"The work's never done. There are too many ways to try to find ways to protect your team over a long season." -- Evansogc thoughts
That has been one of the things I've been harping on the past few years about Sabean and the Giants, about how they practice risk mitigation. In Sabean's interviews, you would hear the terms "flexibility" or "versatility" but Evans' quote comes closest to what I've been saying, about finding "ways to protect your team over a long season." That is risk mitigation.
The signings of Uribe and DeRosa and, heck, back to the trade for Winn, represents the first strong signs of doing that, during that period. After all the issues with Alfonzo, Durham, Benitez, the Giants have focused more of their free agent signings on the lower tiers on risk mitigation, that is, the flexibility to not have a season go to pot from a starter going down.
Of course, there is really nothing you can do if one of your star hitters like Posey or Sandoval, go down. But for the rest of the team, if you have a good infield utility player and one good outfield utility player, your team can stay afloat in the pennant race should somebody either go down or just is not performing on the field, like most teams run into with prospects.
DeRosa was the ultimate version of that, but I'll start with Winn first since he was one of those first flexible players. He was and is a tweener, not really good enough defensively in CF but not really good enough offensively on the corners, but basically an average player no matter which OF position you put him at. So, depending on who is hitting and who is not hitting or not available, Winn was able to play all three OF positions adequately to good, as well as hit adequately. Roberts was a little like that too, only he was never healthy long enough to do that job for us.
DeRosa was never healthy enough, but he was the ultimate in utility when we got him. He was really a platoon hitter, killed LHP, but did OK vs. RHP, good enough to play almost regularly, nearly 150 games per season. However, he was great defensively at many positions, 2B, 3B, LF, RF, and could play SS in a pinch (started out as a pro there) and could play 1B probably OK as well. He would have been great for us if he had only gone to the expert to get his wrist fixed instead of being lazy and going to the local doctor, who screwed it up.
Last season, Theriot and Arias helped keep things on an even keel while Franchez was out and Sandoval was DLed, while Blanco did likewise in the OF, doing OK enough while starting. On the previous World Champion team, Uribe and Torres did it for the Giants, even Renteria too, though he was originally hired to be the starting SS but was just injured all the time.
They did the same in the bullpen too. Many Giants fans groaned over the signing of both Lopez and Affedlt to large (for bullpen) contracts prior to the 2012 season. But they proved to be good backup once Wilson came up lame. I didn't see any of these Naysayers apologizing when Affeldt flew through the 2012 playoffs with 10.1 IP, giving only 5 hits and 3 walks, striking out 10 and allowing zero runs. Lopez wasn't used as much, but he was helpful too, 3.0 IP, giving up 0 hits and 2 walks, striking out 4 and allowing no runs too. Given that he only pitched in the two key series against Cincinnati and St. Louis (wasn't used in World Series), where a run could have tipped the series to the other side, that was critical pitching. He helped win two of the games in the Reds series, and three of the games in the St. Louis series.
And both served as closers during the regular season as well. In fact, who didn't serve? Six different players recorded saves in 2012: Casilla (25), Romo (14), Lopez (7), Affeldt (3), even Hensley (3), plus Wilson (1). Pitchers were swapping in and out, pitching setup, pitching closer. Also the middle relievers got to pitch setup as well.
And who is the ace of the rotation? The season started out with Lincecum taking the pole position. Cain got the home opener. Bumgarner ended up opening the second half of the season after the All-Star game. Cain got the first game of the NLDS. Bumgarner got the first game of the NLCS. And Zito got the World Series first start. And while Vogelsong didn't get one of these ace first starts, he pitched like the ace of the playoffs, coming in and shutting down the opposition when the Giants were at the brink of losing. He had only a 1.09 ERA in 4 starts, 24.2 IP, with 16 hits and 10 walks, striking out 21 and allowing only 3 runs.
And don't forget, Vogelsong was the guy who came up in 2011 and not only held the fort in Zito's absence, but proved to be ace-like in performance. They also had Petit in 2012 and Hacker in 2010 and 2011 did well for us in AAA. He just resigned with us, at age 30. The Giants add these guys to hang around in the minors, just in case they were needed.
Blanco, Arias, Loux, Machi, Petit and Vogelsong started the season off in AAA, waiting for the call to the major leagues, insurance players that the Giants stashed in AAA, just in case a starter goes down. That is risk mitigation. And where would we have been if we did not have Theriot, who hit very well after returning from the DL, around .340 OBP, in the two spot, until Scutaro came over, capable of playing 2B and SS, and manning 3B until Sandoval returned, then took over the starting 2B spot and never let go.
Risk mitigation, as the Giants and Sabean has done it, is by having versatile utility players who were comfortable serving many different roles on the team, as the need arose. Need a starting 2B? Bam! Theriot slotted in, and did well there until Scutaro was acquired and held the job. Need a starting 3B? Bam! Arias started there, then Scutaro later. Need a closer? Bam! Casilla, then closer by committee (Romo, Lopez, Affeldt), then Romo in the playoffs. The Giants have been playing the risk mitigation game well over the past four seasons.
2013 Giants Risk Mitigation
Bringing back the whole team, also, the same players look to fill the risk mitigation roles. Blanco looks like the LF right now, but should a Huff-like deal open up in LF just before spring training starts, don't be surprised if the Giants jump on a nice RH bat to platoon with Blanco or even start in LF. And Torres is currently on the market. Francisco Peguero also looks like he could fill the Blanco role in 2013, he plays all three OF positions, looks like he can hit anywhere (like Pablo), has great speed and defense, and even has a RH bat.
The scuttlebutt is that Ryan Theriot is interested in returning and the Giants are interested in him returning as well. Meanwhile, we still have Joaquin Arias sitting around, ready to fill in, and Nick Noonan has been prepared the last few years for such a role, having started at both 2B and SS in his climb up the farm system. He also played some 3B as well and probably could handle 1B in a pinch if necessary.
Of course, the bullpen is pretty set, with Romo, Affeldt, Lopez, Casilla, Kontos, and Mijares. We have the same closer by committee set up for 2013, as the Giants are said to be looking to manage Romo's arm to survive the season and be ready for the playoffs. The key here was the signing of Affeldt to another contract.
The Giants generally likes to let one position be open for competition, so that 7th spot could be where the compete is in 2013, though rumors has it that they were in on Grilli until he chose to return to the Pirates for two years, since nobody would go three years on him. He has had a Vogelsong-like resurrection, though he was never as buried or unused as Vogie. Still, if they were looking hard at Grilli, they might still pick up someone along the way and make Mijares' position the competition spot. Heath Hembree looks like he will be competing for a spot in the bullpen, and as our future closer du jour, if he should make the team, he could be seeing duty from the middle to set-up to closing, depending on how well he does.
And AAA will be full of potential starter replacements. Hacker has signed to return. In addition, Eric Surkamp should be healthy and starting in AAA. In addition, both Chris Heston and Mike Kickham look like they earned a promotion to AAA with their great pitching in AA in 2012. So there is a whole rotation full of starters who could get the call. And I'm not even sure whether Petit might return, he was good last season too. And don't forget, they could also come up as relievers too.