Friday, September 11, 2015

Thoughts on Championships and Dynasties

Saw a column on Fox Sports, about how the season teaches us nothing, about how the season don't matter much anymore, how the best team no longer wins the World Series championship, about how there's no dynasties anymore, and I just couldn't let it go without comment.  My comment is below, unchanged, other than that size limits forced me to break it up into, like, five comments, plus I put in what seems to be the right breakpoint for a header.
ogc thoughts

Speaking as a saber and as someone who loves baseball history, maybe the season is speaking but people aren't listening.

"That Oakland team the Royals beat in that first game outscored Kansas City by 78 runs and allowed 52 fewer runs during the regular season, but the playoffs didn'€™t care about that." This was as true now as it was 100 years ago. Except 100 years ago, you just have the one playoff series, the World Series. And I'm sure if you go through them all, you will find similar "anomalies".

Playoff Team Is Not the Team Who Won in the Season

It is not just different schedules and injuries, it is the composition of the team when the two teams finally meet in the playoffs: the composite team represented by the season is much different from the one playing in the playoffs. For example, in 2012, analysts raved about how much better the Reds bullpen was than the Giants. Because, duh, the bullpen stats for the Giants were worse the Reds by a lot, the Reds were superlative. Only, the Giants didn't, couldn't bring every reliever they had that season, they brought the ones who were the best that they had when the playoffs began, and guess what? Their collective ERA was basically the same as the Reds. Or if a team loses someone right at the last moment, like the A’s did when Reggie Jackson scored the winning run but injuring himself in the process, taking him out of the World Series.

So there are a lot of reasons why the regular season results do not match up with the playoffs. The fact is, as much as it annoys people, it has been agreed upon since the World Series began that the best team is the one who wins the World Series. Sure, maybe the better team on paper lost, but as any of us who have played the game, even just in elementary school, we know that some people rise to the occasion more than other people. The best team by stats has not always won (heck, I’ll bet that often enough, the best team by run differential isn’t even in the playoffs prior to divisional playoffs) so why that’s a problem today when it has been true for all our lives is beyond me.

Maybe Billy Beane is Doing the Wrong Things

And I find that too many sabers are under the thrall of Billy Beane. His "stuff" don't work in the playoffs, but has anyone ever looked into why? Actually, some have, both BP and Fangraphs.

Both did studies, taking different angles at how teams win in today’s playoffs. Using different methodologies, they came to the same conclusion: pitching and defense matters, hitting does not, even HR hitting strikes out as a significant factor. In 18 seasons as GM, only selected SP with 5 of his first picks, in the first round. Counting all actual first round picks (does not include supplemental, which is not really similar enough to be lumped together), he selected SP with 8 out of 22 picks (and thus 14 position players).

BP went even further with their study. They found what they considered to be key metrics to capture regarding successful teams: K/9 for pitching staff (i.e. SP and RP), strong closer (their metric is WXRL), and strong fielding (FRAA or Fielding Runs Above Average). When they compiled and ranked all the playoff teams, the teams strong across the board relative to history not only did well, but 9 of the top 10 made the World Series, and 8 of 10 won (the ninth lost to one of the Top 10’s).

Secret Sauce Does Work

And even BP (heck the author of the study himself!) did not understand how to apply their findings. They started a column called “Secret Sauce” comparing the teams by their K/9, WXRL, and FRAA. Unfortunately for them, it just didn’t work for them, and they had egg on their face, and wrote it off as saying that the playoffs have changed.

What they forgot is that the secret sauce works against where the teams ranked in history, not how they compare to each other. Team A might have better numbers across the three categories than Team B, only to lose to Team B. However, what they forgot to look at is if Team A ranks 80th out of 150 and Team B ranks 100th out of 150, they probably have roughly equal odds of going deeper in the playoffs. They should have broken up the historic record of playoffs teams, using these metrics and how they ranked, and grouped them together based on how the teams did in the playoffs. Clearly, if you are a Top 10 ranked team in the history of divisional playoffs, you mostly like not only make the playoffs, but you win it (as the Giants did in 2010). But maybe the next grouping down only makes the World Series, but only wins about half the time. Then the next group gets to the World Series, but rarely wins. Then those who only make it to the Championship Series, and mostly lose there. And so on.

