old vets he signed for the lineup, he quietly rebuilt almost the entire pitching staff over the past few years with young players who he developed from the farm system, starting with Noah Lowry. And in 2008, most of the position players were from our farm system (albeit not very good, but still numerically outnumbered the mercenaries).

Change After Bonds

Some continue to complain about signing old vets, which was the policy when Bonds was around. They lump the Rowand signing with the old vets who were signed to get Bonds one more try at the World Series. Rowand, however, was only 30 years old for 2008, so he wasn't exactly old, as 30 is considered part of a players peak years.

Thus, Sabean did not sign one old veteran the off-season after Bonds was let go, other than Yabu, when he could have gone after old fogies at 1B, 2B, and 3B, plus the bullpen and rotation (he even released Kline and his over million dollar contract).

Sabean Can Rebuild On Youth: It's Not His First Time

And he has rebuilt a team based on youth before: when he first took over the Giants. The rotation for years was filled with 20-something players, Ortiz, Estes, Livan, Rueter, then he added Schmidt who I believe was 29 when we got him. He acquired Kent and Snow via trades, kept Aurilia and Mueller both who eventually started, signed Hamilton, and of course had Bonds around. He was also the guy in charge when the Yankees got Jeter, Posada, Pettitte, Riviera, among others.

And now he found Cain, Lincecum, Wilson, Lewis, Sandoval, Burriss, plus maybe Bumgarner, Alderson, Villalona, Rodriguez, Noonan, Fairley, Pucetas, Sosa, Cowart, Rohlinger, Snyder, Mike McBryde, Dan Otero, Adam Witter, Thomas Neal, Jorge Bucardo, Hector Sanchez, Julio Izturis, Ehire Adrianza, Daryl Maday, and of course, Posey, Gillaspie, Kieschnick, and Crawford, plus Barnes and Quirate, Mike Loree, and maybe Aaron King, plus Jesse English, EME, and Brett Harper (if he sticks around) as a dark horses. I also like Matt Downs and would give a shout out to Hector Sanchez.

Giants Thoughts

Here is our depth, based on homegrown prospects and contracts after 2009:

C: Posey, Sandoval, Adam Witter, Hector Sanchez
1B: Sandoval, Villalona, Ishikawa, Bowker, Neal, Hector Sanchez
2B: Frandsen, Velez, Noonan, Downs
3B: Sandoval, Villalona, Gillaspie, Rohlinger, Downs
SS: Burriss, Bocock, Adrianza, Izturis, Cumberland
LF: Lewis, Bowker, EME
CF: Rowand, Copeland, McBryde, Richardson, Fairley
RF: Schierholtz, Kieschnick, Rodriguez
SP: Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner, Alderson, Snyder, Henry Sosa, Waldis Joaquin, plus Zito
RP: Wilson (closer), Romo, Hinshaw, Matos, Sadler, Espineli, Otero, Ryan Paul, Kelvin Marte, Brian Anderson, and any failed starter

We should have plus hitters at C and wherever Villalona plays, plus above average at LF, CF, RF, whereever Sandoval plays, and potentially average at SS and 2B.   That would be a decent offense, which is all we need with a rotation headed by Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Zito, and Bumgarner, with Alderson perhaps serving initially in relief until one of Sanchez or Zito is traded. 

Only relief appears to be a potential problem area long term and Sabean said he would try to acquire someone for that.  At least we appear set at closer with Wilson and perhaps setup with Romo and Hinshaw, though we probably need another 2-3 dependable relievers.  Maybe Barnes, Loree, Snyder, Sosa, Joaquin, Matos, Sadler, and Espineli eventually.  

It also probably wouldn't hurt to acquire someone for middle infield, as none of the 2B and SS prospects look like they will be good enough for sure.  However, based on small sampling in the majors, it looks encouraging for Burriss and Frandsen (assuming he returns to normal from his injury).  Noonan is the only one I would bet on for sure out of the bunch, but he's far enough down in the minors and in OPS to raise questions on whether he'll ever make it.  I also like Ehire Adrianza but he is far away from making it to the majors yet.  

We should be competitive in 2009 and contenders in 2010 if the players continue to develop. Plus it wouldn't hurt to sign a few more 16 year old phenoms to stock up for the mid-2010's, when the above guys either develop or drop out.  Not too bad for someone who supposedly don't know how to rebuild with youth.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Rays: "That's How to Do It"

This is meant to be a sarcastic title:  because the Rays made the World Series, we will have a bunch of media pundits out there talking about how "that's how to do it."  Yeah, if by do it, it means coming in last in 9 out of the first 10 years of your existence, having the worse record in baseball 4 times out of the last 10 years, and alienating a portion of their fanbase who paid for them to be there in the first place.   [not sure, but also think that they threatened to leave the town too]  They also lucked out that the Mets gave them a great prospect all for the price of a beaten up and broken down veteran pitcher;  without Scott Kazmir, I don't think that they would be in the World Series today.

And it is not like I don't like the team - I do - nor is it that I don't think they deserve it - I do - but that the media like to focus on the final result but ignore the icky issue that festers beneath the surface, which is how exactly did they get to where they are today.  

Last 9 Years Out of 10 With No End in Sight

The Rays had been last in 9 years out of 10 plus had the worse record in baseball 4 times, netting them four #1 overall picks.   If you ask fans to support a team like that, knowing that is the end  result, you might get some hardy souls who could stand that, knowing that at the end of the rainbow, there is that pot o' gold.  But there was no guarantee, no light at the end of the tunnel, just the vague hope that somehow they will figure things out with all their young players. 

And they are not really that young.  Carlos Pena, their starting 1B is 30, at 2B is Akinori Iwamura who is 29, Jason Barlett is 28 and the starting SS, Gabe Gross is their regular RF and he is 28, and Cliff Floyd is their regular DH and is 35 years old, plus Eric Hinske was their first guy off the bench and he is 30 years old himself.  And their bullpen is mostly 30 and above, Troy Percival at 38, Trever Miller at 35, Dan Wheeler at 30, Grant Balfour at30, and only JP Howell and Jason Hammel at 25 is under 30.  

But they do have a nice young core.   Their starting rotation with Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine, and Edwin Jackson (who finally was having an OK year; nothing like the hype he got as a D-ger, but at least he's doing OK, which is more than one could hope just a couple of years ago) was great.  In the lineup, they have Dioner Navarro at C (another nice steal, this one from D-gers for Mark Hendrickson), Evan Longoria at 3B, Carl Crawford at LF, and BJ Upton at CF, plus Willy Aybar (25) , Ben Zobrist (27), and Jonny Gomes (27) as strong bench players and spot starters, as well as the oft-injured Rocco Baldelli.

Their Draft Shows the Hit or Miss Nature

My draft study showed the hit and mainly miss nature of the draft and the Rays first round drafts echoes that nature.  Even for top 5 picks, of which they have had 8 in the past 10 years, my study showed that the odds of finding a good player was around 40-45%.  That means the Rays should find roughly 3-4 of them.

Obviously, the picks of the last couple of years haven't had enough time to show anything, but the others have.  Longoria and Upton, obviously are performing like good players.  They would need to do this long-term for this to be certain, but it looks good right now.  Obviously Josh Hamilton didn't amount to much until the Reds got ahold of him, but still he should count as a good pick.  Dewan Brazelton, however, does not and neither does Neimann, who is still in AAA and struggled in the majors, though he's only 25 and could still make it (but still, other could still not make it, so I call it a wash).  Delmon Young is still very young and likewise has struggled, so he is not good yet, though still looks destined for goodness (but more importantly, they were able to swap him for Matt Garza, still love that steal of a trade, plus they swapped shortstops, getting the better one there too; I'm happy to see the Twins get the short end of the stick in a trade).  

That is roughly 3 good players plus David Price and/or Tim Beckham might make it 4 or 5.  That is about as expected, with the hope of the young balanced by the risk that any of the already good become busts before they reach 6 years, much like how Baldelli (6th pick overall) blew out or Jonny Gomes went from good starter to bench player.   There is also Wade Townsend (8th pick overall) who is also struggling to make the majors. 

Good Overall

Still, they made some good picks in later rounds, like Carl Crawford (2nd round), James Shields (16th), and Andy Sonnanstine (13th), as well as astute trades, for Dioner Navarro, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, and Dan Wheeler, and good free agents signings like Carlos Pena, Akinori Iwamura, Troy Percival.  Those are also good things.

