Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I Need to Scream!!! Part Tre

FYI:  regular readers are probably missing this, but I've been discussing some issues with a poster, John Cormac, on this thread:  http://obsessivegiantscompulsive.blogspot.com/2008/12/i-need-to-scream-part-dos.html.  

I will have a response to his latest post later, I guess I need to repost a lot of my earlier research to explain my entire stance more efficiently as I am getting tired of repeating the same thing another way to another person, but that is for me to do later.


  1. No worries Martin. You, like many of us, have knowledge and opinions about baseball and about the Giants. Even when I disagree with you, I always find your site (and you) to be intellectually honest and filled with good data. I learn things when I come here. While it may be frustrating to have to restate your positions, you provide a nice service to Giants fans. Keep up the good work.


  2. I read the entire thread and I have to say that John Cormac makes a lot of good points. By the same token, you do too.

    However, as an observer who has also taken issue in the past with some of the points you've made in your blog, I can say that sometimes you have the tendency to treat the items that you have stated as truth, and not opinion. It creates the environment, at times, that other people's opinions, when in conflict with yours, are not in disagreement, but rather are wrong.....especially when it relates to Sabean and the judgement of the job that he has done.

    Take this with as many grains of salt that you wish.

  3. Thanks for the pep talk guys!

    I'm just more frustrated by the fact that I've had all these "plans" in my head for my blog so that I can just refer people to this post or that post when I'm explaining things I've researched from many years ago, instead of rehashing the same things over and over. I feel a bit like that planet in Star Trek where the population is half white and half black, but one is white on the left side and the other is white on the right side, where it never ends.

    If I've researched it and I believe in my results, it is the truth until I see otherwise. That's something I've said before. I know that grates on some people, but as long as I have facts behind what I am saying, I won't back down from my statements until I see research that is more indepth with better results or my research methodology is shown to be flawed.

    It is no worse than people telling me I'm wrong when I show all my research and still they don't get it.

    And I think I have walked the line between opinion and fact (as shown by research) pretty well, but like all people, I'm not perfect but trying to get better.

    And I do realize that it is my opinion that Sabean is doing well, what I have a problem is when people either don't understand or even ignore the datapoints as I've presented them to support that opinion.

  4. As a newbie to the blog, I applaud thorough analyses of actual facts and history from Giants' fans. Too many are trapped by their love for the personalities (e.g., Snow) over performance. No one needs many stats to see that Sabean's choices (moves AND inaction) since 2003 left a pattern of fender benders and ten-car pileups. This offseason has been more of the same, so why would anyone expect this heap to travel safely?

    The most telling visual for me is lining up Sabean's moves 1996-2001 against 2003-2008. He doesn't even have the fortitude to mimic his own success stories, much less reject his ongoing mistakes. His primary driver seems to be vanity, not the team's actual performance.

    In the end, Sabean's chronic bad hibits and contract mistakes allow this front office to cry poverty for its inaction. Tired tune.

  5. I guess another thing is that I'm OK with a fluid stance on what I "believe", as I know that new data and perspectives can bring better enlightenment. I'm OK with flip-flopping on an issue if the data support it.

    The biggest example of this is that I was like many Giants fans, critical of Sabean's drafts, but then my research showed how difficult it is to draft a good player even with a first round draft, and exponentially harder with each round after that.

    Once I looked at the data in-depth like I did, one can see that with all the teams who were successful over a long period of time, Yankees, A's, Braves, Giants, they all had "bad" drafts if you looked at the success of these teams when they were winning their divisions regularly. Adding that to the length of time it takes for most players to reach the majors, means that it could delay the acquiring of a good player via the draft on average around 7-10 years.

    You might not believe I'm fluid, but I am if I'm presented with what I believe to be valid facts, I will change my opinion, as I showed above. It is just that nobody has been giving me what I feel to be valid facts (sorry Boof :^).

  6. Your point re drafts is good. But those successful teams draft on volume, not brilliance. And then they trade on their volume of prospects for a proven player (or trade their arbitration players to restock the bank). So when Sabean forfeited picks and rationalized it as risky drafts and just as expensive as Michael Tucker, he was lying or being silly.