Quality Starts is a Key Metric for Differentiation

My study of Baseball Forecaster’s version of Quality Starts (which they named Pure Quality Starts, as it uses saber rules for rating each start as a dominant, or good (DOM), start vs. disaster, or bad (DIS), start) has led me to conclude that there is a way to maximize your chances in the playoffs: get SP who can throw QS most of the time. They also forgot to name the in-between starts (which I’ve been calling MID for middle starts), as it turns out that those starts still keeps your team in the game. Ideally, you want a SP who can avoid the Disaster starts while throwing Dominant (or quality) starts.

I know that this is so obvious that if you have a very good pitcher, you are more likely to win a game than if you don’t. What most people don’t realize is that if your pitcher throws a quality start while the other pitcher doesn’t, your team wins around 70-80% of the time. Not a slam dunk, but as close as you can get in the majors.

The next step in realization that most people don’t get is that a team could then strive to compile a staff that can deliver quality starts in the playoffs. The Giants did that with Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner in 2010, the Phillies did that via trades in 2011, and we know that the Giants did win, while the Phillies did lose.

There are tricky parts to the equation of success. One is getting your SP to be comfortable enough to perform in the playoffs as well as he did during the regular season. The Giants were able to do that with their trio for the most part, but some players just falter in the playoffs, for whatever reasons.

Here are some examples I’m familiar with. Peavy has great QS stats in the season (75% QS/DOM in recent years), but he has yet to throw one DOM start in the playoffs after 9 career starts, 7.98 ERA. Hudson has been great during the regular season as well, but had only 38% QS/DOM in 13 starts and a high 23% DIS (elite under 10%, good under 20%). But because he was pulled fast out of the bad starts, he has a 3.69 ERA in the playoffs. Kershaw might be the best pitcher of this generation, but after 8 career playoff starts, he has a 4.98 ERA, 4 out of 8 DOM/QS or 50% (he is at 80%+ during the season), with 2 DIS starts or 25%, which is far too much for a pitcher of his ilk (he’s been consistently under 10% during regular season). But some of it is the small sample size, as Kershaw has DOM starts in 4 of his last 6, which is roughly what one would expect out of a perennial Cy Young contender.

Why Phillies Failed in 2011 In Spite of Quality Rotation

The Phillies did get quality starts from their starters in 2011, but, unfortunately, they were unable to win. As I noted above, quality usually wins, but if the other team is matching quality for quality, and get a little luck where they beat the Phillies in spite of a poorer start, then the Phillies will lose. A quality start is no guarantee, it just greatly improves your odds.

It didn’t help that the Phillies didn’t have a great defense. They had 6 players with -7 DRS or worse (5 were -9 or worse), which suggests a pretty poor defensive team (-59 in total). That’s 6 losses bad! But per UZR, while not as bad as painted by DRS, per UZR, their defense cost the team roughly half a win.

And Madson, while a good closer and reliever, his WAR was only 10th in the majors. Plus, he was somewhat lucky that season, for while his ERA was a sterling 2.37, his xFIP was 2.94, so while he was good, he was also lucky with the homers that should have been given up. And by WPA, he was 17th in the majors. And it was a career year for him, he never had any season close to as good as he was that season.

Beane Disdain for Secret Sauce is His Weakness

Beane, even though he seems to be king of the Sabers, does not believe in strikeouts. His teams are consistently in the middle of the AL in K/9. He also has never believed in closers, he believes that relievers can be easily replaced (fungible), which is a saber rule that I think will disappear over time, because that’s just not true.