The Price

Still, 9 years of last place out of 10 seasons, is that really what our Bay Area sportswriters really want the Giants and A's to do, attendance would be under 1 million for the season if that were to happen.  The Rays had under 1.4 million last season, and has been in the 1.0 to 1.3 million range for theit history there.  

Giants Rooting Interest

I normally go over the Giants fans guide to playoff rooting interest before the playoffs begin, so I'll just run through it here and lead up to the World Series.

Dodgers obviously topped the list of who not to root for.  But with the one game playoff, both the Twins and White Sox were teams to root against as well.  And, of course, the Angels.    Basically you as a Giants should not be rooting for any of these teams, no matter what.

Among the other teams, I would place them in this order to root for:
  • Chicago Cubs:  stole Pinella from us, as well as Baker than Eyre, but nothing to really get upset over them, I would have been rooting for them the most because they haven't won one in 100 years.
  • Brewers:  nothing really about them that affected the Giants much, but they are Bud Selig's former team and haven't gone as many years as Cubs without WS victory.
  • Red Sox:  As much as they have won in recent years, I don't mind them too much
  • Phillies:  They have Pedro Feliz as their biggest negatives but I'll be rooting for them.
  • Rays:  Their town almost stole the Giants from us, literally had bought the team already but the MLB wisely blocked that and finally Magowan was able to save the team in SF. Plus, as noted above, I don't want to hear it from the media that this is the way to do it because nobody was enjoying it while they were losing all those years saying that "it's OK, that's how to do it," and point at just their farm system.   There was no progress, they had the worse record again last season, the second year in a row, third year in a row that they had a top 3 worse record, 4 years out of five that they had a top 4 worse record, 7th year out of 8 that they had a top 4 worse record.  If that is the way to do it, the Pirates should really be applauded for their work then.  It was not just their farm system, but also a number of astute trades and key free agent signings.  But there is luck involved too, how often does a team offer their #1 legit top prospect for a washed up starter, how often do you pick up a 29 year old OK firstbaseman free agent who suddenly and finally blossoms into the monster masher he was slated to become 5 years previously, how often do you have two young stars-to-be implode (Baldelli and Gomes) and still recover from it with a super-utility bench player (Gabe Gross), aging and fragile but stellar hitter (Cliff Floyd), and a declining and disappointing corner infielder/outfielder (Eric Hinske), how often do you rely on an aged (38 year old Troy Perceival) closer who only two years before missed an entire season plus half of the previous one plus did not pitch like a closer (4.53 ERA) but still it worked, 28 saves, and lastly, how often do you win in a trade where you give up Delmon Young, Brendan Harris, and Jason Pridie?  While they did all the things they had to do right, they also had some things go their way in a significant way, and not in a way another team could duplicate.  And I do find it interesting that the team recently lost a stadium vote and require civic support to build a new stadium, particularly in this bad economic climate, and wouldn't a World Series win just fill the city full of civic pride and open up pockets and political win to build a new ballpark?
Thus for the World Series, I will be rooting for the Phillies versus the Rays, they have the history as well as the present against them from my perspective as a Giants fan.  

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Expected Costs of Obtaining Good Players From the Draft: 2008

I thought it would be interesting to see what I can derive for the expected cost of obtaining a good player in the first round, based on the probabilities that I had derived in my draft study and the bonuses paid by teams in the latest draft.  I've been meaning to write on this in a gigantic post about my draft study, but I had this thought so I thought I would write on it now.

The concept behind this is elemental probability where the cost of the activity is divided by the probability to derive what the expected cost would be of a particular event.  For example, suppose the odds are one out of three for a successful outcome and the cost of each is $3M;  then the expected cost of one success is $9M.

Draft Probabilities

Here are the probabilities of selecting a good player via the draft, based on ranges of picks, for the first round:

  1-   5:  43%
  6-10:  23%
11-20:  16%
21-30:  11%

2008 Bonuses Paid

Here are the average bonus paid in the 2008 draft, based on ranges of picks:

  1-   5:  $5.50M
  6-10:  $2.25M
11-20:  $1.70M
21-30:  $1.30M

I took out outliers of $3M+ bonuses in both the 11-20 and 21-30 ranges, as they improperly skewed the .

Expected Cost of Finding a Good Player via the First Round of 2008 Draft

Following is the expected cost of finding a good player via the 2008 draft in the first round, based on the information above.

  1-   5:  $12.8M
  6-10:    $9.8M
11-20:  $10.6M
21-30:  $11.8M

The average across the four ranges equals $11.25M

Giants Thoughts

What this means is that, on average, a team can expect to spend approximately $11.25M to find a good player via the draft.   It also gives you a back of napkin evaluation of what major league teams think are the odds of a prospect making it to the majors and being good.  Rafael Rodriguez was giving $2.5M, so that's about 20% odds of him becoming a good MLB player.  The A's gave roughly Inoa $4M, so they think his odds are around 36%.

It also gives you a way of judging how many players one can expect to get out of the draft.  For example, the other day, I noted the Giants spent a little over $9M on the draft in 2008.  Thus the Giants should be getting roughly 0.8 of a good player from the 2008 draft.  You add them up over a number of years, using this methodology, and you can get a rough idea whether Giants and Sabean is ahead or behind in developing good players from the draft.

In addition, it also allows you to compare obtaining free agents versus drafting players.   The money spent on the draft is not insignificant.  People like to look only at the cost of the successful players making the majors, but there are all the costs involved with drafting all the other players who never make the majors or just briefly.   In other words, the roughly $11M spent searching for that good player.  

Still, the cost of young draftees is still much cheaper than getting a good free agent, but the argument can be made that sacrificing a draftee in one year is justifiable if you acquire a useful player who can make a contribution now, when you need it, and not later when you don't know what situation you will be in, competing or re-building, or even if the draftee, which has a very high failure rate, ever be a regular in the major leagues.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Interesting notes found from Bobby Evans Interview in April 2008

I was looking through my stuff and found some notes I had jotted down from an interview with Bobby Evans way back in April 13, 2008.  And he said at that time, long before Neukom had a "Way", that the Giants are one of the few teams to coordinate instruction from top to bottom.  He also noted a focus on aggressive baserunning, defense, and pitching (that last one was an obvious one).  He also mentioned depth at C with Pablo Sandoval and Jackson Williams, 1B with Brett Pill, and pitching with Tim Alderson.  Other thing he noted was that he reports MLB to Sabean and MiLB to Tidrow, now that he's Director of Player Personnel.

Kind of short, so I decided to listen to Bobby Evan's Down the Pipeline show (which probably was the show I listened to for the above), the last of the season.  Things of interest include:
  • Giants feel that Sandoval can handle 3B defensively, he has the arm strength, legs, would just need adjustment during spring training to get ready, and in fact, playing some 3B during winter ball.
  • They love Velez's bat, but position will be key decision, not sure where right now.
  • First time ever, Giants having organizational players of the year, new tradition:  Madison Bumgartner is Pitcher of the Year and Pablo Sandoval is Hitter of the Year.  Others they considered were Joe Martinez, Tim Alderson, Ryan Rohlinger, Angel Villalona (noted his 17 HR at age 18), and Nick Noonan ("pure hitter").
  • Too early to say, but probably will invite Bumgarner and Alderson to spring training next year.  Both are advanced for their age and are pushing the envelope.
Giants Thoughts

I wish the Giants would let out info like this on a regular basis, but at least they do it some of the time.  Sabean in particular keeps a lot of things close to his vest;  he must have been a lawyer in his previous life or something.  Still, not everybody have the time to go through each and every Giants communique, whether it be Sabean's interviews and chats, or now Evans' weekly show, which I apparently caught one of the first and now the last show.  I will have to put it on my calendar next year.

Take this bit of info about coordinated instruction.  I have seen people complain all the time about the Giants - and I was one of them - lack of this, that they needed to have a philosophy that permeates the organization, whether it be like the A's with OBP and patience and such, or whatever.  What I've learned in life is that while a plan does not guarantee success, lack of a plan often guarantees lack of success (the old cliche of "failure to plan is a plan for failure").  

