Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Checking it Twice: Giants 2012 Top Prospects

I had previously blogged about some other Giants top prospect lists here, so since I just got Baseball America's 2012 Prospect Handbook, I thought I would write a bit more.  They do provide their Top 10 list here, but the book covers the Giants Top 30 in detail in their book.

TOP TEN
PROSPECTS
1.Gary Brown, OF
2.Tommy Joseph, 1B/C
3.Heath Hembree, RHP
4.Joe Panik, SS
5.Francisco Peguero, OF
6.Andrew Susac, C
7.Eric Surkamp, LHP
8.Kyle Crick, RHP
9.Ehire Adrianza, SS
10.Hector Sanchez, C
But the rotation is getting more expensive to keep together, and the Giants' pitching factory under vice president of player personnel Dick Tidrow is beginning to stall. They sacrificed their only elite pitching prospect, Zack Wheeler, to the Mets for Beltran—who became a free agent after the season and can't bring draft-pick compensation because his contract forbid offering him arbitration.
The current strength of San Francisco's system is in position players, led by speedster Gary Brown and longball threat Tommy Joseph. Brandon Belt, who graduated to the majors in 2011, could make an impact for years to come. Scouting director John Barr added two polished college hitters in the 2011 draft, with St. John's shortstop Joe Panik in the first round and Oregon State catcher Andrew Susac in the second.
However, the Giants don't have another can't-miss position player like Posey in the system. He's determined to catch again and club officials will relent to his wishes, but they've talked about moving their best hitter out of harm's way in the not too distant future. Catcher may be the richest position in the system, with Joseph, Susac and Hector Sanchez.
The farm system was a priority for managing partner Bill Neukom, who was forced out by other partners in a palace coup in September. In the new management structure, club president Larry Baer was elevated to CEO and will report directly to the investors. The reorganization wasn't expected to impact Brian Sabean, baseball's longest-tenured GM with his current club.

ogc Thoughts

BA's list stands out for their putting Tommy Joseph #2 on their list. Most had him 3-4, though he was as low as 9 in MiLBA's Top 15 list. So it is not a huge outlier, just one beyond, but BA is certainly the highest rank of Joseph. Shows just how powerful his potential is right now: he improved defensively where people now think he can stay at catcher, and he showed a lot of power despite being one of the youngest players in the league.

They are also the only list to include Brett Pill anywhere on a list.  I understand why a list might not include him, he certainly has a lot to prove, despite his stellar 2011.  Still, he did do very well in both AAA and the majors last season, and he did it while suffering from his disappointment of 2010 and his dropping off the 40 man, and then no team even wanted to take him at virtually no cost to the other team, other than a 40 man spot.  Remember, Frandsen in his disappointment, sulked (and publicly bad-mouthed the Giants) his way off the team.

I think he's one bad injury from getting him some Pill-sanity, though at a much, much lower level of insaneness (no magazine covers for him).  Not that he'll be a star or even necessarily good, but he plays great defense at 1B and looks like he can hit OK but with good power, I think he could certainly outdo what Huff did last season, and be an average 2-WAR player, which is extremely good value for a scrub on the borderline between the 25 and 40 man rosters.  He'll be a right-handed Travis Ishikawa without the angst about performing, and be a great bench player for us over the next 6 seasons, plus maybe shine a little when an injury or poor performance lets him start for a while.

They are also the only major list to have Chuckie Jones still on their Top 20.  He disappointed in 2011, but injuries was part of the reason for that.  I am still hopeful, he's still very young, plenty of time for adjustments.

They are also the only major list to not like Josh Osich highly.  Some had him as high as 7th, but BA ranked him 23rd.  I guess they are more worried about his health and his ability to return from it than the other lists.  Because, if he's anything like what he was before he was shut down, we are talking about another Dirty, a lefty who can hurl in the mid-to-high 90's MPH.  In fact, BA thinks that he's capable of being a #2 starter:  if healthy...

They are also not as enamored with Clayton Blackburn's stellar 2011 professional debut.  They only see him as a middle rotation (#3-4) starter at best.  But his numbers were so stellar, I would lean towards the irrational exuberance than rational practicality.

Thought I would end with a look at Gary Brown's overall prospect rankings.  BA had him ranked #39 out of 100 (unfortunately, Tommy Joseph was ranked 100th until Cespedes signed, pushing him to 101st;  Hembree also got some talk for the bottom of the list but did not make it).  BP had him #18 on their 101 list.  Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com had him #48.  John Sickel's had him #43 on his Top 120 list (He had Joe Panik #117). Minor League Baseball Analyst's two authors had him pretty close, #24 and #26.

And BA's top editors also had Brown up that high, which I found out in the book.  Jim Callis ranked him #29, JJ Cooper #39, Will Lingo #26, and John Manuel #25.

I've also seen a bunch of blog posts lamenting the loss of Zack Wheeler.  Most of the ranks I've seen had him in the 40's, more mid-to-high 40's, though BA had his 55th in 2011, falling from 49th in 2010 (which is a steeper fall than it seems because a lot of prospects above him either graduated or fell more themselves).