For, if they can be easily replaced, then why don’t every team have a super great bullpen? That’s what that rule implies, ultimately. I think confirmation bias affects the thinking behind this rule, people see teams bring up a new closer who succeeds, and think that it is easy to replace relievers, even closers, but they forget about all the failures along the way before your team finds that good reliever, for by then, their window to win that season is over.

The only thing Beane has picked up on is putting together strong fielding teams. I see the A’s regularly now in recent seasons among the leaders in fieldings, using the advanced metrics available. Though his team this year has returned to being bad, they have a -32 UZR, which means that their defense cost them 3 wins. Still, recent years have been good. But defense can’t save you from a well struck ball going into the field of play as well as a strikeout or a really good closer that you can rely on.

Maybe It's Simply The Best Team for the Moment

So, like it or not, the team ending up winning it all is the best for that moment of time, as that team might be better than their seasonal team, or the other team is worse than their seasonal team, or both. It's fine if you think that the winner is not the best team, and I'm sure people can find all sorts of statistics to back that up. But nobody has come up with THE formula yet that encapsulates everything that baseball is, so as far as I'm concerned, this is the 6 blind men describing the elephant parable.

Championships is Not Luck

And I think it's pretty sad if anyone thinks that winning a championship is just a matter of luck, with no skill involved. Because, ultimately, that means you think that winning any particular game is simply luck. Is it luck when Kershaw or Bumgarner throws a great game? Or Posey drives in some runs? Is that just luck?

Then why watch games? Why invest anything into following your team? Just go to your bedroom and play Yahtzee, that's basically the same thing, luck happening over and over, if that's what you really believe.

The Giants Are a Dynasty

And people keep on saying that there is no dynasties anymore. The Giants have won 3 in 5 seasons, something that hasn’t been done in 60 years. They might have gotten three in the row in 2011, except that Posey was took out by a hit that is outlawed by the NFL, for, in spite of losing him, they were still battling for the playoffs into August even with two catchers who couldn’t hit as well. And the Giants were 34-17 with Pence starting this season, so I'm sure had he not had his arm broken by a nothing prospect in a nothing spring game, the Giants would still be battling right now, close to LA.

Furthermore, they had 8 key contributors who were the same on the 2010 and 2014 Championships. The Yankees, who won 4 in 5 seasons, also repeated 8 key contributors between 1996 and 2000. So how is the Giants not a dynasty?

15 comments:

  1. I'm not sure Beane is doing anything "wrong". It's just that the regular season favors depth, while the postseason favors quality. The A's don't have the money to acquire and keep the high-priced quality guys, so Beane made his name by being the first to identify certain type of players to give the A's better-than-their-budget depth.

    It worked. They took a low-end payroll and crafted a perennial playoff team. But when a single Verlander can win 2 games in a 5 game series and only the other guys have one, you're going to have a hard time.

    As for the Giants, their 2010 team won mainly on SP quality. I remember being very confident in each series because our 4th pitcher was Bumgarner and everyone else's 4th guy was Cy Yuck. Even the vaunted Phillies rotation couldn't match up and we dominated the game 4s.

    2012 was kind of a crazy outlier (at least -I- still can't figure out how we won), but 2014 we won again based on primarily one guy. They had to win 12 games, and when one guy can win 6 of them, you only have to play .500 in the rest to win a WS.

    So the season and playoffs have always favored a different kind of "best team". This year, the Giants probably once again have a team that could do quite well in the playoffs, with an ace and a lot of talent in the important roles. But our SP depth was terrible this year, so we're probably not going to find out.

    Side note: the season and playoffs also each favor different kinds of managers. The season favors guys who can keep teams' spirits up (like Dusty, a -great- regular season manager). The playoffs favor guys who can strategize well (unlike Dusty, a -terrible- postseason manager). Boche's greatness stems from being excellent in both roles.

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    1. What he's been doing wrong is he's been focused on things other than that which would help him do better in the playoffs.

      The Giants, understanding that pitching is what helps in the season as well as the playoffs (see 2010 for the extreme version of that), has used almost every first pick on a SP, while Beane has picked mainly position players, and, in particular in recent years, heavily on position players than SP.