    And why was it okay to trade top picks like Howry, Foulke, Grilli, Bump, Ainsworth, Bonser, Vogelsong, et al. 1997-2001, yet an erratic lefty like Sanchez is now too valuable to trade? Nuts.

    Your point illustrates why Giants fans are way, way too sunny when projecting futures for Posey, Gillespie, Bumgartner, Villalona, et al. Sure, we hope they pan out. Chances are the majority get injured, hit a ceiling, or wallow in the SF farm system until age 27 - when Sabean claims he really doesn't know what they can do (e.g., F.Lewis).

  7. I usually understand where you're coming from, as I have been a reader here for quite awhile, so no apologies are necessary. I don't think anyone expects you to back down from your points without sound reasoning, however, sometimes your writing comes off as if you think the reader/commenter doesn't understand what you are saying, rather than just disagreeing with your conclusions.

    As you have seen in the past, I don't always agree with what you say. There's nothing wrong with that. If everyone agreed, there'd be no need for blogs to discuss these issues.

    Your methodology is to take stats, analyze them, and make conclusions from that research. Your points are usually well thought out & researched.

    In my particular case, I look at stats as a part of the story to see if it backs up what I see taking place on the field. As an observer of the game of baseball over the last 40+ players as a player, coach & fan, I put a little more trust in what I see on the field than just a pure statistical analysis.

    In some areas in the past where we've disagreed, sometimes I've been right and sometimes not. For example, a couple of years ago we disagreed on whether Russ Ortiz or Chan Ho Park would've been the better signing for the Giants. You had statistical data showing that Ortiz may be the better pitcher, but as it turned out Chan Ho Park ended up being the more effective pitcher. On the flip side, I was against the Molina signing despite what your statistical analysis showed and you were right on that one. Anyway my point here is that sometimes stats really don't tell the whole story. Sometimes you have to look outside that box.

  8. MH, do you really think that people will change their successful behavior without interference/intervention from upper management? I don't believe that all the moves made in the 2003-2008 timeframe were all driven by Sabean.

    In addition, talent-wise, Sabean has shown that he knows what a good player is once he has his hands on him, as shown by my list of prospects he has kept versus the ones he has let go.

    Free agent signings are skewed by the needs of the organization, if you are going to compete to win with Bonds (and to pay him $20M and not do that would not make sense) then you go out and get the best mercenaries, er, free agents available on the market. The big money players Sabean have signed have been arguably the best available at that position, for the most part, which supports the "win with Bonds" strategy. Such a strategy would come from above, not from Sabean.

    To Sabean's credit, very few of our top prospects have been traded since 2002 to support this strategy. Think the Giants couldn't have gotten a key player from other teams for Cain during those years?

    And if the cries of poverty prevented us from signing Sabathia and Teixeira, then I'm glad because I think those contracts would have eventually blown up on us.

    And it is easy to criticize after the fact, but what would have you have done differently from Sabean, who would you have tried to sign instead of the guys we got or what would have you have done differently? What would have been a better path?

    I find that this is where some people's outrage is shown to be overblown or missing something in logic. Or maybe I'm missing something. But, given that strategy, I don't think Sabean could have done much better than what he has done: he rebuilt while still spending to win at the MLB level.

  9. Boof, I agree that you have to sometimes see outside the box. Unfortunately, I don't get to see a lot of games (unlike you) so I have to concentrate on the statistical or research side of the equation. Thank you for sharing that information.

    But I do try to think outside the box taking what I've read on players from scouts (all the books) and incorporating what I find in the analysis side.

    On Ortiz vs. Park, injury played a big part in how that went bad for me, no way to say how Ortiz would have done had he been healthy. However, regarding Park, I think I've been proven right that he's not that good a pitcher when he's not pitching in Dodger Stadium. Again, in 2008, 2.18 ERA at home, 4.50 ERA on the road, a very average ERA.

    And that original discussion was for the 2007 season, when the Mets were desperate for starting pitchers since Pedro wasn't available, and Park was so bad that the Mets would not even pitch him, he just got in 4 horrible innings, so bad that it was exponentially worse than what Ortiz did for us in 2007.

    In addition, he was lucky in 2008, his FIP was 4.37, so no telling how bad he really was on the road, but his FIP was basically one point higher than his actual ERA, so I think it would be fair to say that his ERA should have been between 5.00 and 5.50 in 2008.