In particular and for example, let's take the stock market.  When I was in high school, I spent every summer obsessed with something.  One year it was horserace betting but another year it was the stock market.  Fundamentals, technical trading, shorting, options, growth, dividend, Ben Graham value investing, and what I concluded was that if you had a fairly well-thought out plan, you can make money with it, as long as you stick with the plan and not let emotion take you out of your game.

So whether it be the coordinated instruction that previously existed, or the Giants Way after it is published (I wonder how they are going to handle them, will each have a serial number embedded into each so that they can be tracked, and will each player be responsible for returning it when they leave the organization?  Or will they be more mellow about it?  I would assume more the former than the latter, because of Neukom, but you never know), I'm glad the Giants do care enough about instruction to do this in some systematic way.

The focus of the instruction makes sense.  The pitching was probably obvious, given how we focus on drafting them.  Defense also makes a lot of sense because Sabean has usually gone for the top defensive guys with some bat when possible.  The aggressive baserunning appears to be a new thing that happened over the past few years or so.   That was not so evident in the early 2000's, but around 2003-2004, Sabean was already talking in his press conferences about how baseball was moving towards a stolen base offensive environment from the HR-happy environment that has dominated baseball for so many years now.  Hopefully the Giants Way will next add batting philosophy to the mix as well.   

I wonder how much influence that Carney Lansford had with the decision for the Giants Way.  It is well known about how the A's have coordinated instruction up and down, such as the Moneyball concepts of OBP and being patient in taking pitches.  They probably have a book of some sort;  Eric Walker helped developed some sort of manual for them long ago and I assume some version of it exists today.  So maybe Carney either talked about this with Neukom or perhaps even recommended this to him.   Then again, coordinated instruction appears to have begun around the time that Neukom joined the managing partners group.  Just a thought.

Evans was on target for two of the four players named in April, Pill and Williams did not do well.  Alderson and Sandoval were both inspired picks.  Alderson not as much, since he did do well in limited play in 2007, but still he was a first round pick.  However, still pretty good pick since he was only 18-19 and he was started out in Advanced A ball; for comparison, Lincecum started out in Advanced A ball but he was already 22 when he started there with 3 years of college ball.

Sandoval was particularly insightful.  He has had an up and down record in the minors, and it was bad enough that despite a good year in San Jose in 2007, Baggarly and Baseball America did not see fit to place him on the Giants 2008 Top 30 prospect list.  Not that I totally blame them, he had a nice season but not great in 2007, and he was struggling enough with catching that the Giants held him back in San Jose to start 2008 because he needed to work with San Jose's manager, a former catcher for the Giants, Steve Decker.  In addition, looking at the players they did include in their 30, it would have been hard to argue against any of the bottom 15, say, against Sandoval.  Still, given his breakout year, he should have been at least been mentioned somewhere;  I can't say I saw his breakout coming, but he was one of the few Giants prospects I drafted in a keeper league that started in the 2007 off-season, so I can at least claim to have seen something.

Good to hear that the Giants think Sandoval can handle 3B eventually.  Funny how Evans keyed on that just prior to the end of the season, and right afterward, Sabean says that Sandoval is our starting 1B.   I still think that his position is fluid depending on how player acquisition works out for Sabean, plus  how the competition for 2B works out, and lastly how Frandsen's comeback works out.  

I still believe the Giants left 3B open for the 2008 season so that if Durham beat out Frandsen (perhaps they believed that much in Frandsen's bat) , Frandsen would have a starting position to slide to.   This time, I think the announcement of Sandoval at 1B was a signal to other teams that the Giants, in any trade talks, are looking for 3B, the only position that does not either have a player penciled in (including Lewis in LF, Burriss at SS, and Sandoval at 1B) or have valid players competing for (Frandsen and Velez at 2B;  Giants like both their bats).  

Then Sabean has things covered.  If trade, then now 3B covered.  If no trade, then if Velez and Frandsen do well, they take 2B and 3B.  If Frandsen does not do well or have set back, the Sandoval can slide to 3B and Ishikawa would initially get shot at 1B, then Bowker, then Ortmeier.  

I thought that Madison Bumgarner and Pablo Sandoval were no-brainers for the Giants first minor's Pitcher of the Year and Hitter of the Year, respectively.   No other player were that close to either one, though if I were to think of 2nd place, Tim Alderson and Travis Ishikawa would have to be them, respectively.   3rd could be Joe Martinez or any of the trio at San Jose, Jesse English, Kevin Pucetas, and Benjamin Snyder, for pitcher.   I would also throw out Daryl Maday as one as well.  I think Angel Villalona got 3rd place for hitter.

I would include Nick Noonan for honorable mention among hitters.  I have a long list for pitchers, but they all did well for us:  Scott Barnes, a left-handed pitcher we drafted in 2008 (I think 8th round), RHP Jose Casilla, LHP Alex Hinshaw, RHP Sergio Romo, RHP Mike Loree, RHP Osirus Matos, RHP Kyle Nicholson, RHP Daniel Otero, and RHP Edwin Quirarte (2008 5th round).  

FYI:  Emmanuel Burris is hitting .400/.471/.467/.938 (12-for-30) through 9 games.  Yesterday, he went 4-for-4 with 3 runs scored.  Looks like he wants to keep the SS job, eh?  However, only 2 extra bases so far (either two doubles or a triple), so his lack of power continues, making him very dependent on generating a high batting average for a high OPS.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dodd Stadium at it Again

The Giants, with the opportunity to leave that hellhole that is Dodd Stadium, that their affiliate Connecticut Defenders play in, decided to re-up for two more years.  Bad move, they should have taken the leap and leave, as I have shown how in the past few years how it has severely limited the hitters' power there, both our batters and opponents.  Thus hitters are not as bad as seen, but neither are pitchers as good.

Today, the one who caught my eye was Eddy Martinez-Esteve.  He finally had a relatively healthy season, but he was much better than his numbers show:

Total:  .300/.389/.384/.773, 6 HR in 393 AB (66 AB/HR)
Home: .266/.387/.277/.664, 0 HR in 184 AB ( -- AB/HR)
Away:  .330/.391/.478/.869, 6 HR in 209 AB (35 AB/HR)

In addition, he did well in May and July, but not so great in other months.  Still, except for April, when he got the rust off, he had more or equal walks than strikeouts each month, which only the best hitters can do.  

As one can see, his power is horribly reduced at home, particularly in terms of homers.  He's a 15-20 HR hitter on the road, Duane Kuiper at home.  His ISO is reduced from 148 on the road to 84 at home, reducing his SLG a whole 96 points overall.

Still, his hitting is not that of a great prospect in the Eastern League (though it is good).  His .869 would have ranked him 19th this year, just ahead of Orioles highly touted Nolan Reimold, who is also 24 years old for the season.   No data available for 2008, but in 2009, the average age of players in the Eastern League was basically 25.0 years old for hitters and pitchers, so EME stats should be given a bit of a boost as he was doing it against slightly older, more experienced pitchers.

Other hitters affected included:
  • Pablo Sandoval:  ISO of 195 at home, 253 on road
  • Adam Witter:  ISO 166 at home, 245 on the road; 26 AB/HR at home, 17 AB/HR on road; .394 SLG at home, .500 on road; .726 OPS vs. .861 on the road
  • David Maroul:  95 ISO at home, 212 ISO on road; 167 AB/HR at home, 24 AB/HR on road; .305 SLG at home, .453 SLG on road; .570 OPS at home, 729 OPS on road
  • Antoan Richardson:  59 ISO at home, 122 on road; .293 SLG at home, .376 SLG on road; 184 AB/HR at home, 43 AB/HR on road; 634 OPS at home, 759 OPS on road
Only Witter had a good performance hidden, but still, why make your hitters work so hard to figure out how to hit there, when doing so would bring no to little benefit down the line?   Has not done much for the Mayor of Norwich, that's for sure.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Belying the Lie: Giants Are Not Cheap in the Draft

The funny thing about us humans is that we all look at the facts that affirm your impression of the situation, just to reinforce that "we are right".  I'm as guilty of it as anyone, that's why I try harder to get beyond that and test my beliefs.  That is what led me to research the draft, because I too, like every other Giants fan, thought "what's wrong with the Giants drafting, why are they so lousy?"  Turned out that winning and being one of the best teams in the majors greatly reduces your success rate developing players.

