Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Sabean Naysayers Are Up in Arms: Calm Down...

I had been meaning to write about the Sabean Naysayers - and actually have it written somewhere - then ended up composing the below on Extra Baggs, as they are really getting on my nerves again.  Sorry, but I was responding to some of the comment I saw there, so some of the context is missing, but I think it is mostly understandable even without that context.  And I will tweak, as I am wont to do.

Click on title to get full post
I feel so sorry for all the Sabean Naysayers.

What we have today is a team built the way Sabean has been trying to build it for a long time now, from the times of Ainsworth, Williams, and Foppert. He has been saying since then that the future of MLB will be built on a team focused on pitching, defense, and team speed. This has not been a recent thing he has been trying to do.

What most people don't realize is that re-building when you are winning, as they were back then, is impossible to do. Your picks are in the back of the first round, you maybe find one good player every 5-10 YEARS. That is why things started turning around in 2007, because that is when the Giants started losing and getting the great draft picks near the front of the first round, where finding talented players is much, much easier (though still not a slam dunk, so Sabean has done very well for the team with those picks).

These people have been doubting for three seasons now,while the Giants have been winning at roughly at 90 win seasonal pace, so clearly these people don't understand how to build a playoff caliber team, else they would have been enjoying the past three seasons (2009-2011) instead of complaining all the way until Wilson closed out our championship, then complaining once the parade was over.

Not that there hasn't been things to complain about, but their tone clearly shows that they have no respect for Sabean or what he has done for this franchise. Too bad for them.

They can keep drinking their Maalox and Pepto, I've thoroughly enjoyed the past three seasons. No team ever leads from start to finish without some sort of challenge, whether in season or in the playoffs, no one ever knows what the outcome is.

Giants history teaches you that. One would think that winning 103 games would win you the pennant. One would think that leading from opening day to final day of the season would get you deeper into the playoffs. There are no guarantees, no absolutes.

So I have chosen to enjoy what is possibly one of the best rotations, at least of this era, if not for the history of baseball.  Led by the only pitcher to earn Cy Young awards in his first two full seasons. Sure, the offense sucks, but that is the beauty of this pitching, it can win with sucky offense.

I repeat, with great pitching, you can win with sucky offense, I have done the math using Bill James Pythaogrean formula, it is true for anyone willing to examine that truth, one of the facts of life.

I just enjoy winning, being able to score didn't do the Barry Bonds Giants much good in the years he was with us, nor has it done the Brewers or Reds much good in recent years either. Even better is that the latest research shows that teams with the pitching and fielding that the Giants has maximize their chances of going deep into the playoffs. I think that is the best one can hope for in baseball, maximizing your chances in the playoffs, because it is chances, there are no guarantees, only strategy that maximizes your chances, like what Sabean has done with the Giants.

If you want guarantees, then I suggest you start following the Harlem Globetrotters. It is not like this is the first pennant chase ever, but a lot of people for some reason act like it is for them. The sky is not falling, we still have our great staff and it will correct itself soon. Or not, that is the beauty of reality, it oftentimes does not go the way you want it to go.

Meanwhile, enjoy the well pitched games and the wins that the pitching normally earns for us, with just enough offense. People complain about the offense, but when I analyzed the winning percentage for games where the Giants gave up 1, 2, and 3 runs, it was basically the same as the winning percentage for the NL: meaning that the Giants offense has been doing the job enough to win when the pitching is stout, just as good as any other NL team. (And to be frank, the Giants at that time had a better winning percentage)

The Giants offense just can't win as well when the pitching is not as stout. But luckily for them, our pitching is so good that we play a lot more games where the opposing offense only gets 1, 2, or 3 runs than other teams. A lot more, thus why the Giants are still leading their division.

Decided to do the stats for this post:
  • Giants gave up 1, 2, 3 runs 49.1% of the time (80 games out of 162).  NL teams (including Giants FYI, didn't feel like taking them out) averaged 40.0% (65 games out of 162).  So the Giants, on average, had 15 more such games than other teams.
  • They also won more, .741 vs. .723.  Might not seem much but that is a 120 win season vs. a 117 win season. 
  • Combining the two stats, the Giants are on pace for 80 such games, with a 59-21 record, and the average NL team (again, with Giants stats included), are on pace for 65 such games, with a 47-18 record.  Giants pitching gives them 9 more wins in a season from this.
  • The Giants also get more shutouts, 7.3% vs. 6.8% (12 vs. 11).  Didn't include in the above, because clearly any team that gets a shutout won that game.  That would make it 10 more wins total from our superlative pitching than average NL team.
Am I entirely happy? No, I had never been until Wilson thrusted his hands high in the sky that night in Texas.

But I love baseball and I have thoroughly enjoyed the past three seasons, and hope to enjoy many more seasons like this, as long as Neukom can keep the core of this team - Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner - together as long as he financially can.