  10. OGC,

    Keep up the good work, we don't always see eye-to-eye, but like Boof said, if everyone agreed all the time it would be pretty boring.

    The more voices in regards to the Giants, the better in my opinion.

  11. Thanks Chris, right back at you, I totally agree with you.

  12. EH, successful teams have to draft on volume because the odds are so low on each pick of him becoming a good player. The odds of that pick Sabean gave up for Tucker was about 10% of finding a good player. That's like throwing away a lottery ticket when the odds are that low. It very minorly set back the farm system.

    If we look at your list, neither Howry nor Foulke were "top picks", they were throw-in on deals, and the rest you listed, vs. Cain, Lincecum, and Sanchez, I think that answered your question: he kept the good ones, and flipped the ones he didn't think would work eventually.

    Posey is a Top 5 pick, his projected future reflects that. You better hope most Top 5 picks overall have a sunny future, else the whole concept of why we draft falls apart.

    Gillaspie I have not been high on.

    Bumgarner basically shut down all the hitters in the Sally League, very few pitchers do that over a whole season at any level. So there is a very good reason for his sunniness.

    Villalona a lot of scouts liked and forecasted a 40 HR future for him, so there is a lot of talent there, plenty to shine there as well. How many 21 year olds come into the pros and hit above the league average OPS plus is among the leaders in HR hit that season in the league? Not very many. Then you add in that he's only 17, hasn't played much organized ball, don't speak the language that well and thus acclimating to our culture, and still hitting well against pitchers 4-5 years older than he is on average (and therefore have 4-5 years more experience than he does of higher level play), and that sun is getting brighter.

    I don't know where you got that Fred Lewis comment. The Giants have been pretty clear as he's been rising up the system that 1) he'll be a late bloomer, 2) he'll be a leadoff type hitter initially and middle of lineup bat eventually. They have known what he could do, and now he's gotten the chance to show that he look like he can do it, hence why they gave him LF last season even though Roberts was coming back.

    And see, you have to make up your mind on what you want. You dismiss Sanchez as a "erratic lefty", but that is what most prospects are, erratic. Only the best players hit the majors and do well from the start. Vizquel was a horrible hitter coming in and got good enough. Mike Schmidt played poor defense at 3B and eventually won a gold glove there.

    The key is that Sanchez has advanced and he had a very good string of starts early in 2008, only to poop out after the All-Star game or so. With proper endurance training this off-season plus 2008 under his belt, he should be able to extend his string of good starts into later in the season.

    And you write like the Giants can get someone really good for Sanchez. You don't know what Sabean is being offered for Sanchez. Would you have accepted if the Cubs offered DeRosa for Sanchez? Sabean has not said that he won't trade Sanchez, he said that he didn't like the value he was getting back in return for Sanchez.

    The way you write, you sound like you want to trade just to trade, but if all you are getting is crap offers, the smart thing is to sit particularly since Sanchez looks like he will have his breakout year in 2009.

    I've been saying it this off-season, but I think it would be stupid to trade Sanchez now, he showed his high potential in short spurts in 2008 and appear poised to pitch well longer in 2009, if he can do that, we have a sub-4 ERA pitcher we can deal next off-season, think a team wouldn't offer someone pretty good for that?

  13. I'll join in, first a specific response on drafting guys and then a more general observation.

    With the time taken to develop guys, I was a little hard yesterday in criticizing the 7-10 standard. But here's the upshot. Performance in this respect is easy to analyze in one way - MLB teams cannot trade their draft choices. Therefore, everyone gets the same baseline amount of choices subject to alteration based upon free agency. Clubs who sign more good free agents lose picks, clubs who lose those guys gain sandwich picks.

    So, everyone plays by the same rules. And if one's test on a given day is to judge how a franchise develops field players, than Sabean has done remarkably poorly. Now, one can argue with the relevance of the test (that is the development of field players) but one cannot argue with the results. SF happens to have had a consistent deficit offensively for several years running, this deficit was obvious for anyone to see as Bonds aged and we did little effectively to remedy it via internal means.

    And as I pointed out yesterday, arguing that the good finishes the Giants enjoyed since, say, 2000, are the culprit doesn't hold water. Other clubs have had similar runs of success and have done better.

