Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why I Like Sabean (Again)

Someone on Andy Baggarly's blog, Extra Baggs, complained about Sabean's poor trade track record and in general dissed Sabean. Here is my response there:

Why are the Giants winning? Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Wilson, Romo, Valdez, heck, Affeldt, Miller, Medders, Johnson. In other words, the pitching staff.

Who put that together? Sabean.

What's the bottom line? Winning.

What has Giants been doing more than any of you expected? Winning.

GM's don't get accolades for being the most prudent with his budget. Nor do they get accolades for being efficient with his spending. And no GM is ever not going to make a lot of mistakes. Any GM not making mistakes, particularly big mistakes every once in a while, is too risk adverse to be in his position. Any decision maker has to accept that risk is there and to take it on as necessary and prudent, whether that is baseball or any other business.

We all know the free agent problems. But no one ever talks about the process involved nor the availability issue either. Sometimes you need a body and that's the best body available, whether free agent or trade market. Sometimes you just need to make a move to give a signal to the troups. Sometimes it is done for marketing to the fans. Sometimes the owner just wants that player. Decisions made there often result for reasons that demonstrates none of his knowledge or expertise, but rather is what is available on the market. Like having to buy a gold (or chose a color you wouldn't want) colored car because that's the only one left in the lot and you need one.

People also seem to have the misconception that a team can totally rebuild using the draft. That's a fallacy. Most teams do not do that, they take the random luck involved with the draft on what you get, then fill in with free agents and trades where you are lacking. Find me a team that rebuilt to win a championship using only the draft. I know you won't find one because I've looked at all the best teams and none of them did that.

It gets even worse when you are winning because then none of your draft picks are that likely to become a good player. Only the losing teams get the picks position where you have a very good chance of getting someone good from the draft.

In the last third of the first round, where the contenders are, the odds of finding a good player is like a crapshoot, around 10% chance of finding someone. That means on average, a team will find one good player in 10 years of drafting in the first round. Can't really build a team around that.

What I love about what Sabean did was that he focused his scarce resources - draft picks - on pitching, which is very versatile. If you end up drafting 3 great firstbasemen (like Texas did with Teixiera, Hofner, and A-Gon), you have to trade off two and hope you get someone good in return (they didn't). If you end up with 3 great starters, that's 3/5ths of your rotation.

Also important, when position players fail, they become bench players, hardly used much. When starting pitchers fail, you can still see if they can become good relievers, maybe set-up men. Or even closers.

Building upon pitching can create a great situation where the cream rises to the top, and the cup that can hold pitching is much larger than another other function on the team. You can't just move one of your immobile firstbasemen to 3B or LF (McCovey and Cepeda; McGwire and Nelson) and hope for that work in the long run. SS can move, but how often does that happen that you have two, you are lucky to have one. And OF rarely can move to the IF easily. But for each good pitcher you develop, you just kick the low man off the ladder and insert the better pitcher, until you have a stellar pitching staff.

This is what I've been saying for 6-7 years now and I am heartened to see it come to fruition and be so successful. We have a great pitching staff this season and it only looks to get better with Bumgarner, Runzler, Joaquin, among others, plus the guys drafted this year, Wheeler, the closer we picked 4th round.

Soon, we will have a cup running over with great pitching, and then the Giants can do a trade like the A's did with Haren, pick up a whole platoon of position prospects (maybe make it a three team deal to bring in more and better position prospects) to put on the finishing touches on the offense that should be led by Sandoval and Posey for the next 5 seasons at least.

That's why I hope Sabean is extended for another two years.

37 comments:

  1. Title: Why I Like Sabean (Again)

    I did a search for "hitting" in this post, and came up empty. Go figure.

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  2. Hey, obsessivegiantscompulsive.

    I'm glad I checked this blog before trying to respond on Extra Baggs. That would have been a nightmare! You certainly make some good points. Hopefully if I can expound my position with a more thorough approach you will be able to see where I am coming from better than when you see short segments on Mr. Baggarly's blog.

    This may take a little while, but I hope you'll be willing to carry on the discussion.

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  3. First point: I didn't make it clear enough, but my comments were trying to analyze the net effect of Sabean's moves on the 2009 Giants win-loss total. It was not intended to be a FIRESABEAN (tm) rant, but it was seen as one because of the typical nature of an Extra Baggs post. So I hope that we start off on the same page.

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  4. I'm going to be really busy today, so I'm not going to have the time to respond with the necessary dedication on this point. Is it all right if I put it off until tomorrow? And can my response, if at all possible, be around the length of yours? (it will most likely be smaller)

    Also, is there an easier way for me to comment here so that I don't have to do the word verification every time?