What people don't recall is that once you get past the Top 15-25 prospects overall, there is a lot of variableness in whether prospects make it or not.  Following is a list of past 40-ish prospects:

  • 2009:  Jordan Schafer, Angel Villalona, Tim Alderson, Andrew Lambo, Kyle Blanks, Josh Vitters
  • 2008:  Ian Stewart, Lars Anderson, Jeff Clement, Josh Vitters, Daric Barton, Matt Antonelli, J.R. Towles
  • 2007:  Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jacob Mcgee, Carlos Carrasco, Josh Fields, Ian Stewart, Bill Rowell, Travis Buck
  • 2006:  Homer Bailey, Anibal Sanchez, Mark Rogers, Adam Loewen, Adam Miller, Brian Anderson
  • 2005:  Eric Duncan, Brian Anderson, Conor Jackson, Michael Aubrey, Dan Meyer, Josh Barfield, Yusmeiro Petit, Homer Bailey

I'll note here that I'm doing this from memory right now, so maybe a few of the above worked out better than I remembered, but generally, these prospects (and as you can see, some stayed in there in consecutive years, boosting their farm system's "status" as a good farm system, whereas the Giants top players - Lincecum, Bumgarner, Sandoval, Posey, Belt - were maybe on BA's top list, at most, one time in their time as prospects; heck, Sandoval couldn't even get on his own team's top prospect list, let alone the BA overall top list).

Still, just because Wheeler is on the list again this year is no guarantee that he's going to ever make it.  The Giants, by trading him, effectively voted that he will not make it, at least as a good starter.  He might eat a lot of innings and be an OK middle rotation starter in the majors, but as a study by The Hardball Times concluded, teams usually know their prospects better than other teams and tend to trade away the prospects that they have deemed to be not keepers.  Given the Giants brain trust's (Sabean, Tidrow et al plus Barr) stellar record in trading prospects and not giving up a good, above 2-WAR per season player, if I had to bet, I would bet that Wheeler not reach his potential and be a good starter, with a low ERA.

And as a sad reminder for us of how prospect high rankings are no guarantees, in 2001 and 2002 Jerome Williams was ranked #19 overall for us and in 2003 Jesse Foppert was #5 (! just behind Jose Reyes and Joe Mauer and ahead of Brandon Phillips, K-Rod, Scott Kazmir, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Morneau, Victor Martinez, Hanley Ramirez, B.J. Upton).  Heck, Boof Bonser was #29 in 2002,  and Kurt Ainsworth #30 in 2001.

Now, to some of the points made in the quote above from BA.

First, it notes that the Giant's pitching factory is beginning to stall.  That is because they have selected position players in 3 of the past 4 drafts, whereas before, the Giants had mostly spent their first round picks on pitchers.  Those picks are the picks with the highest chance (roughly 10% when you are contending) of finding a good, above average player.

So that is why they are "stalling", not because they are failing to find pitching while actively looking for pitching, but just because they are working on finding good position players in recent seasons instead of pitching and thus not finding as many pitchers.  If you stop looking for pitching as intently as you did before, I view that as less a failure and more a change in strategy/tactics.  While I think some of the 2011 picks could pick up the pace (Crick, Osich, Blackburn), I expect the Giants to put more emphasis on pitching again going forward, unless there is clearly a "must pick" BPA position player who falls to them.  And, still, most of their picks in rounds 1-10 were pitching, even in 2011,

Second, there are two reasons why the Giants don't have another can't miss position player in the system currently.  First, those are very hard to find when you are winning.  You have a much greater chance when you are losing a lot of games and getting the great draft picks.  Second, the Giants did have one in Belt, but due to injuries, they decided to rush him to the majors and hope that he could figure things out.  Unfortunately, he didn't.  But had he followed normal development, he most likely would have spent 2011 in the minors and be eligible to be ranked as a prospect for 2012.  For all intents and purposes, Belt is still considered a high potential prospect, but according to baseball rules, he cannot be considered a rookie anymore, which is the criteria that BA uses to decide who to cover and who not to follow.

Thirdly, the Giants made a priority of the farm system before Neukom took over.  They spent all that money on Villalona, RafRod, Posey, and Wheeler, over-paying for each of them.  They also went over slot for Lincecum, Posey, Bumgarner, Wheeler, among others prior to Neukom.  They also brought in John Barr, both to emphasize position players (not announced but clearly a change in the drafts so far) and improve international scouting and development (that was announced as one of the reasons to get him).

Let's put it this way:  the Giants are currently staffed by a lot of farm products who were all acquired long before Neukom took over, ever so briefly, as managing owner, the main effects of his influence on the draft will not have a visible effect on the team until the draftees from 2009-11 start showing up and taking starting positions.

Thankfully, in any case, the CBA no longer allows a team to punt a pick, so even if they were tempted to even think about doing that again, the Giants will be required to select and presumably sign their draftees going forward, Neukom or no Neukom.

And while the removal of Neukom was described as a "palace coup", I would note that the Chronicle's Insiders reporters, Matier and Ross, reported that the reason he was forced out was because he was asking for a $10M annual salary.  As much as I liked Neukom as managing owner and miss having him in charge, if there is any truth to that rumor, I am glad he was pushed out, I would much rather the team spend that money on players and development than paying the CEO.

Lastly, most rankings of the Giants farm system have them rated very low.  While that is probably true (I'm not going to get into that), that is missing the whole content of why they are in that position today.   They are mostly in that position today because of a number of reasons.