      He's also hasn't really focused on developing closers (or guys who could be closers). Him DFAing Casilla right when he was figuring things out is a sign of his difficulties in figuring things out with the bullpen.

      About the pitching, I covered basically what you describe in my business plan link.

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    2. Sorry, had to go to bed, so I didn't complete my last thought. My plan, linked to the side, covers how pitching is key to winning even when the offense isn't good, furthermore, it's more efficient, requiring less runs to win the same number of games when your SP is great.

      That's why, when I was at one Giants watering hole, when people asked me if it was time to trade SP for hitting, in 2009, I said no, you want to dominate in the 4-starter environment in the playoffs, with at least 3 good starters, so we should keep Sanchez.

      2012 was crazy, wasn't it? I think that is where sabermetrics fails to capture the human element. They kind of just willed it, and I credit Pence for inspiring the team to keep going, to achieving more, to play one more game together. For the most part, it was a true team effort, all in together.

      Though, I would give Zito significant credit. He had that horrible first start, but given his WHIP, amazing he didn't give up more runs than 2, he was wild and he was BABIPed, but he struck our a lot too, so it was probably adrenaline. Then he shut out the Cards with a dominant start when our backs was against the wall, to start that rally. Then he shut down the vaunted Tigers against their ace Verlander, talk about David vs. the Goliath!

      I would also add in Vogelsong as well, sharing the same credit as Zito. Giants were 4-0 in his starts. And he pitched well in all four starts to enable that. Cain and Bumgarner faltered, but Zito and Vogelsong, for the most part, didn't.

      Then you got all the relievers, Romo, Affeldt, Casilla, Lopez, didn't give up one run in these playoffs, continuing their string of appearances without giving up a run in the playoffs.

      2014 was definitely the year of Bumgarner, but even he failed in the first series, the only loss we had with him in the playoffs (and off his error, of all things!). Saying we had to win .500 simplifies things (and great comment) but I would add Hudson up there as strong supporting deputy, we don't get all the way to the World Series without his good pitching in the NL series. Because both Peavy and Vogelsong were coin flips.

      Bochy's greatness are in those areas, agreed. I would also add his ability to win in one-run games over his career (this is a horrible year, however) plus his ability to get more out of his hitters (study showed that hitters joining his team outperformed expectations/projections by one win per season on average).

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    3. Yeah, Zito was huge in 2012. It was great after all of his rough times, to see him go out a hero. And I can't imagine any other city where he wouldn't have been booed for years before his triumph (I still remember Phillies fans booing Pat Burrel in a game where he struck out... the at-bat after he hit the eventual game-winning grand slam. Ugh, philadelphia. :) ). That made the cheers feel more genuine and earned.

      But yeah, I wouldn't try to replicate 2012's formula. It'd probably lead to a lot of firings. :)

      I wouldn't try to replicate 2014 either, though. It took an all-time historic performance to win a 7-game WS, and I wouldn't bet that even Bum could replicate that.

      Which just leaves 2010... a team with 3 excellent starters (I wouldn't include Sanchez since he did melt down in the playoffs), and a mediocre hitting team. So yeah, I agree... it seems obvious, but SP and especially having 3 dominant starters is the key to predictable and sustained excllence. Easier said than done, of course!

      As for Boche, there seem to be a lot of very good regular-season managers. If Boche were just one of them, we'd still be waiting on a championship - and likely have 3 more crushing playoff loss stories to moan about over beer.

      Watching "the other team's manager" screw up in nearly every series has been my favorite part of this entire run, I'm sure due mainly to PDSD (Post Dusty Stress Disorder).

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    4. Yeah, I suffered from PDSD as well! I agree, Bochy seems to know when to turn things up a notch, in terms of how he manages the team.

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    5. And just as importantly, when NOT to! :)

      I still see him pulling Russ Ortiz in game 6 w/ a shutout... "NOOOO! Dusty, you NEVER pull a pitcher before he's thrown 160 pitches! Why now?!?!"