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  5. All right. I'll have a long response ready tomorrow. Friday will be a much better day for me. I made one of these accounts in the hopes that it would allow me to pass the word verification, but so far, I'm getting no luck. Given the length of my subsequent response, I'd recommend you respond with another blog post. But it's your choice.

    Other than to just check in with the whole status of this blog and commenting in general, could you not add more information for me to look at? I want to keep my response focused. Thanks.

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  6. Sean, as I've been expounding here for a number of years now, hitting is not neccesary for building a team. That is, you need enough of it to win, but it don't really add to your team's ultimate competitive advantage in the playoffs.

    Baseball Prospectus studied this in their book, Between the Numbers, and found that offense adds nothing to a team's ability to succeed in the playoffs or to go deep in the playoffs. Only pitching and defense does.

    So as long as your GM is succeeding in developing the pitching and getting enough hitting to win, then he is doing his job.

    The problem with many fans this year is that many forgot that this team is flawed because it is a rebuilding team. Just because it is winning does not remove that flaw.

    The analogy I like better is that this team is entering its teenage years, kind of gawky, not sure of what you can do, developing but not there yet.

    But because the team is a prodigy at pitching, now fans expect the team to be good at everything and if it isn't, then there is something wrong with the GM.

    There isn't, the team is young and developing, and trading off all the good young prospects we have (I have seen people suggest that we trade off Bumgarner because we have so many good pitchers) would only shortened the length of time that we can be dominant in the playoffs, all in order to get into the playoffs this season.

    And for what? Do you really believe that getting one albeit good hitter would drive our team to a World Series championship?

    That's what really bugs me, people aggitate for trades, but unless we are getting Albert Pujols, even a Matt Holliday would do nothing but get us into the playoffs and maybe to the second round, but the odds of us winning everything would still be small, even with our good pitching.

    Meanwhile, we just traded away the best bits of our farm system just to make the playoffs this year.

    So yeah, no hitting, because I want to win it all and pitching is our path to it, or really, the path for any team that really wants to dominate for a long time, both during the season and in the playoffs, and winning the World Series, without spending Steinbrenner money doing it.

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  7. dregarx, I love discussion. Sorry, despite my training, I'm no longer techie enough to know how to get by that word verification being repeatedly required, other than leaving my system on and this window open. I have to go through that exercise every time I shut down my machine too.

    I hate that, but I hate the spam I used to get on my blog even more.

    Don't feel rushed to respond today, feel free to take your time, I always try to respond to commenters whenever they comment, no matter how far back the post may be.

    I have no plans to add more to respond to, but as I noted, I will respond to comments that I feel I need to respond to. Just respond to my post only, read the other stuff later if you feel, I will understand that your comment is solely regarding my post.

    And I tend to respond to comments in the comments because somebody complained that I was being too "personal" with my blog by responding to a comment with a blog post, so I've tried to avoid that since.

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  8. I found a post of yours from July 2, 2009 with the subheading "Sabean better than thought". I'll reference that as well whenever I get the time to make a write-up.

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  9. I think you already know my opinion on this subject as I have stated it many times. The worst thing the Giants could do is to bring back Sabean for more of the same mismanagement that we've witnessed over the course of his tenure. There is no need to address the laundry list of bad & good of Sabean's decisions. We all know what they are and that the bad far outweighs the good.

    We shall see if Neukom has the cojones to make a much needed change to the culture that has infiltrated the Giants organization during Sabean's reign. The best way to start that change is to start at the top and begin anew.

    I know you've posted this more than once on this site, but this season should be proof positive that your theory of being able to win with just pitching & defense does not work. I don't know how you continue to make that statement after watching what has happened to the Giants this year. Championship\playoff teams need balance between hitting, pitching & defense. The complete lack of one of those elements is a huge roadblock to acheiving the status you desire....making the playoffs. It just does not work.

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  10. Boof and OGC,

    Both of you consistently make strong arguments, and I enjoy reading your comments. I have to agree with OGC on this one because the bottom line is that it is and has been from the start a rebuilding year for the team. That they have achieved so much is simply a bonus. I agree with Boof that a more balanced team is needed to win, while agreeing with OGC that pitching is more fundamental than batting.

    In this rebuilding year, the pitching has been put into place. Isn't it certain that the rebuilding that occurs in the upcoming off-season will focus on batting? That should put Boof and OGC on the same page next year.

    Last year, the cup seemed half empty, this year the cup seems half full. Next year, CHEERS!

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  11. If this was truly a rebuilding year (and I believe that it should've been), then I have to seriously question the front office's commitment to that rebuilding and the field manager's commitment to that rebuilding. Their actions do not coincide with what they were telling us.

    If you're really rebuilding, why would you trade 2 of your valuable rebuilding prospects for guys like Freddie Sanchez & Ryan Garko? Similarly, why would Randy Winn lead your team in plate appearances while Fred Lewis & Nate Schierholtz rot on the bench? Why would a player like Frandsen be banished to the minors while you gave ABs to Rich Aurilia?