First and most importantly of all, they have been a winning team for 3 seasons now.  When you are a contender, you get lousy first round pick position and it is very difficult to find a good player drafting that far back.  You can't help but have a bad system when you are winning for any length of time.  Let's put it this way:  the A's would have had an even worse farm system today, probably, if they didn't trade away most of their All-Star players and picked up a boatload of prospects.  Think of how good a farm system the Giants would be ranked to have had they traded away, say, Lincecum, Cain, and Sandoval?

Secondly, they have been very aggressive, and mostly successful, with moving their top prospects into the majors.  If the Giants prospects were like other team's, Posey, Bumgarner, and Belt could still be in the farm system, hoping that this would be the year they break out, but because they are talented, highly ranked in the Top 100 and giving their team the appearance of a strong farm system.

For example, Homer Bailey was ranked #48 in 2005, #38 in 2006, #5 in 2007, and #9 in 2008, boosting the Reds' overall ranking and making them viewed as more of a successful farm system, and yet the Reds are still waiting for him to break out.  Belt was only on one list, 2011, Posey and Bumgarner 2009 and 2010, Lincecum only in 2007, Cain highly ranked in 2005 and 2006 (he was #91 in 2004).  So who has had a better farm system then?

Thirdly, the Giants are actually doing OK, when you examine the circumstances.  Given their poor draft position in the past couple of drafts, they are actually doing well having a highly ranked prospect of Brown's caliber in their system.  Heck, they would look even better right now if Belt had been kept in AAA in 2011 instead of being brought up a lot due to injury needs.  Given that Belt is still a prospect, just not by definition for any of the Top Prospects lists, how can their farm system be accurately represented if Belt is not included as part of their farm system?

So there are all sorts of problems with the methodology of how farm systems are ranked.  And I don't think that there is a way to come up with one measurement that says it all.  I think one good way to see how well the farm system is doing is by looking at how many of the starters are farm products.  By that measure, the Giants farm system is looking pretty good compared to most MLB teams.

People complain that the Giants have not produced position players, but neglect to realize that the question can be turned back to them if we ask them to name which teams have produced a better rotation than Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner from their farm system?  That's the reason why the Giants have not produced many position prospects, they have focused on producing great pitching prospects.

It is a trade off that many complainers ignore or slough off.  And if I had to chose between having an equivalent hitter or one of our great pitchers, I would chose our pitchers in a heart beat, pitching is the way teams dominate in the players, it is no guarantee, as my research showed, but it is a necessary ingredient if you want to have any strong and good hopes of going deep into the playoffs.  The complainers do not realize that demanding position players be produced means less pitchers, which means that they don't really understand that today's research says that if you want to do well in the playoffs, you focus on pitching and fielding, period.

24 comments:

  1. A few comments:

    Madison Bumgarner is the youngest player in the Giants entire spring training camp and he's already got a full season+ of service time under his belt. Having a guy graduate that fast tends to deplete the farm system, but in a very good way.

    The term "can't miss" is a relative term that can mean different things to different people. If you are talking about a prospect who is a lock to be a star player, well, you can generally count those in all of baseball on one hand. Remember, there was a time when Bumgarner's velocity was down and he appeared to be anything but a "can't miss" prospect.

    If you adjust your definition of "can't miss", I think the Giants have at least 2 players who are almost guaranteed to have long careers as above average players as their floor:

    Gary Brown should be a 2 WAR player on defense alone. Add in another 0.5 WAR for his baserunning and all he needs to do is be slightly below average at the plate to be a 4 WAR player. 4 WAR/yr will earn you a whole lot of $$$$ over the course of a MLB career.

    The more I read about Joe Panik and his sweet swing and even sweeter approach at the plate, the more I think he's about as close to a lock as you can get to have a very good career even if he moves to 2B.

    If you have 2 players who are virtual locks to be near 4 WAR players in your system, that's a pretty darn good system if you ask me, especially since that same system has already produced one of the best young cores of homegrown players in baseball.

    Add in the fact that most commentators, especially the more knowledgeable ones like John Sickels, agree that the Giants system has a lot of prospects with a lot of upside, and I think the Giants system is in a lot better shape than where it gets ranked. The rankings are all snapshot of what's in the system at this moment. Rankings can change rapidly one way or another depending on graduations of top players or breakouts by high ceiling players.

    The Giants have a lot of pitchers in the system with high ceilings who have the potential to breakout, so "stall" may have been a poor choice of words by BA in their summary. I would say the Giants organizational pitching is in a rebuilding phase.

    One last comment on Wheeler. He could get hurt. There are some elements of his delivery that appear to be possibly high risk. If he stays healthy, I think he is a lock to be an ace. Mike Newman from Fangraphs and Scouting the Sally calls him one of the top 5 pitchers he has ever scouted. I saw Wheels pitch last year in the Cal League and it was the most dominating performance I've seen in that league. Admittedly, I haven't seen that many Cal League games, but I did see Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Merkin Valdez pitch there. Wheels was the most dominating and it wasn't really close.

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    1. Thanks for your comment DrB.

      I like Brown and Panik too. I agree with your assessment overall, but I'm just not comfortable dealing with WAR after someone at Splashing Pumpkins attacked me on Twitter and I felt the pressure to make a guess which did not make me look very good.

      Given that an average player is defined as 2 WAR, I am comfortable saying that both Brown and Panik look like they should comfortably reach that level when they make the majors (and I think both are pretty sure to make the majors as starters). And that, as you have been saying, is great value from a back of the first round pick.