They are why I have been saying that the 2010's will be the decade of the Giants. I've seen no reason to back off that statement, though the loss of Wheeler has put some worry in there, now it is up to Neukom to pony up enough money to keep Lincecum and Cain around to at least the middle of this decade.  Bumgarner is under our control until 2016, so we are good there, at minimum.

In any case, to quote Tim Lincecum, "We've got 50-some-odd games to go, and I hope nobody's hit the panic button quite yet." Unfortunately, some have, so hopefully Timmy will take umbrage that Giants fans are foaming at the mouth and use that as a chip on his houlder, to show up those non-believers.


  1. You are not a smart person.

    Yes, there is hyperbole and invective when some people post. Some of it is even unreasonable. Poor you.

    You are correct when you say that Sabean has a plan. It has always been the same plan. He has always followed that plan, accepting no new information.

    His plan worked once in all the time he's been here.

    The fact that one part of the plan is indisputably right -- find, cultivate, and promote great pitching -- is both meaningless and uncontroversial. Who doesn't? The fact that Dick Tidrow continues to work for Sabean is the only reason this part of the plan worked superlatively.

    Have you watched "The Franchise"? Have you watched the scenes in front of the whiteboard? Bochy and Sabean group players by age. And then play the old ones.

    You have been trumpeting the (totally obvious) supremacy of pitching over offense forever, as if you discovered it. What you never bothered to explore is the limits.

    I have tried to explain those limits to you before: You can have a slightly-below-average offense and great pitching and win it all. You cannot have one of the three worst offenses in baseball and good-to-great pitching and win it all.

    Last year the Giants overcame a terrible offensive start to drag their production up to near average. More than that, they were among the elite in HRs during the second half.

    This year they have no hope to equal that kind of power -- a very important thing, as yesterday's game should inform you. But they do have the chance of achieving an average offense, and that would win the division.

    By the way -- what the Giant's second half last year did was drag the *entire year's offense* up to average. That means the second half offense was pretty darned good.

    You're gonna need a lot of luck pal. You could find it. Then you can wave your theory around some more. But you're wrong anyhow.

  2. I agree that I'm not a smart person. A smart person would avoid engaging idiots like you in debate. A smart person would not be bothered when idiots start blathering on about things they clearly don't know much about. But like Bart Simpson reaching for the electrified toy, I touch it over and over again.

    If your measure of success is winning the World Series, then I feel very sorry for you. By your short-sighted definition, almost every single person ever associated with baseball is a loser. Very few players, managers, GMs are associated with a World Series championship. Bobby Cox is considered by most to be one of the best of our era in managers yet in your mind his one victory in all those years don't mean anything. There is so much about baseball to love and enjoy, yet you reduce it in your mind to whether you win it all or not.

    But I guess by your definition, then, you like Sabean more than you like Billy Beane, so there is that.

    You say that it is meaningless: if it is so meaningless, then why are the Giants, year in, year out, among the top 2-3 in runs allowed the psst three seasons. If it was as easy to accomplish as you describe it, then the Giants should be in the middle of the pack of really good pitching, not the owner of one of the best pitching rotations of this generation, if not the history of baseball, once they compete together as a group over their career. If it is so "meaningless and uncontroversial" then why are the Giants so good while teams like the Brewers are constantly trading for good pitching that they have rarely developed?

  3. I already know about the limits, I wrote about the limit a long while ago. You just don't understand the extreme limits, my math showed that even teams with one of the poorest offenses can still win a lot of games and win their division.

    You act like you explained it to me, you did no such thing, I've been writing about it for years now, show me where on the web you have been "explaining" it. Then I'll show you how you do not even know how winning works at the extreme limits. Again.

    Like, for example, how the team has lead the division this season even though its offense has been among the worse. According to your supposition, this season should not even be happening. Everything is just luck to you Naysayers, you wave your hand off of everything that do not match your view of the world.

    According to you and all the other Naysayers, the team should not be running at a 90 win seasonal rate for the past 3 seasons (2009-2011), should not have won last season, should not be winning this season.

    Meanwhile, I have been writing that they should be winning, that I would be disappointed if they were not winning, and I thought that they should have made the playoffs last season way back in the pre-season.

    Pretty good for someone who is stupid.

  4. Not sure how Hilarie explains the Giants occupying first place in the NL West with one of the 3 worst offenses in baseball. They're winning those games somehow!

    For her(sorry if Hilarie is a guy, but it sure sounds like a girl's name) to say that Sabes has never changed his plan is just plain ignorant:

    He brought in John Barr to run the last 3 drafts specifically because he knew the Giants had to get better at drafting and developing position talent.

    He's never traded for a rental who would be a free agent after the trade year until did just that to acquire Beltran.

    He trades some prospects and keeps others. For the most part, the ones he trades never pan out and the ones he keeps become stars, or at least important role players.