    Alternatively, if you really thought that you had a chance for the playoffs and you wanted to change course, why wouldn't go out and get a player like Matt Holliday who would've really made a difference?

    The answer is that management cannot make a decision on the course of the organization and actually commit to it. It's the type of management that needs to be replaced.

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  12. You know how they say people have different personas when they're in different environments? Well, the Extra Baggs environment tends to truncate my thoughts, eliminate statistics (I get shouted down) and generally force me into attention-grabbing to try to communicate a general idea of my point.

    So I hope don't think that my intention wasn't to be 'generally dissing Sabean'.

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  13. A brief synopsis of Sabean’s tenure will help highlight trends in his decision-making process over the years. Sabean’s biggest influence is on trades, so trades will be looked at first.

    Early Years: Kent, Snow, Nen, Burks, Livan
    Bonds Pinnacle: Galarraga, Schmidt, Lofton, Pierzynski, Winn
    Falling Off: Accardo-Hillenbrand, Morris, Durham, Barnes-Garko, Alderson-Sanchez

    Sabean starts out brilliantly, adding long-term pieces via the trade. Up until Winn, almost none of the prospects dealt (Joe Nathan being the exception) pan out. I don’t regard the Pierzynski trade as particularly egregious. If character issues hadn’t precluded an additional contract, Pierzynski might still be a Giant. As a position player with some power he has probably been more valuable than Nathan and Liriano since the trade.
    The falling off period doesn’t have as much to do with the trades that take place as it does the relative dearth of consequential trades in that period. The Winn trade occurred in 2005, the Pierzynski trade in 2003. The result is that Sabean relies more and more upon free agent signings.

    This year, the Garko trade is more in line with Sabean’s previous deals. Garko is controlled by the club for 3 more years, and Barnes’ upside is at the back end of the rotation. The F. Sanchez trade is a big shift, and in the wrong direction. Alderson was the best prospect dealt at the trading deadline this year while Sanchez was a Pirates salary dump. In terms of talent management, this was a horrible deal. Sanchez’s WARP on the season (for both teams) is in the vicinity of 1 win. The reason is that his lack of plate discipline and power leads to him having one of the emptiest .300 averages in baseball. At $8 million, he is an incredible burden to a ballclub.

    Overall, Sabean has been excellent with his trades. However, over the last 4/5 years, he has not been able to replicate his previous success, and no significant benefits have been felt by the current team due to Sabean trades. He looks to be trending downward in this respect.

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  14. It cannot be assumed that Sabean is the final word on free agent signings, so broad trends rather than specific signings should be emphasized.

    Starting in 2003: Durham, Grissom, Alfonzo, Vizquel, Alou, Morris, Roberts, Molina, Zito, Rowand
    2009: Miller, Affeldt, Howry, Renteria, Uribe, Johnson

    First, credit should be given where it is due. Sabean has done an excellent job with bullpen signings this year. Affeldt (2), Medders (1), and Miller (1.7) have all posted solid WARP, for an improvement of at least 3 wins this year.

    Now, big picture. There is a troubling trend among the hitters. It is the extreme prevalence of hitters with low BB rates and low OBP. Of the 10 hitters signed by Sabean, only 2 (Alou and Durham) possess career walk rates above 9% (8.9% is average for 2009), and neither of them are on the 2009 roster. This is my primary concern with the free agent signings of Sabean. Yes, these hitters are overpaid (Rowand, Renteria). However, the money, in itself, is not the main problem. If the same amount of money had been put toward players with high walk rates and high OBP, there could be some monetary waste, but the overall performance of the offense would be far better and the 2009 Giants correspondingly improved.

    Sabean seems to disregard OBP as a metric used to evaluate a batter’s performance. This can be seen in the Freddy Sanchez trade. The perceived value of a .300 hitter wreaked havoc on Sabean’s ability to accurately assess hitting prowess. This will seriously hinder Sabean while he tries to build a major league offense. Over the next two years it is critical that the Giants GM allocate the payroll to hitters with high OBP, as that statistic is the primary determinant of the number of runs a team scores over the course of a season.