      Again, great comments up and down. We have disagreed about Wheeler, though to me, more about eventual outcome, not the talent he exhibits. I don't doubt what you have seen. I'm sure Mike Newman stands behind what he says about Wheeler.

      My note is that (and I can't pull up anyone to mind, so bear with me) there have been a long history of top pitching prospects who was on the list of many scouts/observers who don't pan out for one reason or another. So I never doubted that he was one of the most talented seen, I just don't think that he'll eventually work out.

      I just read somewhere recently that Wheeler complained that one reason for his struggles as a Giant was that they were trying to change his mechanics, whereas the Mets let him do whatever he was doing before.

      That brings up a dichotomy of handling. Both Bumgarner and Wheeler struggled with the Giants instructions to fix their mechanics. Whereas they allowed Madison to revert back and continue, they continued to insist that Wheeler changes his. Why?

      The only logical explanation I can think of (please correct if I am wrong) is that while the Giants think that Bumgarner only raises his risk slightly by not changing, Wheeler is a prime candidate for risk by not changing. I recall in a lot of the draft talk after MadBum that his cross-over throwing motion was a red flag on future health. Never saw anything like that regarding Wheeler, but why did the Giants treat him differently?

      To that, I also add that Wheeler's numbers as a Giant never were that good, and he was still on in Advanced A ball. Bumgarner was dominating. And Wheeler's dominance in the Mets system was partly because he moved from an extreme hitters league to a pitchers league. I would also surmise that a lot of those teams didn't have a book on him yet either, so they were not as prepared to hit against him. So for these reasons, I don't regret the trade. He may still work out, I never said that he absolutely will not. I just think that the risk level is high enough that I'm comfortable with losing him to get a premier hitter to make that late season push (and I know you do too).

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    2. I just think the folks who are trying to rationalize losing Wheeler by saying, "well, he must be not that good if Sabean traded him because Sabean never trades the wrong pitcher" are sadly barking up the wrong tree. Yes, I supported the trade because the Giants still had a chance to repeat as WS Champions and you don't let that opportunity pass for anything. They paid a very steep price and it didn't work out. It's going to be very tough not to keep second guessing that trade when Wheeler is mowing down hitters as the Mets' ace.

      I also think you use a poor choice of words when you repeatedly say that Wheeler "wasn't all that good" in San Jose. Yes, he WAS all that good. He had a bit of a high walk rate, something that young pitchers frequently get better at, but in ever other respect, he was fantastic.

      You have to be careful not to put yourself in the box of feeling like you have to defend every decision that Brian Sabean makes. Sabean makes mistakes! In the big picture, he makes more good decisions than bad ones.

      I don't know exactly what the Mets demands were for Beltran. I've read that the Giants basically had a choice of trading Wheeler or Brown. While I admit it is a close call, I firmly believe if that is the case, they traded the wrong guy. Brown probably has a slightly better chance of putting up 4-5 WAR seasons than Wheeler, but Wheeler has a much better chance of being an elite player, the ace of a pitching staff. Again, not a fireable offense on Sabean's part, but a mistake in my book.

      We'll just have to see how it plays out. I'm glad the Giants have Gary Brown in their organization and look forward to many years of him owning CF in AT&T Park, but I'd trade him tomorrow for Zack Wheeler and not think twice about it.

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  2. Belt would be a top 10 prospect in all of baseball in most lists. We got greedy. Great point about Wheeler being listed as sour grapes by the Gints blogosphere. We took a shot. If it had turned out everybody would be high fiving. Piling on to Wheeler being gone is weak sauce. I think he's going to put that historical record to the test, but you never know. Accardo and Aardsma both had injuries but were good prospects. Wheeler is a couple classes above them.

    The Pitching Factory: is you believe what Bobby Evans said right after the draft, they were looking hard at the CA prepsters that got snagged up - Joe Ross and Robert Stephenson. The other part of drafting late is you take what you can get. Panik was raved about in that SJgiants interview with Fred Stanley as being a SS. Just yesterday Bobby Evans is saying Panik is going to stick at short. They can change that at any time, but if he can stick his bat will play huge at the weak position.

    At the Wheeler trade Sabean said two things that stood out to me: first, he mentioned relief as a possible option for Wheeler. That was a left field comment. Then he said its their job to get more arms. I think a combination of Surkamp tearing up the Eastern, them being confident in the picks from 2011 and the wildness of Wheeler led them to take the chance. The thing that gives me pause is the Mets let Wheeler go back to his old delivery and he was much improved for the rest of the year. Sometimes its better not to mess with what a guy does.

    People get way too obsessed with the ranking order, not only of prospects but of entire systems. Good point about Trader Billie changing the A's from bottom 10 to top 10 by trading off his pitchers. If the Giants did that they would have huge returns. Most of the talent is concentrated in the low minors, sleeping away. All it takes is a couple high profile guys to boost rankings. I guess I view system wide rankings more closely to minor league championships than most. They are sort of fun, but not as important as people think. The results of big league graduation are what counts. Its an inexact science.