      Deep breath... The world championships... Ahhh, much better. :)

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    6. Yeah, I felt the same way when I was listening to that game, and even more so later when I learned that Nen was basically armless during that series, because of his rotator cuff injury that would end his career.

      Yes, much better now, I don't cringe anymore thinking of that series, but I'll never forget all the things I hated about Dusty about that series.

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  2. I don't know that Beane really can do what you're suggesting though. They had a run of strong pitchers a while back, still didn't win, and couldn't keep them.

    The A's have to draft based on trade value, while the Giants can draft based on value to their own team. They're playing two totally different games.

    As for closers, I completely agree with Beane there. The closer role is detrimental to winning baseball games. Your best relievers should be leveraged for the most important moment of a game, in as many games as possible. Only using your best reliever in the 9th inning when ahead does not do that.

    But yeah, w/o a doubt the A's screwed up on Casilla. Then again, I know quite a few Giants fans that would've cut him dozens of times by now, just because he's not peak-Eckersley. :)

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    1. Then that's Beane's problem right there, he should always be trading for playoff value, not trade value. And it's not like he's been all that successful creating trade value with what he's been doing.

      And, really, he should be doing what the Giants been doing. As by analysis showed in my business plan, teams with dominant pitching staffs (SP and RP) that keep the RA among tops in majors allows the team to win with offense that's not all that good relatively in the league. The offense can be below average and still win 90+ games with great pitching/fielding. That's a low revenue team's formula for winning in the season and the playoffs.

      They had strong pitchers, but not dominant, strikeout pitchers. So their strong pitching was like Fool's Gold, making you think you got a strong competitive team, when you don't.

      And that's also where Beane fails in the bullpen too. The closer role is not detrimental to winning baseball games. Putting your best reliever as the closer AND used only to get outs in the 9th is detrimental to winning baseball games. Affeldt has been arguably one of the Giants best relief pitchers, yet rarely was used as closer, because Bochy preferred using him in the key leverage situations that pop up in the 7th and 8th. Bochy also used Wilson often to get outs in the 8th as well as the 9th. He had multiple closers, and was able to swap them in and out in accordance with the situation.

      But Beane hews to the saber rule that relievers are fungible, and that reduces the potential for his bullpens to be the closer when the A's need it, whether 7th, 8th or 9th inning. If you listen to the Giants relievers talk, they treat themselves as the closer for the 7th, 8th or 9th, whatever their role is. Bochy has them all thinking that way, so that when one fail, he can easily bring in another without killing someone's ego/confidence. The Giants Core 4 could probably be closers for other teams.

      Well, luckily the Giants don't listen to the fans. If they did, Sabean would have been fired a dozen years ago, Bochy would never been hired, Bumgarner would not have been drafted, neither would Posey (Smoak on the water!), Cain and Dirty would have been traded long before they play significant playoff roles for us, Lincecum would have been traded for Rios, Huff and Burrell would never have been signed, and so on.

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    2. I agree with most of what you're writing, I'm just not sure it all applies to a team with half the money to spend (86m less).

      Keeping 4 excellent relievers around has been huge for the Giants, but the A's can't pay 4 excellent relievers. It's hard to judge how a guy plays his hand when he's got half the cards. I give him credit for putting together teams that consistently compete.

      I never did get the hate for Sabean. His only true gaffe was the Perzynski trade (to this day, if my cat does something awful, she gets called Perzynski). I figured Sabean was on his last breath when Boche arrived, which seemed fair. Before that, I always wondered what Wonderboy-GM people thought was going to replace him.

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    3. My business plan covers all the research I've found or developed myself with regards to putting together a team built to win in both the regular season as well as the playoffs. It also discusses how a team (and this applies in particular to low revenue teams) would go about burning down their old team and rebuilding to turn around the franchise back to a playoff team (what I call the Phoenix method, because you burn down the team completely in order for a playoff team to be reborn).