That brings me to today's grab bag of fun facts.  Baseball America graciously make a number of their content available for free and one is their Ask BA column, to which I link here.   In this one, they list (essentially) the final total for draft expenditures by club for 2008 and 2007.  It is the total spending by each team for bonuses.  

Now, most comments I've seen lately, after "the Neukom Way" was announced in his press conference, is that "finally" the Giants are focusing on player development, a feeling they have held onto, hard, since the Giants signed Michael Tucker to avoid a draft pick and use the money more productively in the short-term. 

Giants Been Big Spenders

So it might surprise these hardy souls that the Giants have been among the biggest spenders on bonuses the past two drafts.  In the 2008 draft, the Giants spent a little over $9M on bonuses, which would have been a record spend in the 2007 draft where $8M was the high bar.  They were beat out by three of the teams who drafted ahead of them, Royals, Rays, and Pirates, and by the Red Sox, who shelled out Top 5-10 type money to draft picks later in the draft.  The Giants were 5th overall in spending on bonuses, and could have been higher as they were pursuing hard a couple of prospects who ended up not signing, who were highly rated but fell for whatever reasons.

In the 2007 draft, with all their extra picks, they ended up 6th in spending with $7.4M spent.   The teams ahead were the Rays, Orioles, Yankees, Nationals, and Tigers (not in that order, though all were roughly right around $8M spent, about $100K apart). 

Over the two years, the Giants were third in spending on the draft, with $16.5M spent on bonuses for draft picks.   The Rays were first with $17.9M and the Royals were second with $17.8M.  The Red Sox took 4th with $15.4M spent.  This all before the end of the Bonds era, all before the Giants Way.

Myth of Giants Cheapness  

The Giants have never been cheap, either, the way some have described them.  Some observers have said that the Giants "draft down", i.e. select prospects who they can sign for a cheaper amount, just because they have been in the habit of selecting players that other teams and the draft experts think should be drafted lower.  

The biggest example of this I can think of was the selection of Nate Schierholtz.   Experts were surprised he was drafted so high.  Yet, he's the only one to make the majors out of the picks in the 2nd round after him and between him and the next Giants pick of Brian Buscher, the only ones to make more of an impact in the majors are Chris Ray and Ryan Garko, the other 27 have either not made the majors or not done much in the majors, either in AB or OPS.   So the Giants appear to have made the right choice here.

In addition, I had researched this previously and the only year the Giants truly were cheap was in 2003 when they had two who were very underpaid relative to the draftees around him, and two who were slightly underpaid.  Still, Schierholtz was paid over the amount paid to those following him, which is as expected.    

And there were no first round pick who received a bonus that was lower than the average of what the guys behind him got.   In fact, for both Lincecum and Bumgarner, they received bonuses that were above slot, and obviously Posey got way above slot.   The Giants have been anything but cheap with their first round draft picks, particularly in the past few years.

If You Are Going to Comment On the Giants, Please Be Up To Date

One of my pet peeves is media people who like to comment on the Giants and talk authoritatively as if they know everything.  That's part of the joy of being obessessive and compulsive, I can't stand being wrong and so I try to learn as much as I can about whatever subject it is I hope to know.  I once knew probably 80-90% of every movie that had come out, who the major stars were and what the general plot was, but marriage and particularly parenthood has stopped that passion.  So I really hate when media people get their facts wrong.

For example, the KNBR Sportsphone host has, for a long while now, typically received my ire here and elsewhere because they act like they know everything and while I'm a relatively tolerant person (for example, I enjoy listening to Ralph Barbieri in the afternoon still, after all these years; not everyone would do that), they would invariably say something that is patently not true about the Giants within 6-8 minutes and I would have to change my radio to another station, just to get away from that.   And I love sports, for example, I used to watch basketball, bowling and golf back in the 70's, when most people didn't, I mean, the NBA playoffs AND championships were so bad that they were broadcast after midnight, so as not to disturb prime time TV.   I frequently broke my bedtime curfew to watch the games.

Particularly galling since they are the Giants radio station, they should at least find somebody who can speak knowledgeably without mis-speaking "facts".    I can understand that they are under more scrutiny because of being the Giants home on the radio, and thus they can not be and should not be homers, but there is a way of being the Giants home without getting facts wrong.  Constantly.   That's part of being in the media, speaking to the true facts, not basing your opinions on things that are frankly not true.  That's the job of any media talking-head, speaking to the facts, they should be able to find someone who can do that, that should be the lowest the bar can be placed. 

Today's Whipping Horse is Baseball Prospectus

Another who gets on my nerve is Baseball Prospectus.  I believe they are biased against the Giants and I've written on it before.  They use every (or a lot of) opportunity they get to bash Sabean.  Here is a recent posting on their free Unfiltered blog, talking about a rumor from Chicago about the Giants:  
Phil Rogers is reporting that the Giants are looking for a First Baseman and are willing to give up one of their young starters to get one. He mentions Paul Konerko and Derrek Lee, but … really? Why give up Matt Cain for that when someone like Adam LaRoche is almost as good (on a straight VORP comparison) for much less. Previous rumors of a Prince Fielder for Cain deal must have died down.
As any good Giants fan should know, Sabean stated, unqualified and categorically, Cain and Lincecum are untouchables and  he believes he can trade other pitchers for what the Giants need, which he did not define other than middle-of-lineup power hitter, plus said that Sandoval was the probable starting 1Bman.  Now, of course, that's probably in pencil and he could be looking for a 1B, but I would have to assume 3B is his first priority.

Still, the main point is that any Giants fan with interest in the team would have known that Sabean has already pointed out these two as untouchables.  And any media pundit, or "expert", who feels qualified enough to comment, particularly on another media person's open speculation, should at least inform himself of what the situation is before he goes talking off a high horse about how the Giants shouldn't do that.  Or do they really believe that Dewey won the presidency long ago because the headline told them so?

And, thinking further on why they might write this anyway, if they don't believe that Sabean is telling the truth on that, then they should explain why they don't and give reasons why.   I don't accept them as experts on the Giants if they are not going to even get their facts straight.  

And I love Baseball Prospectus, I buy their book every year, I like getting their stats, and their commentary on individual players are pretty good and comprehensive.   I would subscribe but prefer to spend my money elsewhere, like food, CDs, movies, and the technology to do stuff like this.  But I still like their work.  

Giants Thoughts

And if I were to speculate based on what they reported, I would say that there is probably very little likelihood that the Pirates are going to trade with the Giants,  they have been burned twice, badly, in recent years by Sabean, first the Schmidt trade, then the Morris trade.  They are trying to rebuild their reputation with their fans and fans have long memories (just ask any of us :^), so if they were to make another trade with the Giants, they will probably burn some of the goodwill they have earned as new on the job people, and if the trade turn out badly - again - they would have probably lost a large portion of their fanbase who were willing to give them a fair shake (and particularly any of those fence-sitters who are still mad over the Pedro Alvaraez fiasco).   

And that Jason Bay trade isn't turning out so well so far, with Andy LaRoche and Craig Hansen doing so poorly, and Brandon Moss doing OK, but not great.  Even Morris, who is still in the minors, did poorly.   Unless the Giants made an offer they couldn't refuse - which they won't - they are not going to trade with us, there's too much bad history and too much that has gone wrong already in their short tenure. 

In addition, the Giants are looking for long-term solutions, not  short-term like Derrek Lee or Paul Konerko, and they might not even perform in the short-term.  For Lee, he has had pretty average seasons twice in the past three seasons, though an injury was part of it, but his GIDP almost doubled this year, which could be a sign that he is starting to physically slow up, as part of his value is his speed at the position.  And his power is way down from his peak years, he looks like he on his decline already, both in terms of power and speed.  

And for Konerko, he has had two straight years of decline, particularly in 2007 from his peak years, and he's basically been average the past two years.   In particular, he was way below average on the road in 2008 - he was horrible, .204/.295/.331/.626 - whereas before he was good both at home at his homer-happy park and on the road.  I would not give up much for him, he could be horrible for us at our un-homer-happy park for two years.  

And both for around $12-13M.  No thank you.   Again, it was media speculation based on media speculation, with Strum und Drang layered on because the first media speculation was pretty stupid when you look at it, but then the second media speculation gets to look good as if they were complaining about the team, when really they are complaining about the other media.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Purge of the 40 Man Roster

As reported on, the Giants have opened up a number of spots on the 40 man roster; they are now at 33, which means 7 spots are open.