    The example I have is the Pirates have a guy Sterling Marte, usually in the 40s-50s of most top 100 lists. This guys stats are extremely close to Frankie Pegs. They are remarkably similar players. Pegs was hurt last year, coming back from injury. Marte showed more speed, higher BA and a bit more power in 2011, both players in the Eastern (they are 4 months apart in age). Both have the same plate discipline problems and both are speedy dynamic potential 4-5 tool guys with major question marks. Just like Panik has Kelton Wong, Corey Spangenberg and Michael Levi to compare, I think I've found a great comp for Pegs.

    The Matier and Ross salary demand article - my gut reaction was Larry Baer hatchet job to counterpoint what had been said already. Neukom wants a salary? Doesn't make any sense to me. My sources tell me it was about him not involving minority investors enough (kissing butt), and the spending (budget raise, Beltran, cutting Tejada/Rowand) threatening dividend checks that the 1-3%ers demand. These tech guys may consider themselves savvy, but they might not understand baseball and the concept of a sunk cost. In my view Neukom didn't watch his base enough, got a big head and then got stabbed in the back. It might not be as important as people think though, the Giants have been pretty consistent with this whole group through the years - never going all in, watching the budget, PR obsessed, somehow field a pretty damn good team but not good enough at times.

    Now I'm gonna read what DrB said. I like our farm system right now. Young pitchers (Crick, Blackburn, Mejia), a possible stud closer (Hembree), 3 catchers (Sanchez, Susac, Joseph), speedy CFs (Brown, Pegs, Galindo, Payne, Hill) and some wild cards. With the graduations factored in, its so much better than 10 years ago its not even funny.

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    1. I would not say that the Giants got greedy. They had an opening at the beginning of the season because of Ross' injury. We could keep Ishikawa around for a couple of weeks, but we know what he can do. Or we could kick the tires on Belt and see how he does. Because of Torres injury, Belt gets a longer look, but ultimately, while there were some good things he did, he was struggling a lot and got sent down.

      I think the Giants then saw that he was showing his potential in spots, but it was very inconsistent. Given their need for offense, desperation rather than greed is the adjective I would use, but I can see now that there is a fine line there.

      Wheeler is definitely a higher class than either of them. Neither were ever ranked in any Top MLB prospect list that I can recall. But Ainsworth, Williams, and Bonser were.

      I did not notice the relief comment. That would drop his value a lot. Perhaps it concerns, as I noted in my comment above to DrB, regarding his mechanics, maybe the Giants think he's headed for arm troubles unless he changes his mechanics and since he's struggling with that, they think he might become a reliever (like Woods, Isringhausen, other top starting prospects who flamed out).

      As I noted also, they let Bumgarner revert back while they continued to try to change Wheeler. Has to be because they think he's headed towards arm problems, right? Else why continue with him while letting MadBum go?

      About Neukom, couldn't he have simply commented "absurd!" regarding that rumor? I'm sure they must have contacted him for a reaction. Or if it were me, I would have contacted a reporter I was comfortable with and leak something that counters that. But maybe he wanted to stay above it, letting his selling all his shares be his comment.

      I don't have sources, but from what I read, it did sound like that Neukom's "problem" was that he was not political enough to keep the other owners in the loop, as well as spending the money as he saw fit instead of getting a consensus of opinions from the owners.

      To that, I'll say what I've said since I learned about the rainy day fund/Maddux money: if you are into baseball to get a dividend check from your investment, then you have no business being in baseball. Sure, it is a business, but there is a higher calling for the owner that is owed to the fanbase to do what you can for the long term. Getting dividend checks is not a long term view, that's investing like a widow or retired person.

      The ideal owner, from what I can see, is the Angel's owner. He's taking a long term view towards his investment and putting more money into it (the rumors was that the small Giants investors were crying about having to invest more money into the team in the early 2000's when we were trying to win it all with Barry).

      If they are not in it to win it, they should get the hell out of baseball ownership. If you want the perks of ownership, you must shoulder the responsibility to the fanbase to get the team into the playoffs, to win the World Series.

      I agree with your assessment of what happened to Neukom, the win probably went to his head a bit (but really, that would have happened to anyone in his position, particularly given the history) and maybe he pushed things too far because he thought his success speaks for itself, part of the meritocracy that was noted when he rose to his position that existed at Microsoft.

      But really, what is "All in" in your thinking for the Giants? Are you suggesting they should have traded Cain to help Bonds win it all? I assume not.

      But they were actually basically all in during those early years after Pac Bell opened, Forbes estimates that their operating profits were low during those years, they basically estimated how much they would make from making the playoffs then spent it during the season, and they were near zero in 2003-2004.

      So I don't understand what you mean.

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    2. I love our farm system right now. Given the bad position picks, we still have a highly rated prospect in Brown (that is not to be expected with a pick like that) plus Belt would have been a Top 10-20 pick again too. And I really like Panik, Crick, Hembree, Susac, Joseph, Sanchez, Surkamp, plus as you both noted, there are a lot of guys with big potential that could pay off if developed, like Peguero, Oropesa, Blackburn, Osich, Kieschnick, Noonan, Culberson, RafRod, Villalona.

      Speaking of which, for a while there, I had much higher hopes for the other guys drafted with him, but Crawford really kicked it up a gear, so you never know with these other high potential prospects.

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    3. Oh, what I mean by that is that we had bad draft position (back of the first round that playoff contending teams get) and in spite of that, still picked up two great prospects.

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  3. On Brandon Belt, its just another re-hash, but here is my time line to demonstrate the Giants getting greedy. All quotes from Baggs.

