I've been seeing it lately and didn't feel the need to post on it, but then Hank Schulman tweeted about the attacks on Adrianza, and got attacked by a number of people, including some names I recognize, so I felt the need to opine.
This seems like the way fans work, at least Giants fans. The team isn't winning so they decide to find a sacrificial goat to roast on a spit and they usually pick on the 25th man and/or Sabean/Evans because the GM either should have had a better player for the team to turn to.Reality: No Pence/Panik, Posey slump, weak rotation, Duffy pressing. Twitter/talk radio: "ADRIANZA ADRIANZA ADRIANZA." #sfgiants— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) September 4, 2015
Teams Don't Lose With the 25th Guy
That's fallacy #1: the 25th guy isn't responsible for losing games. He's there filling a spot and trying his best to hit and field. Some are hitting specialists but the vast majority provides their value via defense. Adrianza is one of those defensive guys. You don't count on him hitting for much, and yes, he's hitting pretty poorly, but he's been a lot unlucky, as his contact rate is a good 85% even as he's not hitting that well in the past two weeks. As badly as people think he's been defensively, his seasonal defensive rate per advanced metrics has him at 2+ wins, which is elite, and he's better than any of the other guys in the system. Even this season, per WAR, he's cost us roughly one win OVER THE WHOLE SEASON. No he's not responsible for our losing streak.
If you look at the whole losing streak, we lost all those one run games, but mostly low scoring games. Why not give the starting pitchers the credit they deserve, instead of blaming your appointed goat?
- Wacha: 2.69 ERA
- Lynn: 2.80 ERA
- Garcia: 1.89 ERA
- Anderson: 3.43 ERA
- Greinke: 1.59 ERA
- Kershaw: 2.18 ERA
So yeah, Adrianza didn't hit, and he did pretty poorly, but it wasn't his fault the team was losing. It was many of our team's top hitters, it was some of our starting pitching, it was a collective face plant onto the ground, not all Adrianza's fault, like many clamored about with Hank.
Look at it this way: do we normally expect Adrianza to hit well and be a cog in our offense? No, as he's a backup guy and not expected to do well. Then why do we expect him to be anything else when he's just backing up a position. Sure, we could improve on him, but then we would risk losing him, and the Giants deemed losing him to be worse than not having a better backup offensively at SS. And their decisions on the roster has been pretty good in the aggregate in the past 7-8 years, no? No GM can cover for everything that can go wrong, the best you can do is risk mitigate with players like Blanco and Duffy.
Teams Can't Cover Every Position on the Field
And that's fallacy #2: that not having an adequate replacement is the GM's fault. Baseball is like most businesses: resource constrained. People react like the sky is falling when a backup fails, but you always need to account for the circumstances. The circumstances here is that the Giants covered for failures/injuries at RF, SP twice, 3B, 2B, RP, CF, LF, at various times, not at the same time, so perhaps one could understand that perhaps nobody can be perfect and cover for every position on the field.
And that is a fallacy that a lot of people don't get, the consequences of whatever it is that they are espousing. They are angry about the replacement for a starter. But no team can have an adequate replacement at every position on the field. You can cover a lot of them, but there is not enough talent to cover that many positions across the majors. Heck, there is so little talent that most teams benches are short, let alone every position on the field.
On top of that, teams can't store that type of talent in the minors unless it's prospects or AAAA players who they signed to minor league contracts. Only so much talent you can hide in the minors, as players with major league talents will not be happy toiling in the minors for you just in case you might need them at some point in the future. Fringe major leaguers can be stashed in AAA, like Ishikawa was last season or Sanchez this season, but most prospects who might (and that's a mighty big "might") be good enough to hit OK in the majors are generally already in the majors or just starting to show that in the minors, and the intersection of those two circumstances does not happen a lot for any team, including the Giants.
Look at any team in the majors and they are all suffering from the lack of talent in one area or another. Even the $300M Dodgers have been suffering problems with lack of talent (they have mostly been playing at or close to the .500 level for most of the season) at key positions. Right now, they could use another good starter and some more bullpen help. They might have come up big in the Giants series, but mostly they have been a let down. It happens. But even they need help that they were unable to cover via trades or internally.
It is just fans' unreasonable expectations that talent can be easily stashed somewhere to mine at some point later. That is why the trade deadline is a key time for contenders, because other teams become the supplier of the talents that you might need, and you need to stock your farm system well enough to entice other teams to give up their proven MLB vets to you in exchange for your bag of magic beans who might become MLB ballplayers.
The 25th Man is Never the Problem
So stop hating on Adrianza already, as he's not the problem. The problem is that losing makes for a surly fan and fans need someone to hate on to get through a bad losing patch. They see the problem disproportionately by focusing on someone who we should rarely be counting on to come up with the big hit (though that would be great if he did, but he's not ready for that yet; and may never be, that is why he is still a prospect, he would be in AAA learning his craft if it wasn't that he has no more options left, but has been good enough in AAA to be given the chance to see what he can do). The big hits should have been coming from Belt, Byrd, or Crawford, heck, even Posey, who while hitting beyond great (.478 BA last 7 days), only had a 42 ISO during that period too (that's Manny Burriss territory, it's that bad). Those are the guys who are suppose to be driving in the big runs, not Adrianza, who is still an unproven prospect with potential.
And the Giants can't cover every position. They have covered so many injuries and performance failures (or both) that they were still within 3.5 games late in August, but was just short during this last bad streak. But guys are healing and hopefully that will be enough to get a good streak going again (though this season it has taken Pence returning to get the team going like a Triple Crown horse instead of an alsoran).