The players outrighted or released, most expected, some unexpected, are:
  • Tyler Walker
  • Kevin Correia
  • Brad Hennessey
  • Eliezer Alfonzo
  • Geno Espinelli
  • Scott McClain
  • Ivan Ochoa
The Giants also activated Noah Lowry and Merkin Valdez. Lastly, Travis Denker, who had been waived, was claimed by the San Diego Padres.

As noted:
Each of the outrighted players can opt for free agency except for Espineli,
who has not been outrighted before and falls one year short of qualifying for
six-year Minor League free agency. A Giants spokesman said that the other six
have informed club management that they intend to pursue their options in free
agency, with the possible exception of Correia.

This makes sense. Hennessey is probably tired of not having a set role and being used in all sorts of ways. Walker probably is tired of the fans using him as a whipping boy, as much as he enjoyed pitching for his boyhood team. Alfonzo can see the writing on the wall, with Sandoval probably the main backup for the Giants and Posey on the way up. McClain enjoyed his time here, but isn't going to get a chance to even be a bench player, so he may as well kick the tires with other teams first. Ochoa has put in time like McClain, hoping for a chance, but the Giants probably made it clear that he has no chance to make the majors with them.

Correia, on the other hand, despite his public grumbling earlier this season, is comfortable here plus Bochy is his college roommate's father, so he knows he will always get a fair shake from Bochy. The main problem is that if Lowry is back, Correia's going back into the bullpen.

However, given Sabean's press conference, if the trade route is the best way to get another bat and Cain and Lincecum are off-limits, the best trading chips would be Jonathan Sanchez, which would open up a spot in the rotation again for Correia, and his competition would be Misch, Palmer, and perhaps Joe Martinez and Adam Cowart. Thus he could resign for something around $500K-$750K with the Giants and be pretty much assured a starting spot for 2009, which is the main thing he wants to do, start.

Also, I was shocked that Denker was waived, all he has done while a Giants prospect is hit well, so all I can guess is that he is really a bad fielder. But still, someone like that could be valuable as a trading chip to an American League team, one would think. Then again, his MLE for this 2008 season, as nice as it looks, was still only .243/.332/.381/.713, which is below average even at 2B, his regular position, and pretty bad at 3B, another position he could play. Also, his numbers were skewed to the Grizzlies home park, making him all the less desirable. Still, he was only 22, he should still be able to develop, one would think.

I don't have a great idea who the Giants will be filling the 7 open spots with. I don't know the rules on when a team has to add or risk losing the player. The two pitchers I mentioned above, Joe Martinez and Adam Cowart are obvious choices. I guess they might like to add Brett Harper to the 40 man, he did very well in AAA for them and is only 26. Matt Downs would be another prospect who may be added. Since Ben Copeland is playing in the AFL, one would think he would be added. Michael Mooney has done well in spurts and is in AAA now, so maybe him too. Adam Witter and EME, maybe, David Maroul and Antoan Richardson, outside shots, but could be in mix. Benjamin Snyder and Jesse English are possibilities as well, the latter because he came in with Cain and should be running out of time. Kevin Pucetas has done very well coming up the system as well.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Hey Neukom! My Giants Business Plan: Team Built With Speed

Team speed was the way to win early in baseball's history because with the low scoring environment (and low HR environment), each run was that much more precious and leverageable into victories. Hence the glory of Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner in the early days of the 20th Century, the beginning of the modern era of the MLB. However, once the HR drug hit the public's veins, like any good addictive drug, it made the user crave for more.

And I will admit here that I am in love with the long ball too. I grew up with Bobby Bonds, Dave Kingman, Jack Clark being my main HR heroes, though Stretch casted his long shadow then too (and I also love the K too, John "The Count" Montefusco was an early fave of mine too).

BP Study on Success in the Playoffs

But as the BP study showed, no matter how much or how little HR a team hits or even runs it scores, it had very little bearing on the success the team had in the playoffs. There was no significant correlation. In fact, there was no signficant correlation with any offensive metric with success in the playoffs.

However, while that is true, BP did note that there was one offensive stat that had at least a sizeable enough correction for them to note, though not at a statistically significant level: stolen base attempts. Yes, not speed score (which they tried) but stolen base attempts.

Would You Believe A "Team Built on Stealing Bases"?

So my title for this post is not quite precise enough, it is not enough to be built with speed (meaning, say, having a high speed score) but the players must be speedy enough and good enough base stealers to warrant the manager allowing them to make a lot of attempts to steal bases. Oddly enough, stolen base success was not linked to success, but stolen base attempts were. But just making all your slow guys pile up stolen base attempts obviously would not work, so I think the overarching benefit is having a lot of players who are capable of stealing bases successfully.

Giants Thoughts

I hate to bring this up again, but the team we should try to emulate is the D-gers of the 1960's, anchored by Koufax and Drysdale (Lincecum and Cain) in the starting rotation and Maury Wills on the offense, stealing bases and creating havoc on the base paths. They kept the runs allowed low and Wills provided octane to the tepid offense that was just enough offense to enable them to win a lot of games.

I don't know who our Maury Wills will be (originally, I was thinking Marcus Sanders), if ever, but we have a number of speedsters in place across the lineup possibly, so perhaps quantity over quality will do. Fred Lewis is the most obvious, as our current leadoff hitter, though he might be hitting 3rd next season. Other candidates include Emmanuel Burriss, Eugenio Velez, and Antoan Richardson. Or maybe, further down the system and into the future, the guy we got in the Durham trade, Darren Ford, Tyler Graham, Julio Izturis, Shane Jordan, Mike McBryde, and Nick Noonan. And, definitely in combination, no way we'll have a Wills-like base stealer but hopefully together as a unit.

In addition, with Pat Kelly as our firstbase coach and base running coach at the major league level, plus Bochy, who has utilized speed previously when at the Padres, the Giants seem to be set up to be a team that can and will run. And I don't think it is a coincidence that Randy Winn suddenly was able to avoid caught stealings, I think it was the addition of Kelly to the coaching staff that made a big difference. And while success was not one of the significant factors, obviously, if you are going to try a lot of stolen base attempts, the more successful you are in doing that, the better it is for your offense.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Giants Way (tm)

Bill Neukom yesterday had his first official press conference as managing partner - on his second day of work - and Andy Baggarly very kindly posted the transcript on this blog (a man after my own heart, as he saves me the trouble of transcribing everything!).

Following is a copy of his transcription plus my usual comments after each Q&A:

Neukom’s opening statement:

This is a very exciting day for me, Day 2 on the job, so if I can’t answer all your questions as informatively as I’d like to, you’ll have to come back at another time when I know as much about this team as you know. I’m on a very steep learning curve and I’ve got some very smart people to help me learn a lot in a hurry so we can make the Giants the team we all want it to be, and the enterprise in the community we all want it to be.

We are hard at work with plans to build on what we learned during the 2008 season in particular, as well as seasons that preceded it. Baseball is a marathon, as you all know. We’re pleased with some of the developments from the 2008 season. Our job is to take all of that learning, take the talent that we have, and make sure we have an improved performance on the field in 2009. And that means we intend to be competitive. And after we are competitive, we intend to be contending. We want to be contending as soon as possible. We want to be the sort of franchise that puts a contending major league team on the field game in and game out, and affords its community and fan base a contending team year in and year out. And how we’re going to do that is by emphasizing and investing even more in homegrown talent. We have to find the best baseball athletes we can find, through better scouting and better analysis of the amateur draft. We have to emphasize that part of our roster. At the same time, we have to be wise about making strategic trades when it will materially help our team in the medium run, at least, if not the long run, and we have to be willing to enter into the free-trade, free-agent market every now and again, where there is an opportunity to materially improve our competitiveness as a ballclub. And once we have that kind of talent on a regular basis, then we are going to stress fundamentals. We will have a Giants Way. We will be better conditioned and we will work harder. We will be better prepared. We will master the fundamentals in all aspects of the game. And that, we believe, will pay dividends season in and season out. So we will have the best talent, the best teachers and leaders, coaches, our field managers, our instructors, our trainers and the like. Larry (Baer) and I have had several discussions with Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy and they share our enthusiasm for what it is we’re doing to build on ’08 to get us competitive in ’09 and to get us to being a contending ballclub on a regular basis just as soon as possible. They are hard at work. Meetings will be held next week in Arizona. Larry and I will be a part of those meetings. And part of those meetings, and the whole point, is to develop a Giants Way of playing baseball. The first day someone becomes a Giant, he understands how it is we play this game, how we play winning baseball, so we can have the team we want to have, wearing Giants uniforms, and playing in front of our fan base. I think the fan base deserves more and we intend to deliver more to them in the near term and the long term.

ogc: I've seen one commenter say that this is the same corporate B.S. they hear at work. To which I say: of course. Being a corporate leader today requires you to act "leader-like" and B.S. is part of that. About being the best, about being accountable (a typical phrase heard when new leadership comes in when the old leadership is under a bit of a cloud). Thus, as I've been preaching all these years after Sabean press conferences, you need to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Basically, this repeats the message he gave in one of his first press conferences, that the Giants are all about winning (i.e. contending) and that he wants to be winning ASAP. Lots of blah-blahs, but there are key things to note that are new and/or important.