    Sabean, Dec 8 2010: “For Belt to be in the mix (on the major-league roster), he’ll have to play every day. He’s much like Posey _ when his time comes, it’s going to be a definitive opportunity and we won’t look back. "

    Belt catches fire during spring training. Ross gets hurt on the 23rd of March. This changes the perspective from a "can he, naw" discussion to a "will they do it" discussion, and it got hot and heavy.

    March 30th, he makes it. Here's the lead: Giants Manager Bruce Bochy went to the mat to keep Brandon Belt and the skipper got his wish.

    And... But Bochy believes that Belt is something special, both in terms of talent and temperament. So count on Aubrey Huff moving to the outfield.

    And... The Giants will have to part ways with another player — Aaron Rowand? Nate Schierholtz? — in a few weeks when Cody Ross’s’ calf heals and he’s ready to come off the disabled list. (Theoretically, it could be Belt who gets subtracted for Ross. But Brian Sabean has said many times that ideally, when the kid comes up, he never goes back down.)

    OK, enough Baggs. I couldn't find the quotes from Bochy, but they are out there, RAVING about Belt. Sabean too, although he always tempered his quotes with "seasoning" unlike Bochy. The Posey comparisons came hot and heavy. I'm not arguing that he wasn't overmatched, he was. I'm also not arguing that he shouldn't have been sent down, he should have been. This was not a desperation grab, this was straight up "look at we got" lick your lips time. And then they dropped him like a hot potato. They were very, very greedy OGC.

    What they should have done is clearly state that it was as cup of coffee, he would be sent back down when Ross was off the DL. That was not what happened. Now this isn't a surprise, between Sabean and Bochy, PR and coming across well in public is not a strong suit. But I do understand some of the snide comments that come from fans, and ultimately that annoys me because the Giants drafted him, changed his stance and have a serious prospect because of it. They love the guy.

    So this year I think they are toning it down very purposely but they really want him to win out. I could be wrong, but its a pretty cold turn from the raves in Dec-March to the prove out rookie stuff later on. I don't necessarily think the prove out rookie thing is wrong either. When he makes it he'll know he earned it. But they do stumble over themselves.

    And that produces snarky tweets from twits like Keith Law, who just said he thinks Belt will be an all-star, but not with the Giants. Ho ho, they're too stupid to play him. I think they'll have the last laugh, but I do disapprove of their handling of Belt last year in the press.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The All In I was referring to would be getting Vlad mostly. In current times some fans would want Beltran signed, or one of the big free agents. I'm not there on that one, because I see some big downsides to all of those. But All-in for Vlad would be the big one. Yup, dividends should be for retirees, not the way to run a ballclub.

    Incidentally Keith Law claimed the Jays offered Halladay for the Williams/Ainsworth/Foppert. That would have been all in crazy style, and would have worked out great. No way do you make that trade in 2003. And I'm not sure I believe Keith Law either, I think one of his job duties then was fetching coffee. (He has actually come out and disclaimed a lot of moneyball principles and admitted that scouts are way more important, plus that a bunch of old school scouts were trying to help him and he was too cocky/brash to realize it and just crunched numbers). As you know I don't have a high opinion of Law.

    Not sure what to believe about the finances of the club, especially right then around 2003-4. We forget as fans the dark cloud of Barry - great hitting and Balco. His recliner, trainers, and Stan Conte. As much as everybody loved his amazing hitting, folks were getting a bit sick of it as well. The jump off post-Barry "we need butts in the seats" was a big ol belly dive with Zito/Rowand, and the spending on the international front doesn't look hot yet with AnVil and RafRod, but they got the scouting part right, got a bit lucky and its going good.

    And so my fear is of course the bean counting crew coming up, but money doesn't always solve everything. For the Posey and Timmy hit on the bonuses (finally spent by the cheap RDF Maddux crew) there is also the possible DR busts and of course the Zito/Rowand stuff that people just won't let go of. Maybe Baer is smart enough to leave the baseball operations well funded and stay the hell out of player decisions. It could turn out great. I'm just a bit jaded about ownership is all. And how they turned a 130MM budget, 5th or 6th in all of baseball, into looking cheap is beyond me. PR challenged at times.

    ReplyDelete
  5. You got attacked about WAR on twitter? The whole concept of WAR is sort of neat, a good way to bundle up value in 5MM increments. Or is it 3.5MM? I think middle relievers and even closers are undervalued by WAR analysis. I think backup middle infielders and part time players are overvalued by WAR analysis. I think defensive metrics are improving, but still not quite all that. And breaking down the WAR as the way to mix and match players completely ignores baseball's current structure of GMs, who all have in house proprietary statistics to look at, and a limited labor pool. This comes up a lot with the lefty relievers. They can't possibly be worth 1 WAR! Well, actually, they can. Its supply and demand, not the WAR rating. We can find somebody off the scrap heap! Well, actually, you can't. The guys who are the best in the business at that said no thanks, we'll pay our 1 WAR, thank you very much.