    Sabes has an overall philosophy that is sound but he has also shown the ability to tweak it when the situation calls for it.

    Today, the team really looked like it was starting to jell with the new acquisitions and yes, those acquisitions will make the offense better, hopefully enough better for the Giants to win the NL West and then put their Baseball Prospectus approved construction to work in the playoffs.

  5. Thanks for your comments DrB, good points made.

    I would also note that any manager needs to include smarter people in his core group of advisors so that he can accomplish more. Henry Ford once said in a trial, something to the effect that, yes, he might not be the smartest person in the world, but if you have a problem, he can find the person who can solve it.

    I would also note that Sabean had success as the personnel guy for the Yankees before joining the Giants, responsible for obtaining Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Riviera, Jorge Posada, so he knew talent when he saw it long before Tidrow joined his crew.

    Also, Baseball Prospectus has technically not approved the Giants construction directly. In fact, they called for him to be fired in their 2010 edition of their annual and did not address changing their opinion in their 2011 edition (hence why I no longer buy them).

    What the Giants have done is create their team such that it fulfills the requirements that BP discovered to be key to a team going deep into the playoffs.

    One would think the BP would trumpet the success of their research being brought to fruition with the Giants, even if the Giants do not say that they did it with BP's help in any way, still, their success is a testament to the accuracy of their research. Unfortunately, BP thinks that it is all one big mistake that can only be fixed by firing Sabean.

  6. FYI, to correct Hilarie's incorrect assertion, I have been very careful to state repeatedly that my overall theories about how to win with a team is based on research I have compiled together into one model for running a team that I have been calling my business plan.

    Anybody with a brain who reads through my business plan will see that I carefully credit every idea that I got from another source.

    I am grateful to those sources for their breakthroughs - hence why I plug Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster constantly, because I never really understood modern baseball sabermetrics until I read his toolkit.

    I wholeheartedly recommend anyone interested in learning more about sabermetrics to buy and read their toolkit. His website at used to offer older versions of his book at half price or less for older versions, if you want a cheaper route to learning about all this, his toolkit, while not static, is basically the same year to year, with new discoveries, updated stats, and new essays to make it worth buying each year.

    But it really is not worth buying new unless you plan on playing fantasy baseball with it. I swear by it, having won my league a bunch of times and almost always finishing in the top three each year.

    In any case, back to the assertion that "I discovered" the supremacy of pitching over offense, I have made it very clear that my basis for this is BP's and THT's separately performed research that came to the same conclusion, that pitching trumps offense.

    In fact, one thing Hilarie failed to mention, but which I will note here, is that the revolutionary discovery is not that pitching trumps offense, but that offense hss ZERO advantage for a team in the playoffs.

    Best scoring, worse scoring, middle of the pack, it didn't really matter how good an offensive team the playoff team was. The key differentiating advantage to a team was their pitching and fielding - their defense.

    So Hilarie got that all wrong, most probably because he/she likes to read one article and make all sorts of assumptions and logical jumps that someone who have read my blog over even a short while would know to be false.

    Yesterday's game should inform me? What about today's game where the Giants won 8-1 with no homers? Or better yet, why are we looking at one game here and there? Over this whole season, the Giants have won a lot of games and yet has one of the worse offenses around.

    In fact, when the Giants came around to win the division, in September, going 18-8, the team's offense averaged 3.73 runs per game that whole month. That blows apart your assertion that their push to the title was based on their offense, it was totally on the shoulders of their pitching, which was stellar that month, I guess you forgot about how they went all those games without giving up more than 3 runs.

    So I don't need luck, I just need a great rotation. Oh, like the Giants have that Sabean put together.

  7. If you look at the Giants before last season and know their best hitter would have a bad season, you'd say they have no chance. You look at the team before this season and know that their (different) best hitter would be out for 2/3 of the season and 1 (or 2) of the rotation mainstays would be out, you'd say they have no chance.

    The Giants are in first place. And, yes, they will win 270 games over three years. Winning the division twice. Something is obviously going right. You can't, year after year, claim good fortune or accident. I am somewhat confused at how Hilary can claim something is being done "wrong" when the goal of a team (making the playoffs) is right there in front of you.

    Occam's razor - and kudos OGC for the 1,2,3 run game stats. I know it's not the same thing exactly, but it shows the Giants are not being "lucky" in low-scoring games (as seems to be the point of some naysayers), they are winning pretty much exactly the same percentage of those games as everybody else.

    And so, again, this is not an "aberration". It's not luck. They've won exactly as many games as any sabremetric measure would say they should. And I think it's 90% likely they win the division next year too. "Worked once", huh? So 29 teams every year have a lousy plan? Why even follow the game?

    I hate it when people flog stats without understanding them. And a dry-erase board from a TV show is prime and all-encompassing evidence of reality? Please.



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