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  15. With this deficiency of Sabean’s in mind, let us turn to player development. This arena, encompassing the draft and amateur signings, is the cause of the success of the current Giants. It really only comes down to about four players: Lincecum (7.1), Cain (6.8), Sandoval (5.2), and Wilson (3.7) account for 23 WARP all on their own. Here’s a key question: Does Sabean have as much influence over these processes as he does over trades and free agent signings? I have heard that Sabean no longer has the last say for draft selections like he did from 1997-2005. It would appear that at least, in the case of Lincecum, this was the case. Sabean, in an interview with Ken Rosenthal, said the following:

    “we've been pretty good, with Dick Tidrow at the lead, drafting kids talented enough to be impactful as starters … Dick was so convinced. When things were going down to the wire in Tim's (junior) season…he begged me not to go see him so we could keep our profile low. He had pretty much made up his mind. To him, it wasn't a question of whether we were going to draft him. It was a matter of whether he would fall to us.” http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/9935062/Q-and-A-with-Giants-GM-Brian-Sabean

    Tim Lincecum’s selection was certainly done without much input from Sabean. The wording that he uses, ‘with Dick Tidrow at the lead’, is also indicative of the state of affairs regarding the draft.

    I would submit to you that the Giants were not particularly successful at drafting and developing starting pitchers before the last few years. They were capable of producing pitching prospects that other teams desired, but before Matt Cain not a single one of them was able to stick in a big-league rotation. Player development is very much a hit-and-miss process. In Sabean’s term (1997-2009) the Giants have produced exactly 3 star players. Providence granted us all three of them in a short span of time. To attribute this occurrence to the machinations of Brian Sabean is to disregard the nature of the draft/amateur signing entirely. Cain (drafted 2002) and Wilson (drafted 2003) can be seen as Sabean drafts, Lincecum (2006) has been demonstrated to be a Tidrow draft, and I would liken the Sandoval situation (signed 2003) to hitting the jackpot, given the incredible dearth of good position players developed by the Giants under Sabean.

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  16. Sabean deserves credit for deferring player development decisions to others in his office (Tidrow, Bobby Evans), but this deferral also shows him to be increasingly expendable the better the drafts turn out. The sharp right turn in the last couple of years with the Giants farm system provides even more evidence that Sabean is deferring to his subordinates. Madison Bumgardner as a #3 overall prospect, Buster Posey as a #9 overall prospect, Tim Alderson in the 40s (Baseball Prospectus): this combination of prospects far outstrips anything the Giants have had in the minor leagues from 1997-2006, when a general changing of the guard in player development can be estimated to have taken place. Note that Bumgardner was not a top-10 pick, and Alderson was in the 20s, so high draft position caused only one of the three.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the framework under Sabean is not good at producing pitchers at all. Serviceable arms can always find a home in the bullpen, and there are plenty ascending the Giant’s system every year. But a perusal of the hitters in the minor leagues reveals that the Sabeanistic aversion to disciplined hitters with high OBP and walk rates extends beyond the big league roster. Among all of the minor league hitters, I could only find three with above average discipline (method: for 09, take the difference of OBP and AVG as an estimation of BB/PA, as one can’t find BB/PA stats easily for minor leaguers; .090 or greater can be expected to translate into selective hitting in the majors). (For the record, they are John Bowker, Thomas Neal, and Brock Bond)

    The idea that under Sabean, the drafting and signing of hitters has been done with extreme neglect to plate discipline holds up under additional evidence: the only two major league position player starters from the Giants system are Pedro Feliz and Pablo Sandoval. Both succeed in spite of extremely bad plate discipline, Feliz with his glove and Sandoval with his contact rate.

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  17. Sabean is deserving of perhaps half the credit for the improvements from 2008 to 2009. He is also to be lauded for a system that has stocked up our farm system with pitching. However, his backwards approach to hitter evaluation makes him one of the worst general managers to improve the Giants’ run production. Substantial evidence indicates that Sabean does not have the final say in player development anymore, thus turning this putative strength into a wash.

    Sabean does have his strengths, but he is very badly suited to the situation the Giants are in right now. The ideal situation in my book would be for the Giants to retain Tidrow and Sabean in a scouting/pitcher drafting capacity, while acquiring a GM whose primary focus is offense and who has a keen understanding of the relationship between OBP and offensive production.

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  18. Boof, yes, we are at opposite poles right now. But as Steveb said, maybe same page next year? :^) Hah, probably not.

    He beat me to the punch, but yeah, rebuilding year.

    And I don't know why the Giants have to be one or the other, you seem (correct me if I'm wrong) to think that either you are one or the other and there is no compromises.

    This was a rebuilding year. Look at our starting lineup, Lewis in LF, Sandoval at 3B, Burriss at 2B, Ishikawa at 1B, Sanchez in the rotation, and our bullpen for the most part.

    But this was not a rebuilding just to rebuild, SF is not a town tolerant of really bad teams, as they saw last year with the big drop in attendance, so you need to have your vets too. Plus, while clearly rebuilding, Neukom set the bar at .500-ish for 2009, so there will be compromises. Compromises that many Giants fans seem unwilling to accept or just ignore.