    On to the general question you have asked MH. What would we do differently. First of all, you suggest that trading Cain is just an unspeakable possibility? Why? Does anyone know what's been offered for him? Without knowing that, how can you just cavalierly dismiss the possibility? It's not as if Cain has proven that he is an All Star in the making. He has not. He has had a lack of run support (that pesky lack of offense rearing its head again), true. But to suggest that Cain should be untouchable while rejecting the concept of shopping Sanchez? I don't get it. Consistency mandates that we consider both.

    But, generally, what would I have done differently? It would be easy to say that I would have rather drafted Daric Barton or Carlos Quentin than David Aardsma years ago. (But wait, we traded Aardsma for LaTroy Hawkins!) It's difficult to prove the negative. Let's just look at the last few years' worth of major trades and signings that Sabean has put together via the transactions pages:

    Let's start with the run up to and post World Series 2002:
    Post WS - Signed Neifi Perez to a 2 year contract. Bad. Predicted as bad. Perez had never hit outside of Coors.

    Also, signed Edgardo Alfonzo to a 4 year deal. Disaster and predicted at the time by many. Had a bad back at the end of his Met tenure. Oh, but eventually we traded him for Old Man Finley!

    Signed Marquis Grissom to 2 year deal. Actually quasi-defensible.

    Claimed S. Eyre off of waivers. Good pickup.

    Acquired Kenny Lofton. Arguably the best deal of Sabean's since 2002. A rental of Kenny Lofton. For 3 months.

    2003 - Some highlights -
    Signed Jose Cruz Jr. to one year deal. Club option declined following Marlins playoff debacle.

    Extended Kirk Reuter for 2 years. We all remember how that turned out come 2005.

    2003 was also the first year where we paid Robb Nen to sit the bench.

    Marvin Benard was still knocking around on his wildly excessive contract.

    Jeff Hammonds brought on board and signed to a one year deal. He was released early in the 2004 season.

    Oh, and we did the AJP for Joe Nathan, Liriano, and Boof B. trade. Already well-discussed.

    F. Rod traded to Phillies for Ricky Ledee. I'd argue zero sum.

    Neifi Perez simply released in August.

    Signed Vizquel and Armando Benitez to 3 year deals. The latter speaks for itself. The former was great for attendance but Omar didn't seem to um, hit much or help to bring along any younger Giant, which I presumed was the point of bringing him aboard at such a high price given where the market for Omar was at the time.

    Moises Alou signed to a one year deal.

    Signed Mike Matheny. Liked the guy as a person but that didn't work out too well, did it?

    The aforementioned Aardsma and Jerome Williams for LaTroy Hawkins deal.

    Signed Mark Sweeney and Steve Kline.

    Dumped Alfonzo for Steve Finley.

    Signed Matt Morris. Disaster.

    Re-signed Ray Durham. Traded for a bag of donuts.

    Signed Dave Roberts. Disaster.

    Signed (over the hill) Ryan Klesko.

    Signed Barry Zito. Disaster.

    Extended Randy Winn 3 more years. I'd argue the most on target FA signing of the latter Sabean era.

    Traded Tyler Walker (our 2005 closer!) for Carlos Hines. (Who?)

    Actually, I'm done. I can't handle going into 2007, the Benitez meltdown, etc..

    Missing in this rundown are the frequent appearances of the Jason Ellisons, Lance Niekros, Cody Ransoms, Alex Sanchez and all of the other guys constantly shuttled to SF when Ray Durham's hammy siezed up for the 100th time or Finley, Grissom or Bonds couldn't answer the bell.

    Of course Bonds was resigned until the franchise was too embarrassed to continue.

    What strikes me about all of this is how, well, uncreative it all seems in hindsight. I'm sure I missed one or two major deals but there is no vision like MH alluded to when he referred to Sabean I. The Williams for Kent deal was gutsy, ambitious. When you look at what I just ran down, it is just, meh.

    Your latest rundown of who SF has drafted recently is interesting. I hope these guys pan out, but I'm with others who would be content to watch them develop on someone else's watch. Or put another way, every club, every one, has prospects with sunny outlooks. There is no reason to believe that SF's will turn out any better (or worse).