First, clearly the Giants will be built from the farm system first, supplemented with trades and free agency, as needed. That wasn't so clear during the past 5 years as the Giants tried to win with Bonds and within the budget. Second, there will be a "Giants Way" that is a published manual so that it will be very clear to any Giants employee what they need to do in order to be successful at his or her job, whether player or management, and what is expected out of them (beyond just winning). Lastly, his timeline is for 2009 to be another rebuilding year where we are competitive but expects to be contending in 2010.

That to me, is a relatively low bar to get over because the Giants are basically there: they were competitive in the last two months of the season and just needs to continue that, which appears likely if the vets can hit like they are capable of and the youngsters don't regress. This leads me to believe that Neukom likes the work that Sabean has done so far and want to set things up so that when it is time to re-hire Sabean at the end of 2009, he can do so legitimately to the public.

That is why (as I'll discuss below and in previous posts) I believe he has publicly taken the stance that Sabean is under evaluation and won't be just rubber stamped as GM for the future, he has to show the Giants fandom that he's in charge and that everybody is accountable and being seriously evaluated, including himself. He has to prove to the Giants crowd that he's changing things from the way Magowan ran things (without dissing Magowan), that things will be different going forward, because a lot of people are not happy with how the Giants have been run since 2002.

Q: Did you see major strides in ’08? Can the Giants contend in ’09? How will that affect player acquisition this winter?
A: I think we all saw promise in 2008, particularly in the second half with the play of a number of our young ballplayers. The question for us is, coming into a very vigorous and disciplined spring training session, which of those players will be able to sustain their performance on a major league level so we have a competitive team between the lines game in and game out? The other batch of players who didn’t come to our roster this year are also very promising, and you know those names. Frankly, we’re beginning to see the fruits of our advantage of being able to draft higher because of a lesser record over the last three years. So we think our young talent supply is quite good. We’re not persuaded, given the ferocious competition of major league baseball, that that talent will prove to be good enough to make us not just competitive but contenders on a regular basis. So that is why we say we will look for ways to complement that talent in order to have a winning team. We have to think about the team in context of our ballpark, of our division, of what others are doing in other divisions. So it’s a fairly complicated Rubik’s cube in terms of how it is you organize a roster that year in and year out will put a winning team on the field. So we definitely saw some promise, but the question is how many of those people will be able to deliver that consistently over a full major league season? We think some of them will and should, surely, without naming names. Then there’s the next round of talent which is deeper in our farm system. We want to bring those people along in a way that enables them to convert their gifts into major league skills and we think we’ll have maybe a little more time and a little more discretion. Some of the people who came up this year, frankly, came up sooner than might have been perfect if we’d had a deeper system. It somewhat accelerated things in 2008 and we hope we can get to more of a sort of modulated progression for this very promising talent as we bring these people along from Single-A to Double-A to Triple-A and up to the Giants.

ogc: He shows subtle knowledge that our losing has helped out in improving our talent level - most people think that drafting is somehow easy to do if you do it right, while my study showed that the odds of finding someone good increases exponentially as you rise from the back of the 1st round to the beginning. Then, he also acknowledges that this is not enough to field a team, that it must be supplemented by trades and free agents to complete a competitive team, which is something most fans already know, so its not all pearls he is saying.

Important notes include that they will slow the prospect train to the majors in 2009, they will progress players at the pace the development staff deems proper instead of promoting prospects before they are really ready for the majors. That basically points at players like Bumgarner, Alderson, Villalona, Noonan, Pucetas, Snyder, Sosa, Joaquin, down lower in the system, plus new prospects like Posey, Gillaspie, Kieschnick, Crawford, Barnes. However, that makes sense also because most of the top AA and AAA prospects have already been brought up to the majors in 2008, and 2009 will be the year they either prove they belong or not.

Q: I know Sabean’s job. I know Baer’s job. What is your job?
A: My job is to see to it that as an enterprise, primarily on the baseball side but also on the business side, we have the right structure and the right culture so we can provide the resources and the guidance so our baseball experts can put a contending team on the field. And that buck stops with me. Larry does an enormous amount of things across the board for this enterprise but it’s important I think that we have, for example, a culture of meritocracy. That people understand their objectives in every job in this enterprise, that they know they will be fairly judged in terms of how they perform against those objectives, that they will have incentive compensation, and we will have world-class people at every key position on the business side and we will have the best in baseball people at every key position on the baseball side. When I wake up in the morning and I go to sleep every night, I’m thinking about, `What is this organization? This structure? Do we have the right people doing the right things? Are they motivated to be the best possible producers they can be? And then it’s making sure I stay out of the way of these talented people doing what they’re doing, whether it’s scouting baseball players or it’s training baseball talent or it’s running the finances of the organization, or whether it’s having an enlightened human resources culture so that we attract an enormous amount of talent and allow that talent to achieve its potential.

ogc: Now this is corporate talk I understand, my sweet spot. What he says here is basically what any professional services firm has to do, whether accounting firm, programmers, consultants, they are meritocracies and the best professional serices firms have to answer the questions he asks here.

Q: What will the payroll be? How active will the Giants be on the free-agent front this winter?
A: We have asked Brian and his group to look broadly at the question of the roster for 2009 and beyond. That means primary emphasis on homegrown talent, (determining) how much of this young talent can we expect to produce on a sustainable basis during a championship season next year, whether we need to complement it with a trade, or fold those risks and expenses with a free agent signing. The number is something of a placeholder at this point in our financial planning process. We said to Brian and to Bruce Bochy, `Look, don’t be constrained by a placeholder number for player payroll right now. Think of this in terms of how you’re going to assemble a roster that’s going to be competitive in ‘09 and come back to us. We may not be able to afford Plan A. We may tell you that we’re really at Plan B or Plan C because of financial realities.’ But we’ve asked him, `Without being wild about it, don’t be limited entirely by the notion that you have `X’ amount of dollars to spend for ‘09. Think somewhat out of the box and be creative about this. We just think that’s the way you run a talent business.

(Some deleted.)

So we are asking people on the baseball side to bring some creativity to this. And the exciting thing is that they’re already there. Our recent conversations with Brian and Bruce indicate they are talking about a manual so that every single player at every state in his development with the Giants knows exactly what is expected out of them. They are already thinking very creatively about what parts we need to make us the best Giants team we can be in ‘09 and build beyond that. We’re not doing this year to year. It’s about a progression – medium-term, long-term strategic planning, so we get to the point where our fan base knows when we ask them to buy a season ticket, that it will be another season of competitive baseball played the way it ought to be played in San Francisco.

ogc: I wonder what was deleted, disappointing, even if it was boring stuff.

This repeats what he said before, only in greater detail here. He's already said that the question is first, how do we need to be configured to win, then how do we finance that. Thus the payroll question is only pertinent in giving a ballpark (or "placeholder:"as he noted) figure of where the Giants are aiming, but the Giants could theoretically blow that number out of the ballpark if the Giants management feels it is the right move to do for the long-term.

That's what I've been trying to drive home the past 5 seasons since we passed up on pursuing Vladimir Guererro. Even if the rumor by a prominent Bay Area media person that Guererero hated Alou was true, the main thing was that the payroll was contrained that season, and I said the Giants could either think big (getting a big name) or think small (filling all the holes) and they chose to think small, even to the point where they were willing to spend extra to get Maddux but not use that money for other purposes.