    Don't know what the conversation was, don't really want to know - the smashing pumpkins guys are extremely stats based and extremely young - don't take that too personal. If it doesn't fit into the standard book of sabermetrics I think they'll have issues. That's what I've seen at least. I do like the energy of the blog, even if I don't agree with it. The main point of grabbing Brown and Panik at a bad draft point and looking good so far is a good sign the Giants have turned a corner in scouting, and team-building strategy. We hope.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Eh, I'm probably just being too sensitive and I'm an adult, but it's funny how easily you can revert back to being a kid in school being bullied upon. Live and learn, I'm not going to allow myself to get pushed to say something I can't back up with my logic and stats.

    Still, it didn't feel good getting mocked and ridiculed, that's mostly why I don't tweet much anymore, it puts me in situations where I am not comfortable. I don't think well on my feet and end up doing things I shouldn't.

    But this also brings up my major problem with WAR, it's right until it's not right, because the defensive component varies from source to source, from methodology to methodology, and we have no idea which one is the correct one yet.

    So arguing using WAR as the foundation of any argument is kind of like how Pluto isn't a planet anymore, as before, it was defined as a planet, but now it isn't. WAR will change like that depending on how research figures out the right way to measure defense, I've seen stats where one system had the player very negative while the other system had him positive. Obviously one of them was wrong. And it is possible that both were wrong.

    For example, the system Baseball-Reference uses had Huff at -10 runs but the Plus/Minus DRS system by the Fielding Bible had him at -1 runs. That's one win difference right there.

    Also, any system out there right now is valuing Cain and Zito much too low because both have proven to be able to keep their BABIP under .300 by a good margin.

    And I want to calculate what this error is, but there is no formula out there that I can plug into my HP 19BII calculator and spit out an answer.

    Not really even a stats orientation, basically he bullied me into an estimate of Huff's WAR for the rest of the season, then kept on tweeting a link to my tweet all season long. I admit it was my fault for letting him get to me and for allowing him to push me into it, but I've lived and learned, no more of that for me. I very much believe that karma will pay back anyone and everyone eventually.

    Yes, though I would not call it turning a corner, which implies that they were bad before, I would call it adding another layer of improvement on what they were doing before, what they were doing before got them Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Wilson, Sandoval, Romo.

    And regarding team building, as I noted, you can't build a whole team in a short amount of time, they first focused on the pitching then switched focus to position players, so I don't view their team building strategy to have changed, as their strategy is still winning by pitching. I would say that they improved their drafting ability to enable them to keep the pitching that they had built up and complement it with good offense.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Twitter and fast paced discussion forums make for ugly hasty discussions for sure. Off the cuff, and then it becomes a "who's the smartest guy in the room" instead of looking for consensus or informed discussion. Bleh.

      OGC, defending the Gints to the bitter end here. Come on man, turning a corner is not implying they were bad before. They were somewhere in the middle, able to snag pitching prospects with mainly back end draft picks along with a completely mediocre approach to position players. It wasn't a terrible minor league system but it was ignored to some degree. Not scraping the basement but not excelling at anything either.

      The team building strategy changed the day they drafted Timmy. It also marked the end of Bonds. Sure there's some static here and there, but that is the key. Saved Sabean's job and jarred his focus to the future, and here we are. Six years of drafting with a purpose has produced a much more interesting deeper system.

      Delete
  7. First just wanted to say that you do a great job with this blog. I read your archives for hours at night. I've been reading for about a year now from my phone and I finally got a computer so I could chat with you guys. Great insight and I also read Dr. B. Great blog keep it up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment, Andre.

      Wow, you are very dedicated to try to read my stuff on a phone, I can't believe that you can get through a post easily, I do write long. :^) Extremely dedicated!

      So I greatly appreciate your comment, it made my day, it made my week, probably made my month. Glad you got a PC, and look forward to getting your comments.

      Delete
  8. Pill is a very interesting case. I look at Pill very much like I used to look at Jesus Guzman. Both have marginal power for their position (first base, though Pill did experiment at second last year), both don't walk a ton, but they don't strike out a ton either. Furthermore, when they hit their strides in Fresno, they were both a little older prospects (25 and 26). That being said, looking at what Guzman did last year in San Diego makes me a little bit more optimistic about Pill than a year ago. I don't know if he could be an everyday player, but as Guzman showcased last year, he certainly has the potential to be a utility type of player with his skills. I would just hate to see Pill fall into the same Guzman territory where the Giants let him go, only to see him be productive on another team.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I agree with your assessment for the most part.

    Where I diverge is that whereas Guzman was a DH looking for a position when he was with us, Pill is a very good defensive 1B who was not hitting well enough until he busted out last season.

    He also complements Belt or Huff at first, in that he can platoon with Belt until he is ready full time, and would be a defensive upgrade over Huff at first. Also, the Giants need a RH bat. Also, there was no space back then whereas now he is clearly a favorite for a bench position.

    That said, I totally agre that I would hate to see Pill move on and be productive.

    ReplyDelete
  10. OGC - where you at? We might have big news coming down the pipe today...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a combination of factors. I have had a lot of meetings. I have been attending conferences for half the week (including today). I have a project that is late, but luckily not due to me, but because the people who wanted me to do the project was late getting back to me with their info. Still, I need to get it done, hopefully today, but probably not, still a lot of work to do.

      Partly because I've been pissed. You and the whole "ogc defends Giants" meme was fine when it was just you doing it, but now you got DrB repeating that.

      I've explained myself already, many times. As my handle notes, I'm obsessive and compulsive. I can't help it that nobody defends Sabean and write sometime I don't agree with. If you don't agree with me, say so. Don't marginalize me with all that "defend Sabean" "defend Giants to the end" crap. I don't appreciate it.