    Personally, I would have traded away Winn and let Schierholtz start. But Neukom set the goal to be a competitive .500-ish team in 2009, and we already had 4 question marks in the lineup in Lewis, Sandoval, Burriss, and Ishikawa. Do you really think that .500 was a realistic goal if we replace Winn with Schierholtz?

    The reason you go with Winn is because he is a vet with a long history of good performance. However, had any of the OF hitters took the bull by the horn - like Lewis did the prior two seasons - and hit, Winn would have been sitting more.

    Velez fizzed out early, Schierholtz fizzled out after a hot start when he was starting regularly in May-June, and Lewis just fizzled after two weeks of April. Torres was and is a journeyman, you don't build around guys like that. Once Velez and Lewis fizzled, the Giants had to worry about replacing LF production, let alone worry about replacing Winn's production.

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  19. (I hate this word limit)

    Next, Frandsen I understand. He was out a full season with an injury. He had a nice AFL and spring training, but will he really hold up well over a season?

    Then he goes to Fresno with a bad attitude and sulked for a month, hitting poorly. Once he started hitting again, they brought him up and gave him some chances to do something. Personally, I think that they didn't give him enough chances but even in the chances they gave him, he went basically oh-fer everything.

    Plus, frankly, his attitude was and is wholly unprofessional. If you openly complained about your boss where everybody can read it, do you think that everything will be sun and roses for you in your workplace? And he probably showed some of that when he came up.

    Heck, I would love to give him a chance to start for the Giants, and after what he did, I would have stuck him in the minors too.

    That's a heck of hyperbole to say the Giants traded 2 of their valuable rebuilding prospects for Sanchez and Garko.

    Barnes is nice, but he's a back of rotation guy who could fizzle out at any level heading up to the majors, he doesn't have pure stuff like Sanchez that flies you to the majors straight up.

    Alderson was a good trading chip, but he totally regressed this season. Did you see his numbers? Great ERA but his strikeout rate made him the Kirk Rueter of the minors. However, Rueter did that in the majors, Alderson can't get any worse with his K/9 and still hope to make the majors.

    Again, I still think the Giants could have gotten more for him than Sanchez. But Sanchez is a nice player and given our poor 2B situation - Burriss out all year, Frandsen now a headcase, Velez a lead glove - now we have a solution at 2B. We didn't pay him $8M and I don't expect him to get $8M next season. If he does, I'll join you in complaining.

    And I like Garko, have liked Garko, just thought Ishikawa was OK already and thus Garko is not as necessary. I expect a battle at 1B for next season, and could see one or the other DFA or traded.

    You don't trade for Holliday because the A's would have wanted a similar player to Brett Wallace and the only guy we have like that is Buster Posey. You are telling me you would trade Posey for a couple of months of Holliday?

    It is about compromise, not denting your farm system and picking up two nice pieces who unfortunately have not worked out, but could still work out next season.

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  20. Wow, Dregarx, you weren't kidding.

    I may or may not respond to the whole thing. I'm busy too.

    I've gone down this road before and that's why I went with my slant this time to avoid chasing my tail again with the people who don't want to keep Sabean, going through all the negatives. We all know what they are.

    But I will answer your point about the farm system. I will say anything that happens is all on Sabean's head. However, we all know that sometimes he has to make decisions that he might not want to make but have to accept responsibility for. Zito is one that most acknowledge is something Magowan pushed for. That's what I try to account for when judging him.

    But the draft is pretty much his, as far as I'm concerned. I don't read that statement to mean that Sabean was not the one pulling the trigger on Posey, Bumgarner, etc. Tidrow is the lead: he is head of player personnel. But that does not mean that he is the decision maker.

    Here is what his bio in the Giants media said in 2003 (can't find my 2004-2007 editions): "...current responsibilities include providing Major League player recommendations for trade or free agent signings as well as overseeing the player development and scouting areas of the organization." He oversees but it does not say that he is the one who pulls the trigger on the picks.

    Also, they took away that last part of his job description when John Barr came in.

    Here is what John Barr's bio said this year: "Under Barr's guidance last season, the Giants drafted Buster Posey..." Guidance, not that he selected him. If not him, and Tidrow is no longer handling scouting and player development, then who? Sabean. And if Sabean was doing it now, he most probably was doing it before too, one would think you wouldn't bring Barr in to replace Tidrow in decision making right after he selected Bumgarner and Lincecum. However, you might if both are not decision makers but significant influencers whose opinions you value greatly when you are making the picks.

    And, I would note, it was under Sabean's guidance with the Yankees when they selected and signed players like Jeter, Pettitte, Snow, Rivera, Posada, among others.

    And, if Tidrow has the final say, why would Sabean need to go out and see any prospect, like Lincecum? He's not going just to say he's seen the prospect live. He's there to see if what Tidrow says is good about him is true or not, so that when he makes the decision to select, he got the right player. And sometimes you listen to your guy if he's begging you not to go.