I've also been saying the Giants need to bring in more funds to pay for when key talent is available, and not be subject to the whims of the free agent marketplace. So I advocated for either Larry Ellison (or any local billionaire) to take over the Giants or Magowan to find new investors to bring in additional funds when necessary. As I noted when Neukom took over, hopefully his Silicon Valley connections will bring money into our coffers, much like how the D-backs somehow has been doing this for years now.

The Giants have been thinking short-term since 2002, trying to win it with Bonds, so I am glad that the new managing partner is emphasizing the long-term and thinking strategically.

About the manual, I (and many other Giants fans) are thinking "finally", they are going to have a manual. What took them so long? But at least they are doing it now, that is the important thing, though I will believe it when I see it in the hands of prospects.

Q: Is the "Giants Way" mostly on-field fundamentals? How to bunt?
A: It includes that, and there’s a recent memo from Brian to instructional league folks saying, `Here are the kinds of things I want you to emphasize with our Giants players this year.’ What does a 2-1 count mean to you? How do you stretch your lead? Those kinds of fundamentals. That’s all part of the manual. The Giants Way itself will have broader themes to it, but certainly the way the game is played between the lines is an essential part of the Giants Way. The Giants Way also has to be, `What is the kind of talent we want to find and how do we find it?’ Knowing again, we are in this fiercely competitive industry with 29 other teams trying to be smarter than we are. Once you find that talent, how is it you help that talent convert those gifts into skills that win ballgames at the major league level? It’s going to focus on our teaching, our training and our leading by example with our training and coaching core and managerial core. And it also involves how it is they comport themselves off the field as well as on the field. It has to do with the business that they’re a part of. We need to support baseball. That’s what the non-baseball side of the Giants does. And it’s giving every person a reason to excel at what they do so we have the resources to have contending baseball year in and year out.

ogc: Typical leader "rah-rah" stuff that the questioner lobbed a softball into Neukom's wheelhouse. Nothing really new noted here, just more fluffy details.

Q: Peter Magowan was a visible, hands-on presence. How will you compare to Magowan?
A: I’ve leaned on Larry Baer from the day I first became an investor here (in 1995). Now that I’m part of the management team I will continue to lean heavily on him. As I said in May, the Giants are very fortunate. One of our very best assets is we’ve got, by any fair measure, I think the best COO in baseball. And the fact Larry would be willing to re-up and redouble his part in the administration was essential to this transition and gratifying to all the investors. So Larry Baer is front and center and at the top of this pyramid. I will be as visible as my colleagues think is constructive. And I will be as invisible as my colleagues think is instructive for the Giants to be a contending baseball franchise. Central to the Giants Way is listening to and serving our customers, and we have several different kinds of customers. We have people who are just fans and follow us who may not actually put money in our coffers. Those are customers of ours and we need to understand them and inform and educate them. We have people who put hard-earned money into having a baseball experience with us, and those are people we have to listen to and understand and engage in a way they find worthwhile. So I have a lot of learning to do, no question. I’ve learned a lot as an investor. I have a lot more learning to do and Larry will provide an enormous amount of that learning. So will other folks and other sources of information. So I’m not doing this out of any sense of ego. I’m doing this because I’ve been a Giants fan since they came to San Francisco, I was a shareholder under Mr. (Horace) Stoneham’s administration within the first year they moved here — thanks to my dad, who bought me 10 shares because at the time I couldn’t afford it with my paper route. And I’ve followed the Giants quite closely for the last 50 years. It’s an enormous honor and an exciting opportunity for a fan from San Mateo Park to have a chance to be a part of the leadership of this team. I don’t need to be out on front and I don’t need to be prominent. What I want to be is good at my job, and that means, again, we get the right baseball talent and we teach the fundamentals, we play the game the way it ought to be played and have a winning culture and a winning record, and on the business side, we have remarkable people doing extraordinary things because of their incentive to do it.

ogc: This is what I've been saying since the announcement, nobody else focused on this, but clearly the Giants are preparing Larry Baer to be the face and leader of the Giants sometime in the future (probably near future since Neukom is already 66 years old). This was also a great sidestep of the question to say something tangentially related that you were hoping to emphasis in the press conference.

I learned this in school, how some people take over Q&A sessions like this by talking about what they want to talk about, and not answer the question given. Obviously, this is what politicians do regularly, but it is interesting to see it here in a baseball context. Notice how not once Magowan's name is mentioned by Neukom, he's not going to go there, he didn't go there months ago when posed with the same question, he is not going there today.

So he first talks about Larry's prominent role in the new administration then talks about how the Giants Way is all about listening to and serving their customers. Then he talked about what it means to him to be the managing partner, again, without mentioning Magowan. Very smooth.

Q: When and how will you evaluate whether Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy, whose contracts are up after next season, will be the right people moving forward?
A: Both Brian and Bruce enthusiastically have endorsed the notion that we’ve got so much work to do, and it’s good work, that we’re not going to worry about what their status is with the Giants beyond the 2009 season now. We’re not going to be distracted by that. We’re going to focus on making sure our trajectory towards competitiveness goes up from where it was in ‘08 so we can have a team we can all be proud of in ‘09 and beyond. Job One is identifying the talent, teaching the talent and playing the game in a winning way. There will be plenty of time for us after the ‘09 season to look back and evaluate how each of us did and decide where we go from there.

ogc: As noted above and in my previous musings, Neukom has to take the public stance that Sabean and Bochy are being seriously evaluated before they are re-hired. He must know that there are many fans who want Sabean gone and he can't lose those fans from the beginning by talking about how well he thinks of Sabean. Thus he has to take this stance of wait and see.

But as I noted, there are subtle signs that Neukom likes Sabean as GM. It was clear when he was first announced that he respects and likes Sabean, but didn't give full backing for the reasons above I believe. And as I noted above, he didn't put the onus on Sabean to create a contender in 2009, he only asked for a competitive team, which should be attainable relatively easily, as long as everyone performs as expected. So I would expect Sabean to be rehired as long as the team is "competitive" which I read as .500, but since he left it fuzzy, they could be under .500 but better than this year and could be considered "competitive".

In any case, barring any severe regression on the part of young players in 2009, I am hoping that Sabean is given another two year contract (or get his option picked up, as I read somewhere someone said that he had) because the team has progressed enough for me to give him more rope. I like the progress the team showed in 2008 and am very hopeful for 2009 and beyond. I think we can start kicking butt in 2010 if players continue to develop.

Unfortunately, none of the reporters remembered to ask Neukom what Sabean's extended authority entails. This was first mentioned in the intial meetings he had with the press, that Sabean would have extended authority, but no details were given. This would have been the perfect time to ask this.

Q: In compiling the Giants Way, is it an acknowledgment that these things weren’t done in the past?
A: I think it’s a matter of clear communication. I think we’ve had very good instructors and scouts and I’m not looking back and passing judgment on anybody that’s been part of this organization. This organization has had remarkable success as a major league team until the last several years. But I think everyone agrees, with Brian and Bruce at the vanguard, that we can do a better job being clear about what the Giants Way is, making sure it’s front in line for everybody, make sure it goes all the way down to the first day someone becomes a Giant at the lowest level of our baseball organization, and that we teach according to it. And if you do that consistently, whatever your business is, but particularly a game that requires the kind of precise skills that baseball does and is played as a team game when every position is a skill position, if you have that kind of clear message and you teach to that message and are consistent with it, you are just bound to get better results at the end of the day at every level and particularly the major league level. So I think it’s more than a reemphasis on it. It’s some clarification and some commitment to teaching the Giants Way in a very consistent manner.

ogc: Nice try by the reporter, he/she has to ask something like this, but Neukom likewise had to answer his way as well. The additional bit of information gleaned here is that he is taking a business process look at the Giants, and trying to quantify and detail everything so that it is clear to everyone, now and in the future, how you are suppose to do your job. A lot of companies doing this take the 6 Sigma approach, which is not something that is necessary in baseball, but in concept - documenting all your processes - they are similar. And this will enable business process re-engineering in the future, as necessary.

Q: Barry Bonds is in town today. What role will he play, if any, in the organization? Will you build a statue?
A: I think that we all need to be respectful of what Barry Bonds has done for baseball and for this team over the course of his career. We all need to permit the legal process to play out with regard to the pending case involving Barry Bonds. And where we go in the future with Barry Bonds will depend to some extent on the future. I think it was a very good sign that he came to the reunion event. That obviously was a very popular appearance in terms of the fans who are at this ballpark. He’s always been enormously popular with the fans at this ballpark. I think there will be other opportunities for Barry Bonds and the Giants to find common ground — things that can be useful to the Giants and good for him. But we don’t have any concrete plans at this point and we will continue to consider that as we go forward.