      The A's have actually been implementing parts of the strategy, burning down the team some, but he shoots the team in the foot too many times, losing young players like Ethier, CarGon, Tyson Ross, Addison Russell, who contributes substantially to the majors literally the next season.

      One of the beauties of Sabean is that keeps his potential keepers and let go of the guys that his group don't think too much of, his infamous "Do Not Trade" list of prospects. He's been pretty successful in implementing that strategy, worse losses in trade of prospects have been Foulke, Howry, Villanueva, Liriano, Wheeler, nobody who ended up a star you wished you had kept.

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    4. In the whole, I think the plan works for most teams because I drew from examples in the past of teams who burned things down and then rebuilt. The A's have a long history of this back to Connie Mack times, to Charles O. Finley, to the recent Alderson-Beane period. Only Beane has been unsuccessful in doing this maneuver, Mack, Finley, and Alderson were able to win championships with this move. The Marlins have done this numerous times, and won two championships. The Braves did it with Bobby Cox as GM, then once he assembled the players as GM, he made himself manager and had that long great run with them, though only one championship.

      And there are plenty of examples of failures doing this move, not just Beane. The problem, I've diagnosed, is that they don't go all in with their burn down. Beane has been trying to stay semi-competitive while selling off valuable players, which keeps their draft picks comfortably away from the Top 5. And you need that type of picks to be successful with this method (and the Giants somehow did it with two #10 picks with Lincecum and Bumgarner).

      You also need to have a good eye for talent selection as well. The Rays, Pirates, Orioles, and Royals could have also drafted Lincecum, Bumgarner, Posey, but they all passed on them. They also had many years of Top 5 picks and got nowhere until things finally clicked. The Nats (and that seems to be a key recent link, any organization with strong ties to Expos of the 90's, Marlins, Nats, Dombrowski), meanwhile, scorched the earth to pick up Strasburg and Harper, then also got Zimmerman.

      It's not an easy plan, nor panacea, I'll admit freely, but the A's have pissed off their fans more often than not, much like the Marlins, so my best guess is that Beane is trying to win one while their very elderly owner is still around.

      So I think this is a plan that poor or mid-level teams can pull off. Particularly since Wolff has been pocketing $20M+ each season from the revenue sharing, they don't need to operate at that payroll level, they could be signing a couple of their key players to long term contracts, and filling in the rest as poorer teams do, with smart trades and savvy FA signings.

      I mean, I don't follow the A's much, but where are their Blanco, Huff, Torres, Casilla, Strickland, Petit pickups that deliver cheap but good value? Why do their trades seem to blow up, like it did last season with Shark, Hammel, Lester, and not add to the team like Ross, Franchez, Scutaro, Pence, Peavy? Giants don't succeed in every trade (Beltran, Leake injuries, Gorko, Cabrera, etc.), but where are Billy's successes? These moves that were key to Giants championships were moves a cheap franchise should be doing.

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    5. I've strongly suspected for a long while that the Pierzynski trade was made by Colletti, not Sabean. At that time, Ned was making the interview circuit and raving about how Sabean lets his lieutenants color across the lines, doing duties that were beyond what they normally did, and be more like a GM, things like trades.

      I didn't think much of that until Magowan made a weird statement at some point afterward regarding the trade. He said that had the trade been brought to him, he would have vetoed it and it would have never happened. Well, one would think that Sabean would know, by then, which trades to bring by Magawan and which not to bring by. But Colletti wouldn't know.

      But this is just my windmill I'm charging at, I have no proof. But I'm patient, I also thought that the Zito and Rowand signings were not Sabean-led, and eventually Baggarly reported that the Zito signing was a Magowan pursued deal and recently Ratto noted that Rowand was a Magowan special as well.

      That's why I don't think that Sabean was on his last legs when Bochy was hired. If he were on his last legs, I think that when they replaced Magowan as owner, they would have went ahead and fired Sabean as well and let the new owner pick a new GM. Would seem the prudent thing to do if he's truly on his last legs, baseball does that sort of thing, clean out everything at the same time, if it needs changing.