    And really, that was a no-brainer. Lincecum was considered a possible first pick overall. The odds of him falling to the Giants were miniscule since 9 teams had to pass on him, including Seattle, which would have had the marketing bonus of selling a local kid, born and raised.

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  21. (I hate the limit)

    As I noted in my posts about the draft, when you are winning, it is extremely hard to draft good players. I even included that in this post, but people always seem to overlook it. That's why the farm system did not progress under his guidance until recent years. When you are losing, you get much better picks (2 to 4 times better) in terms of selecting good players than you were when you are winning.

    And as I noted, in about 10 years of winning, you are only going to see about 1 good player from your first round picks. The Giants had Cain, and Lowry nearly became a bonus but, as it happened with the others, injuries got in the way (like Ainsworth) or other stuff (Williams).

    That is why player development is hit and miss. When you are winning, you get picks where you have 1 in 10 chance of finding a good player. When you are losing you have 4-5 in 10 chance with a top 5 pick, 2-3 in 10 chance with a top 6-10 pick. Or higher when someone who should have been first falls to you, as Lincecum did.

    And Lincecum was not a no-brainer for the Giants. At least one expert I saw thought Lincecum would fall past the Giants to other teams because of concern over his mechanics and body size. And any team had to be worried about what he would want in bonus because the year before, he refused to sign for about half a million bonus, he wanted a million, and he was selected in the 40's round.

    Of course, Sandoval is a jackpot. Almost any player selected is a jackpot. Even the first pick overall does not turn out to be a good player more than half the time. Look over all of them, you may have solid players, but good, star-like players is not the norm for even the first pick overall. Every major leaguer, I would submit, is a jackpot to the team in one form or another.

    The matter is whether you can have enough of those jackpots to rebuild a team. You have much better odds with a high pick (2-4 times) than a low pick in the first round. But it is no slam dunk, as the Pirates, Royals, and, until recently, the Rays, have learned.

    So, are the Giants winning even while rebuilding? Yes.

    So why are we wanting to fire the buy who put together that team?

    I'll try to get to your others, but I might be selective, I too have been busy, but had to write this.

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  22. These paragraphs are what I consider to be the most important ones; the ideas are more novel than those of the others.

    First post: last two paragraphs, esp. the analysis of how similar the Sanchez and Garko trades are to his previous deals.

    Second post: last two paragraphs, starting with "Now, big picture". This is my biggest concern personally.

    Third post: you have addressed that. We half-disagree on blame/credit for drafts, but the true answer cannot be known because the salient facts are kept in-house.

    Fourth post: Last two paragraphs, starting with "But a perusal of the hitters..."

    Fifth post: Final paragraph.

    Generally, I want to know your opinion on Sanchez/Garko.

    My most important point is the 'OBP issue', so if you pick and choose, please concentrate on the posts at 2:56 and 2:59.

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  23. I can't answer the question 'why would you want to fire...'. I don't want to fire Sabean. I haven't posted my opinion on what the Giants should do at GM. Not yet, anyhow.

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  24. Thanks for the prioritization.

    I've posted on Sanchez and Garko before, but I can go over it here instead of making you go back.

    I would not have made the trades. I would have stuck to the rebuilding plus I thought that Ishikawa was basically the same at 1B as Garko, though it might work if Ishikawa started at home and Garko on the road, so while give up a trading chip?

    Still, Class A pitchers who do well are dime a dozen and it is hard to tell who is good and who is now. You have to trust your scouting staff - which compiles a list of players Sabean can trade and those who are keepers - knows which is which.

    We ascribe more knowledge to MLB GMs, but from my experience I think that many of them just looks at Baseball America and ask for your team's top players. Thus we can do steals like we did early on when the pitchers we drafted were not that great (as ultimately we found out) but not when our top prospects are ones we want to keep.

    Fans think "Ooo, Barnes is a Giants Top 10 prospect" but the fact is that Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein noted a few years back that out of any team's farm system in any year, about 2 become starting position players and 2 become starting pitchers. Bumgarner is obviously one of them. But Barnes is not necessarily the other, Alderson is among those who could be it, so are a number of other prospects in the system, including Pucetas, Bucardo, Tanner, and others. Barnes might never pan out, so I don't mourn his loss like others.

    Still, he might and since we already have Ishikawa, plus Bowker and Guzman, or even more Sandoval to 1B and play someone at 3B (as we soon discovered with Uribe), I did not think Garko was better than Ishikawa by the value of Barnes. But I like Garko as a player and that trade was probably even, just not worth it for us since we already had Ishikawa.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I didn't like the trade for Sanchez not because I don't like the player but because I felt he was a risk for injury and might not contribute to us because he would be out. He was out, but not for what he was out originally, but still he didn't contribute anything much when we needed it.