Side note: The future will determine the future. Gotta love that.

ogc: To Bagggarly's side note, unfortunately, there is no other or better way to say that. It will all depend on what happens in the future. Obviously, if Bonds is in jail, he isn't doing anything for the Giants while in there, and the Giants would probably not want to do much with him, just pay his foundation for him to lay low and be quiet.

In any case, this is about all he could say about Bonds, move on to the next question.

Q: Have you purchased a home in San Francisco yet?
A: We’re looking for a place as I speak. I intend to have a residence here, and if it takes seven days a week to do a credible job as managing general partner of the Giants, I’ll spend eight days a week here. Whatever it takes.

ogc: Like I said above, some are skilled enough to take the question and use it to push your agenda, which in this case is that he will work hard making the Giants successful again. I guess he's a Beatles fan too. :^)

That said, it's disappointing that he hasn't picked up a place yet. I will allow, however, that perhaps he saw the looming cloud on the business (and thus real estate) world, and decided to wait it out and pick up the same home for much less later on. If so, that shrewdness will pay off for the Giants.

That’s the end of the news conference. Afterward, a couple of us were able to pull aside Neukom and ask a few more specifics:

Q: Is the Giants Way your sole authorship?
A: Having the Giants Way clearly articulated is my idea. It is not an original idea. We’ve heard forever about the Dodger Way, and more recently, the Angels Way. It seemed it would bear fruit for us. I’ve got a rough draft right here. I’ve written two or three pages on the airplane. I don’t think it will micromanage, for instance, whether people have a melatonin or an aspirin at night.

ogc: I wish they could have been more original or be playful with it, like "The Giants Gait" or "How to be a Giant" or "What It Means to be a Giant" or "Giants Handbook" or "Giants Process" or "Giants Meaning" or "Giant Thoughts" or even simply "Giants Manual", anything is better than copying what the D-gers and Angels are doing. Even "The Way of a Giant" is better.

Q: What role should Sabermetrics or other advanced statistical tools be used in player evaluation? Is it more or less important than a conventional scouting approach?
A: Some of each, I think. Baseball is a science and an art. When it comes to picking the talent, we need the sharpest baseball eyes: people who can pick the 16-year-old arm out of the cornfield. We also need to be very well informed with all that is at our fingertips. We need to be smart about that. It’ll be a blend.

ogc: People have mislabeled Sabean, I think. He knows about OBP and such stuff that MoneyBall talked about. And where it concerns thinking differently, Sabean has done that, losing a draft pick to pay for a veteran player, drafting players he thought are good instead of paying attention to what the "experts" think (most of his recent picks were higher than as ranked by Baseball America, sometimes 2-3 rounds ahead of talent ranking), trading Matt Williams to fill multiple positions on the team. I think his disdain was for those who think sabermetrics is a magic box that will make any team successful (and there are many who think that).

Q: Are you a “Moneyball” guy?
A: My view is that “Moneyball” is a very shrewd strategy but it’s not the only strategy. It’s got to be integrated. You’ve also got to have a lot of baseball savvy. We will tailor our strategy and our team to things that work for us.

ogc: I think even Billy Beane recently said that he's not a Moneyball guy anymore, or at least showed that he's not, he picked up a number of veteran free agents (much like how Sabean and the Giants are lambasted for doing similarly), drafted a number of high school prospects early in the draft, another Moneyball no-no (draft college players because they are surer things and not as expensive, particularly high school pitchers who are both risky and expensive), he even had a team of lousy OBP hitters in 2008, the team OBP was a Pedro Feliz-esque .318 in 2008.

The Giants and A's have a history of animosity, so Neukom did well in sidestepping this opportunity to stir things up with the A's by praising it while saying it is not for us.

Q: Can you be more specific about fiscal priorities to player development as opposed to free agency?
A: Over time we will continue to invest in our farm system. I can’t give you a nice numeric answer vs. free-agent opportunities. But they will complement our principal focus. It’s important we have better scouts and better statistical analysis. We just have to outwork people, whether it’s in the conditioning room, down the dirt roads in middle America or in front of the (computer) screen.

ogc: I could have answered this question with about the same text, based on what has been said before. Wasted question.

A better question that gets at what the questioner was trying to ask would be, "If the Giants signed a $20M player like Sabathia, Manny, Teixiera, how would that affect player development? Would we not pursue another high profile Carribean free agent as a result, or will it happen nonetheless?" Or "Would signability of the #6 pick for the 2009 draft be an issue if the Giants spend over the placeholder budget target? Meaning, would we pass on a Posey-type price-tag to get a cheaper prospect?"

Q: How about bringing in the fences?
A: (Pause) It’s not a concept we’re currently considering. I think it’s a very exciting ballpark.

ogc: That is suppose to be part of the beauty of this park, harkening to olden days (particularly the Polo Grounds in NY), plus people could see the game for free from the other side of the right field fense. Changing it now would seem to be a slap in the face to Magowan.

However, since it was noted, I just realized that the way the right field wall is built, with those seats way up there, the owner in the future could decide to add a stretch of seats along that stretch into CF easily, if desired. Perhaps once the mortgage is paid off?

Q: I understand your financial plan for free agents is rather fluid. But this is an organization that made a $126 million commitment to Barry Zito two years ago. Can you flatly rule out another Zito-style contract for someone like CC Sabathia or Mark Teixeira?
A: It depends. We asked our baseball people to look up and down the system. We told them to bring medium-term to long-term strategic lenses to that. We want to be competitive in a sustainable way. We’ll look at everything. We said to Brian, `Look more broadly. Don’t look for easy answers.’ There are financial realities, but we said, `Design a couple different versions of the roster we want to build to get up to that level of sustainable, competitive baseball. Take a broad look, them come back to us and we’ll see how it matches up with our budget or our strength.’

ogc: I think this is a question that needed to be asked, but it is clear from his prior answers that he would answer in this way. But sometimes you have to ask the question anyhow, just to verify your assumption.

In addition, this is basically what he said long ago when he was first announced as the new managing owner, just with greater detail. I think this is great.

What the writers missed asking here is: "If it really makes sense from the baseball side to sign a $20M player, whoever that may be, and push the budget over $100M, where would the extra money come from?" Or they alternatively could have asked, "If the team requires more funds to execute the baseball plans ideally, based on the options presented and the various possibilities, how would the team go about getting such funds?"

Q: Is the Giants Way a fancy way of saying “small ball?”
A: Hustle and conditioning and strategic baseball. Not small ball. It’s an integrated approach. Some games we need to win with a three-run home run. Some games we win with a squeeze play. There’s a lot of different ways to win. My notion is that the right roster with the right strategy will result in a winning team. We all believe in team play and deflecting credit to your teammates.

ogc: Not a very informed question. No where did Neukom say that we are not getting any power hitters. Not sure why this was asked.

I think Neukom's concerns get back to what Felipe Alou was saying when he first came back here, about how he was unable to execute the bunt in the World Series, when the team was filled with home run power hitters like Mays, McCovey, and Cepeda (they hit 204 homers that year), which would have been a critical play had he been able to execute. All Neukom is basically saying is that he wants Giants players to be ready to deliver well executed plays, from the bunt, to hit and run, to turning the double play, hitting to the other side to advance runners, to stealing or taking an extra base when available. To make sure they can deliver even the easiest plays when the team needs it to win.

Winning, if that isn't clear yet, is Neukom's sole focus. And he wants all his players to be ready to do whatever it is they need to do, in order to win. And he is setting the example up top of working 8 days to win, whatever it takes.

Giants Thoughts

Good press conference. The Giants Way is the main new thing to come out of this, as most of the other stuff was already alluded to or discussed previously when he had his first press conference after being appointed the successor. He also clearly set the expectations at competitive in 2009, contending in 2010 and beyond. He wants to win and soon. It was also clearly stated now that Larry Baer is the top of the pyramid. They are, as I noted long ago, preparing him to take over when Neukom is done. He restated how payroll will be handled going forward, as in it will depend on the situation.


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