      I've already admited that I was wrong to use his record of trades as support the trade of Wheeler already on DrB's site. Do I have to post a mea culpa or something? I am just not impressed by Wheeler's stats in the minors, I don't dismiss that DrB is immensely impressed by this guy's stuff, but Wheeler would not be the first guy who cannot translate that great stuff to the majors, nor would he be the last.

      And if I truly, more importantly logically, believe that the Giants can do no wrong, would I advocate to replace the ownership? Wouldn't I agitate for a long term contract for Sabean like Beane just recently got with the A's? Or suggest that ownership give him a percentage ownership like the deal Beane got from the A's? Why would I be happy with just the pick-up of the option the Giants had with Sabean? Wouldn't I want them to sign him to a much longer contract? Do I really have to go through the history of Sabean transactions and discuss each deal from my viewpoint to prove that I don't agree with everything?

      I have been more than happy the extensions have been for two years. I've not complained once about that length. I like what he's done, but I think he needs to still prove himself, though I will admit that I've been leaning more and more towards wanting to give him a longer deal.

      But this time is a critical period of transition. He still needs to navigate it safely to get my approval of his performance. I won't be happy with his performance unless our core is signed up into the second half of the 2010's.

      I still believe the Giants can be the team of the 2010's. They have the talent and ability to do it. Sabean just needs to not blow it (as well as ownership). I won't be satisfied with anything less.

      I want to see A's fans muttering about all the World Series trophies the Giants now have. I want to see Dodger fans bleeding orange and black in envy over how good the Giants are.

      But for now, I'm just pissed. I don't agree with the Giants or Sabean no matter what. If they suck, they suck, I've been dong that for 40 years now. If I can't agree with the logic, I will speak up, plain and simple, I can't help it if nobody is out there spouting Pollyanna about Sabean or the Giants.

      All will be (mostly) forgiven if the big news you are referring to is Cain signing a nice long extension, MadBum signing a nice long extension, Posey signing a nice long extension. Those are extensions I've been advocating. Those would put me in a better mood.

      Delete
    2. Spoken like a gentleman. Listen, I can be a troublemaker. I'll knock off the OGC defends all (false) meme. You know I'm just having a bit of fun and not trying to insult you right?

      There are some aspects to the Wheeler trade that stand out to me - Sabean calling him a RP was odd. If they thought he had Cain or MadBum's ceiling I really don't think they make that trade. So while I'm hedging a little by saying it'll get put to the test, I don't think its going to be the monday morning disaster everybody says. So no, you don't have to post a mea culpa. Didn't realize you were upset about it.

      Extensions are what I was referring to. Let's see how good it gets.

      And if you want a little bit of cheering, somebody on MCC dug this up:
      http://www.minorleagueball.com/2008/7/5/564251/tim-alderson-or-madison-bu
      OGC wuz right.

      Cheer up, we got Posey catching 2 innings today and a Matt Cain start. Life should be pretty good today.

      Delete
    3. Think I accidentally deleted. I'll stop being a joker with the false defend all meme.

      I am hedging but the main thing that sticks out is if the Giants thought Wheeler was as good as MadBum and Cain I doubt they make the trade. That's the bottom line.

      And... Yes, hoping for some good news today on the Cain front and would love some extra MadBum lockup news.

      Delete
    4. yes, you did delete by accident, here it is:

      Spoken like a gentleman. Listen, I can be a troublemaker. I'll knock off the OGC defends all (false) meme. You know I'm just having a bit of fun and not trying to insult you right?

      There are some aspects to the Wheeler trade that stand out to me - Sabean calling him a RP was odd. If they thought he had Cain or MadBum's ceiling I really don't think they make that trade. So while I'm hedging a little by saying it'll get put to the test, I don't think its going to be the monday morning disaster everybody says. So no, you don't have to post a mea culpa. Didn't realize you were upset about it.

      Extensions are what I was referring to. Let's see how good it gets.

      And if you want a little bit of cheering, somebody on MCC dug this up:
      http://www.minorleagueball.com/2008/7/5/564251/tim-alderson-or-madison-bu
      OGC wuz right.

      Cheer up, we got Posey catching 2 innings today and a Matt Cain start. Life should be pretty good today.

      Delete
    5. I had no problem with you doing it, I know you were being playful and a bit of a aggitator. But when DrB used that, well, I know he's being serious and I was upset by that.

      I saw the tweet about dual extensions. Very excited over that, pitching is our core. Thanks, much appreciated.

      Delete
  11. So no news on the Cain/MadBum. We're ticking away here... I predicted the 15th. Getting nervous.

    Here's the Tom House goods on Zito, from Schulman:
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/03/10/SPTD1NJ0FK.DTL

    Pretty interesting to me. If House can get Zito's head on to not give up and then give it up to hitters, that could change things considerably.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the link. Very interesting to me too, though I would have said basically the same as House, the MLB seems to love crafty lefties like Zito, as long as he does not expect a megadeal again, he should last into his forties too, like Moyer. He has been very durable when not in a major car accident.

      And yeah, if House can change his approach, that would change things.

      Bumgarner has already been announced as signed, though that could change once multiyear deal is signed. I will be nervous on Cain with a week to opening day.

      Delete

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