    Also, I didn't like it because I thought we could get more for Alderson than Sanchez.

    However, Alderson's K/9 dropped precipitously in just AA. He was never really thought of as a good pitcher, but was highly rated because he was so advanced that he looked he could make the majors in two years, which adds to his valuation in the rankings. But at best, people even when he was selected, thought he was a middle of the rotation pitcher. We won't be needing one of those for probably another 3-5 years.

    So, again, while I wouldn't have traded Alderson for Sanchez just for this season, I can see maybe why the Giants might want to trade Alderson now, since they have first hand knowledge of why he might be failing, and maybe pick up someone who could be an adequate to good 2B for the next year or two or three, since our options are not looking good, Frandsen, Burriss, Noonan, Velez.

    $8M for an average starting 2B is actually the market price for that. You probably don't know this, but his career numbers are about that for the average 2B this season. Not every hitter has a high OBP, most are about average. If you want a high OBP hitter, you have to give up a Bumgarner or Posey, you won't get one for Alderson. So I don't see how one would take the mental logic leap that ergo Sabean don't know OBP.

    On top of that, he is slightly above average defensively at 2B according to Fangraphs and the Fielding Bible had him ranked 12th defensively in the majors in 2008, though overall he's about slightly below average there.

    In addition, his numbers compare well with what the average team has at 2B in 2009.

    And I'll take that in 2010, average 2B and #2 hitter, one less position to worry about in the offense for 2010, I mean, in 2009, if we just had average across the whole lineup, it would be better than what we got this season, and with an average offense, we could probably win 95-100 games in 2010.

    And an average 2B (or Sanchez's career numbers) would be far better than what we got at 2B (.240/.288/.345/.633) or #2 (.248/.296/.322/.619). That is worth about 0.2 runs per game just from that upgrade.

    Keep the same lineup and pitching, upgrade only Sanchez at 2B over what we got in 2009, and we win 91 games in 2010. We are on pace for about 86-88 wins right now.

    So I like Sanchez for next year, but didn't like getting him for this year and didn't like it for giving up Alderson for him, but the Giants is probably selling high on Alderson, his K/9 in AA was very troubling, particularly since Dodd Stadium is such a pitcher's park. At least we got a useful, about average 2B for the next couple of years.

    ReplyDelete
  26. People knock Sabean for not being OBP obsessed, but the fact is that you can really only be obsessed about one thing at a time in baseball. He is obsessed with pitching.

    When you draft, most of the draft picks usually end up doing nothing for you. If you really want high OBP hitters on your team, you spend all your first round picks on high OBP hitters and eventually enough of them will do it that you have a team of high OBP. But then you have a crappy pitching staff, or poor power lineup because the guys can get on base but not hit for power.

    It's true as you say, there is a lot of stuff that we don't know about behind the scenes. However, I do know these things.

    For all the things heaped on Alou, one thing he talked about regularly was OBP and the importance of it. It is not his fault if many of the players he hit couldn't do that, he just made due with what he got. And I would have to think that Sabean agreed with that philosophy else Alou probably wouldn't have been hired.

    Also, if he didn't care about OBP, then why did he draft players like Marcus Sanders, Eddy Martinez-Esteve, and other guys whose main hitting asset was getting on base?

    If he didn't care about OBP, why did Frandsen brag about how the Giants told him to boost his OBP so he went ahead and worked on it during the AFL?

    I mean, how many high OBP hitters are out there anyhow? And people forget, but Edgardo Alfonzo and Ray Durham were two of the top OBP hitters available on the market when the Giants signed them.

    And why did the Giants keep the faith on Pablo Sandoval, when he was struggling so badly that Baseball America dropped him from their Top 30 list and now he's the top OBP on the Giants? Remember, he didn't start showing any power until recently, he was pretty much a high batting average hitter who didn't walk much. His ISO was around 100 his first three seasons. Somehow they knew there was something to Sandoval, who they kept promoting despite so-so stats overall. I have seen other players who had much better hitting stats than Sandoval who stayed in the same level, yet the Giants kept on promoting him.

    The problem hasn't, in my opinion, been that they don't know hitters, the problem is that when you focus so many of your picks, particularly your top picks, on pitching, you are going to end up with a lot of hitters with flaws, and vast majority of them won't ever overcome them, because the talent level will just not be there. It is a trade off for the great pitching they have amassed up to now.

    ReplyDelete
  27. How anybody can read your comments about Sabean and not want to fire him, I haven't the foggiest.

    I would fire him if I believed all that you have written so far, so if you are not sure if you would fire him, then there must be something he does really well that you like enough that you would keep him around. But you have already dissed his recent trades, said he wasn't involved with the good drafts but is responsible for the bad drafts, etc.