    Final PS - I like a debate as much as anyone, but I prefer to avoid using turns of phrase such as "you need to learn more about" and "you need to know them to be able to converse about" or "I guess you don't understand that". As Boof indicates, they tend to stifle vigorous debate, not encourage it.

    Which I'm assuming is the point of all of this.

  14. Thank you for your recommendations John, much appreciated!

  15. That has been my point all along, performance is not easy to analyze. A draft pick in the back of the first round has about one fourth the chance of becoming a good player as a Top 5 pick overall. So four of those draft picks are needed to match the one pick we had this season. Thus, that Top 5 pick is roughly equivalent to four of the first round draft picks we got while the Giants were winning.

    Thus, everyone is not playing by the same rules. That has been my whole point this whole thread.

    No, clubs with similar runs of success have not done better. I've looked at the data, just peruse the drafts of teams who have generally been winning and they don't find many good players.

    Let's take your point about the Braves and the limiting factor for me is good players.

    Chipper Jones was drafted with the first pick of the 1990 draft, and before they started winning which was 1991. BTW, in 1991, with their last good pick (#2 overall) they selected Mike Kelly, who only had 684 AB.

    Yunel Escobar has a nice start, but so did Jesse Barfield before he imploded. The worse part is that he is hitting way better than he did when he was in the lower minors, which suggest that he's not as good as he played in 2008.

    Francoeur, after a nice start, has declined since that nice first season, and had a pretty bad offensive year in 2008, not even hitting as well as a SS should, let alone a RF. So his status as a good OF is seriously in question.

    Look at it this way, what have they produced from the draft over the past 17 years?

  16. Thanks for replying. Not sure why my posts are blocked.

    At any rate, the Braves example makes Sabean look like the dope he is. After grooming Smoltz and Glavine (i.e., the coveted Cain-Lincecum duo), Atlanta fed its lineup each year with contributors like Justice, Chipper, Javy Lopez, Millwood, A.Jones, Furcal, Schmidt, Klesko, Avery, et al. - some of whom were traded for more immediate needs. PLUS, Atlanta wasn't afraid to trade for guys like McGriff and Neagle, sign Maddux and Sheffield. Sabean can't manufacture a wet dream like that for anyone within a whiff of his roster. His moves have been putrid 2003-2008 and his stats (worst four years in SF history) are all we need.

  17. "Final PS - I like a debate as much as anyone, but I prefer to avoid using turns of phrase such as "you need to learn more about" and "you need to know them to be able to converse about" or "I guess you don't understand that". As Boof indicates, they tend to stifle vigorous debate, not encourage it."

    I find having my reasoning being called a "laughable excuse" to be a deterent to debate as well.

  18. "After grooming Smoltz and Glavine (i.e., the coveted Cain-Lincecum duo), Atlanta fed its lineup each year with contributors like Justice, Chipper, Javy Lopez, Millwood, A.Jones, Furcal, Schmidt, Klesko, Avery, et al. - some of whom were traded for more immediate needs."

    This is typical rationale I've run into but here is where the logic goes off the rails: most of the players listed here were drafted when Atlanta was losing.

    Justice, Chipper, Lopez, Avery, Schmidt, and Klesko were all acquired using the picks the team got when they were losing. At the time they first started winning, they were all their equivalents of Villalona, Bumgartner, Posey, Alderson.

    Andruw was signed early in their winning ways (1993), Furcal (1996), but neither were from the draft.

    I will admit that they have been better in terms of finding international talent, but I don't really see greater success in terms of their drafting, which was one of the points of discussion.

  19. Sounds like Sabean has no hope in the draft unless he gets top ten picks. Um, what's he good for? Anyway, it's just untrue:

    1997: Grilli (4, V.Wells 5th)
    1998: Torcato (19, Sabathia 20th)
    1999: Ainsworth (24, Rios 19th)
    2000: Bonser (21, Utley 15th)
    2001: Hennessey (21, Crosby 25th)
    2001: Lowry (30, D.Wright 38th)
    2002: Cain (25)
    2003: Aardsma (22, C.Quetin 29)
    2004: None
    2005: None
    2006: Lincecum (10)
    2007: Bumgartner (10)
    2007: Alderson (22)
    2007: Fairley (29)
    2008: Posey (5)

    Not only did Sabean forfeit good picks (for garbage FAs), one of his best picks (Cain) was 25th. He often passed on good position players to feed his pitcher fetish.