      Yeah, that's another thing I wondered too, if not Sabean, then who was better? My best guess was that since many of them were in love with Beane, that taking away one of his top lieutenants would be the move they would suggest, which is basically what the Dodgers did, hiring away Farhan.

      And it still amazes me at the vitriol I see still today, snarking at how Sabean is missing this or missing that, and the Cain Haters have raised their heads above ground, joining them in a joint Cain/Sabean bashing.

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    6. See, as a fan, I hate the "All in, then burn it down" strategy the Marlins have used. To me, it's not worth a decade of abysmal teams to take one great shot at a title. I prefer the A's method of providing a team worth rooting for nearly every year. If that reduces the chances of a title somewhat, so be it.

      Of course, with a tiny bit of luck, or a tiny bit smarter players, the A's could have had both. They blew multiple series not due to lacking talent, but because guys like Tejada and Byrnes made boneheaded plays (both got tagged out because they stopped to complain instead of touching home plate), or because guys like Jeter made incredibly lucky plays (on the Giambi play he was totally out of position and would cause a two-base error more often than help).

      So multiple times the A's were one play away from a series win against the eventual world series team. To me, the best chance to win a WS is to make the playoffs as often as possible, because the playoffs are in large part a crapshoot.

      And the Marlins tried that "Phoenix" strategy again recently, only to have it implode with no title and no team left to show for it. It's high-stakes gambling, I just can't imagine being a Marlins fan, knowing the team will only be worth watching once a decade.

      Championships are great, but baseball is first and foremost entertainment, and I want my team to be entertaining every year! :)

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    7. Yeah, and it's possible to effect the turnaround without burning down the team, Sabean did it with this turnaround that I rarely see done by other teams (he also turned around a badly losing team when he took over as GM, also something I've not seen any other GM do).

      But for the majority of examples I've seen, it's kind of like ripping the bandage off vs. slowly removing it. Burning down the team gets the young talent in, both via the trades as well as the great draft pick position you get (like the Nats did).

      I applaud Beane for effecting this last round of competitiveness, but he was pretty lucky with Cespedes being as good as he was, Cubans were pretty much money pits before that, really. Plus you don't find Donaldson's on the cheap all the time.

      And trying to be competitive without burning it down leads to what happened to the Giants in the 70's and 80's until Humm Baby and Rosen came around: mediocrity and malaise. Because it's hard as heck to draft good players while you are good or even mediocre, and it is exponentially better to draft Top 5 vs. in the teens where mediocre teams fall vs. the 20's where playoff contenders fall.

      Of course, as a fan, you don't want to view or experience that, but the Giants in the 70's and 80's, or Rays, Orioles, Royals, and Pirates in the 2000's, shows what happens when you can't find a good player via the draft, sure you might be competitive some, as the Giants were sometimes in the 70's and 80's, and the A's recently, but do you want to be competitive or do you want to win it all?

      If Beane is just happy being competitive, then he should stop talking about how his stuff don't work in the playoffs, and accept that his stuff would never work in the playoffs and that's OK because he's happy just being competitive.

      The A's might have been one play away from a series win against the eventual WS team, but that don't mean that they were going to beat the team in the next playoff round either.

      The Phoenix move don't always work (Marlins is best example, but also the A's after Finley sold off Blue and others), but the point is not that this is a foolproof way of doing it, but a way to shorten the pain after being competitive, the Giants of the 70's and 80's could have been better, faster, if they had just tore it all down at some point, instead of bleeding a little at a time. Like they could have gotten their Will "the Thrill" impact player a decade earlier once they traded off Bobby Bonds, for example, by trading off all the good players and building a pool of prospects to get that next generation player. It is 4 times easier being a Top 5 pick than a contender, 2 times easier than when you are a mediocre team, neither bad nor good (based on the data in my draft study).

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