    Plus, you wrote this "...but he is very badly suited to the situation the Giants are in right now. The ideal situation in my book would be for the Giants to retain Tidrow and Sabean in a scouting/pitcher drafting capacity, while acquiring a GM whose primary focus is offense..." Sounds pretty much like you want to fire him as GM, which is my point, we should keep him as GM.

    ReplyDelete
  28. You know my position on Sabean, so ther eis no need to rehash that here. Here is something you ought to consider. A smarter person that me once said that the "definition of insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result." That pretty much sums up what giving Sabean anoth extension would be akin to.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Great comments, OGC.

    I have to agree that the Sanchez (or Garko) trade are, from what we know right in this moment, at worst just card-shuffling. There's absolutely no way to know if Alderson is worth a damn until maybe 5 years from now. I heartily dislike the "veteran savvy" bit, but nevertheless, Sanchez and Garko have actually played in MLB, whereas Alderson has not.

    The other is that, at least for next year, the Giants have no viable second base option. So Sanchez (or someone just like him, costing the same amount) is pretty obvious. This harkens back to my comment some time ago about player salaries - this is just the way it is. People see $8 million and get indignant, but that's the market.

    I don't see either of these deals as being deathly - at present, they are at worst inconsequential.

    ReplyDelete
  30. If you trawl back a little bit, you’ll see I totally agree with you on Barnes. I agree with you generally on both trades. I think Sanchez is a lot worse than you think. His career numbers include a season where he was the batting champion (2006: average=.344), but since then he had shoulder surgery and hasn’t approached those numbers since. His next highest BA is .304; eliminate the outlier, and he drops below average. Add that to his tendency to get injured, and you get a player that is much less than “useful and about average”. And I don’t know why you’d assume I don’t know anything about Sanchez’s career. I’m not a dolt.

    ReplyDelete
  31. You respond to my concerns about OBP by immediately talking about the draft. That’s not where the primary problem is. We already know that the draft is a hit-and-miss process. The concern is that when Sabean goes out into the market (free agent pool) to sign known commodities, he signs players that are not very selective. You gave me a couple of anecdotal references with EME and Sanders. I try to look at things more systematically. The Giants starting lineup is a good pool to analyze systematically: not a single player displays above-average plate discipline, with either %BB or pitches/PA. The majority of these players are Sabean signings or trades: Freddy Sanchez, Randy Winn, Bengie Molina, Aaron Rowand, Edgar Renteria, and Juan Uribe are all excellent examples. As you can tell from my free agents list, Ray Durham and Moises Alou are the exceptions to the rule.

    Pablo Sandoval is not selective. His %BB and pitches/PA are far below average. Credit to the Giants for bringing him up, but they did it because of the very high averages, not because of a good batting approach. High averages lead to good OBP, but good OBP in itself does not imply plate discipline.

    I have not dissed Sabean’s recent trades. I thought that the Garko trade was reasonable. It is only his most recent trade that leaves me incredulous.

    Why would anybody fire Sabean right now? We are in the middle of the season. To fire a GM in the middle of the season is ludicrous. Anybody who wants Sabean to be fired is an idiot. His contract terminates at the end of the year. If management wants to move on, they can decline to offer him a contract. A firing at this point in the contract makes no sense.

    ReplyDelete
  32. dregarx, I don't care for your insolent behavior.

    Here is what I said, "I may or may not respond to the whole thing. I'm busy too." What that means is that I don't have time to read through all your writing and then answer you.

    Here is what you said, "Generally, I want to know your opinion on Sanchez/Garko."

    I did that, having not had time to fully read and absorb your comment yet, so I gave you MY opinion and I responded to what I have seen other people have said about the trades. I have NO idea what you wrote, other than you didn't care for the Franchez trade.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I'm sorry for what I did; but I don't really know what my transgression. I don't understand what you mean.

    Please explain me what I did wrong so I don't do it in the future.

    ReplyDelete
  34. If it was me saying too much stuff to quickly, please, go ahead and stop responding to this particular string of comments.

    I probably started trying to cover too many subjects; eg. discussing the relative merits of Sanchez and Velez on a post about Sabean.

    Sowwy. I started up a blog on the Giants. Maybe some of the stuff here will end up there, just more organized and topic-by-topic.

    If you want, you can comment on my opinions when they go up there, but please, if I've given you a whole bunch of trouble on this webpage, go ahead and deviate from your 'respond to all comments' policy here.

    ReplyDelete
  35. "And I don’t know why you’d assume I don’t know anything about Sanchez’s career."

    I didn't assume anything, I had no idea what your position was. I was simply giving you my opinion, tinged by what I had seen others say.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Oh. All right, I know what you meant. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete

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