    1999-03 is stunning. With solid starters of Rueter, Ortiz, Estes, Livan, and Schmidt, Sabean bet all of his top picks on pitchers who would replace them (plus sandwich pick J.Williams). OOPS. We're not even talking about high picks for Foppert, Correia, Linebrink. His BS about the ease trading arms for bats is, again, flat wrong.

    Sabean is tossing darts. And if the 1st rd draft picks are still a crapshoot, then we shouldn't assume the recent picks will be MLB starters. Yes, teams like the A's and Braves understand that volume is more important than being top five.

  20. If you do that to any other GM, he will have missed a lot of players too. So then every one else is also throwing a lot of darts as well. And that's been my point all along, that the draft is a crapshoot for the most part. It's like a batted ball, some will go through, some will be a hit, a few will be a home run.

    If you look at a lot of the drafts for the first few rounds, you will find that yeah, sometimes the Mets pick David Wright with the 38th pick, other times they picked Geoff Goetz with the 6th pick overall of the 1997 draft (Lance Berkman, #16; Tigers, Phillies, Giants, Mets, Royals, Pirates, Twins, Cubs, A's (Chris Enochs is better?), Marlins, Brewers, Reds, and White Sox would love a re-do), or the immortal Paul Wilson with the first pick overall in 1994 (in fact, the first 11 picks were pretty lousy, but then Nomar, Konerko, and Varitek were selected; Mets, A's, Padres, Brewers, Marlins, Angels, Rockies, Twins, Reds, Indians, and Pirates would love a re-do there).

    What you would find is that it is not really that easy to select prospects, the vast majority of them fail, and yes, a volume route is the way to counteract that but likewise, that also means that giving up one or two draft picks don't really make more than a slight ripple in the whole scheme of things.

    So throwing away a draft pick is similar to skipping buying a lottery ticket one week when you are buying all the other 51 weeks of the year. Your odds of success/winning isn't affected very greatly.

  21. Guess we just see his scorecard - relative to other GMs who haven't been fired - very differently. Most of the GM victims got canned for those gaffes, rightly so.

    And we haven't even touched on the gem of AJ for Nathan-Liriano-Bonser. "Hot water burn baby!"

  22. If you bring up Nathan, I'll bring up Kent and Schmidt and trump you.

    When you take business risks, you are going to make mistakes. You don't want someone who is afraid of making mistakes while in charge because then they become timid and a risk avoider, which leads to the passing up of good opportunities to better yourself. You have to look at the big picture, the overall picture, to properly evaluate a manager. If he is going to have big mistakes, he better have bigger wins. I think either Kent or Schmidt by themselves would trump losing Nathan, let alone that he did both deals.

    OK, by your comment GM's get rewarded for good drafts and you mention David Wright as a good draft pick (about as excellent as you can get, really). Minaya has been in control of the draft since 2005. Wright was selected in 2001.

    By your comment, Steve Phillips, who drafted David Wright (as well as Ty Wigginton, Mike Jacobs, Aaron Heilman, Scott Kazmir, Matt Lindstrom, Brian Bannister, and Lastings Milledge) should have been rewarded for his brilliance in selecting Wright.

    Or was it brilliance? The Mets actually had a pick before that, a good 20 picks before and they thought that Aaron Heilman was worth the risk of bypassing David Wright and allowing 20 other teams to have a shot at him.

    This gets at what I've been saying, if you just go into any draft, say, of the 1990's and just look at the randomness of how teams find good players, you can see that there is: 1) not a lot of good players available in any draft, 2) that it is very hard to identify who are the good ones, even when you have the first pick overall, 3) that it is basically one big crapshoot once you get beyond the Top 10 picks overall, and just gets worse with every round.

    As bad as Hennessey is as a pick compared to Wright, the Rays, Nationals, Orioles, Pirates, Royals, Tigers, Brewers, Padres, Blue Jays, White Sox, Indians, Orioles again, and Reds, who all picked ahead of the Giants, would have loved to picked Hennessey instead of the guy they selected.



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