Thursday, November 08, 2018

Dissecting LA Time's Zaidi Profile

As I mentioned in my post about the hiring of Farhan Zaidi, the LA Times biographical article by Andy McCullough is an essential read for understanding Zaidi, and what he might bring to the Giants.  I thought I would go further and pull out what I think are key bits of info that I think is applicable to him being the Giants leader.

ogc thoughts

As I noted, I'm pretty excited to have Farhan Zaidi as the Giants leader, and this article was what hooked me.  So I thought it would be good to go through everything said and and point out things that I found interesting.

Not sure what format to go with, so I think I'll do it kind of like when I go through a transcript and then add my "ogc comments" after it.
Outsiders often view Zaidi as a clinical, camera-shy cog in the Dodgers’ executive cadre. His colleagues see him as a wisecracking, idea-spewing agent of innovation. Alone in the dark, he considers himself a 40-year-old man exhausted by the cruelty of his profession. His office resides in the shadow of Hollywood, but each year his sport provides misery for every team but one.
ogc:  He is most definitely a wise cracker, he was very warm, self-deprecating, and humorous in his introductory press conference.
The pain reminds him why he is here, how his pursuit of happiness became intertwined with the pursuit of a championship. He forsook a lucrative career in business and risked disappointing his family to gamble on an entry-level job in sports. During a decade in Oakland’s front office, he matured from a book-taught quant into a well-rounded executive. He developed a loyalty so fierce he nearly turned down the offer from Los Angeles. 
ogc:  Nice encapsulation of his life's journey.
With the Dodgers, as the chief lieutenant of Andrew Friedman’s baseball operations department, he serves as a font of creativity. He piloted the negotiations for the acquisition of Rich Hill last summer. He helped foster the team’s ethos of flexibility, which is part of the reason the club is favored to win a fifth consecutive National League West title in 2017.
ogc:  As I noted in my other post, Sabean has been talking about flexibility with players for a long time, signing Mark DeRosa, who could play at least 4 positions at elite defensive abilities (too bad his wrist surgery made him unusable) and trading for Eduardo Nunez, who could play multiple positions.  Plus, had been rumored around Ben Zobrist for years.  But Zaidi seems to take it to another level, which I think is good, as I've been hoping Sabean would do more with this idea, but not as much as I had hoped.
“There are a lot of instances of him bringing something up that in the moment I think is crazy,” Friedman said. “And as it resonates more, I oftentimes will come around to the crazy thought.”
ogc:  The Giants wanted new ideas... And if they can survive the crazy idea of trading away Matt Williams for a bunch of nobodies, of making Lincecum a starting pitcher when conventional wisdom was that he was a reliever, at best, of benching Rowand for Torres, of leaving Zito off the playoff roster for 2010, of pitching a bunch of starting pitchers to win the 2010 NLCS, of making Lincecum a reliever in the 2012 playoffs, of carrying Petit as a long reliever culminating in a 6 IP relief outing in the 2014 Nat's series, of Bumgarner relieving and saving the 7th game of the 2014 World Series, maybe they can accept Farhan's crazy ideas.
Dodgers General Manager Farhan Zaidi played baseball in high school and cricket on family trips to Pakistan. An MIT graduate with a doctorate from UC Berkeley, he has helped foster an ethos of flexibility, away from rigid bullpen roles and fixed lineups. 
ogc:  Flexibility again, see above on DeRosa et al.  I love the idea of non-rigid bullpen roles.  That's what Andrew Miller espouses too, so I have to think that Zaidi would at least be kicking his tires to see if he'll come to SF.  Bochy never went fully for that concept, but he has asked his bullpens to take on the mentality that they are the closer of whatever inning that they are pitching in.

He had also kept his most trusted reliever, Affeldt (he was the only guy used in Game 7 to bridge to a less rested Bumgarner), out of the closer role, allowing him to utilize Affeldt at high leverage situations in the 6, 7, 8, just as saber-analyst have been saying for years now is the most effective usage of the bullpen, rather than saving your best reliever as the closer.  As much as I love Casilla and Romo, it would be hard to classify either as the best reliever on any of the teams from 2010 to 2014.  He blends saber tenets with the realities that he sees in managing baseball players.

Fixed lineups is something Bochy has always espoused, but he also platooned the heck out of the team, when he didn't have the personnel to start the same lineup, so I don' think that he'll have a problem with Zaidi's ideas. 

I think where Zaidi learns from the Giants is that many of the key hitters the Giants have built around or picked up - Posey, Belt, Crawford, Pence, Longoria, McCutchen - either were very balanced L/R or, if difference, hits well, period, vs. L or RHP.  The key feature with these types of hitters is that it don't really matter as much when the other team goes to platoon advantage, as it results in a very minor change in the Giants' hitters performance level (per OPS).   That removes a bullet from the other team's bullpen, while saving your team from having to PH and lose a bench player option, which is a bigger key, what with the expanded bullpens resulting in only 5 bench spots, and one spot gone for backup catcher.
Zaidi’s background defies convention. He never played beyond high school. He graduated from MIT and earned a doctorate in behavioral economics from the University of California, Berkeley. Born in Canada, raised in the Philippines, he descends from Pakistani stock.
ogc:  Just being a minority makes him defy conventions. The rest just makes it more so.  And, I must add:  Go Bears!
In the monochromatic field of baseball executives, Zaidi is the lone Muslim general manager. During a conversation over dinner this spring, he lacked interest in publicly debating the merits of the Trump administration’s proposed travel restrictions. His greater concern was the demonizing of a religion practiced by 1.7 billion people. He worries that fear and anger toward those who observe his faith, a viewpoint that once hovered on the fringes of society, has become more mainstream.
 ogc:  Again, he is the unicorn of baseball ops leaders.  Which seems appropriate for a Bay Area team.
“When people generalize or paint the whole religion in a certain way — and you know you’re not like that, your family is not like that, whatever overwhelming percentage majority you want to use of the Muslim Americans in this country are not like that — it’s demoralizing,” Zaidi said. “And that sentiment, for me, is the most troubling thing.”
ogc:  I agree, it's demoralizing.  This whole period is demoralizing and scary.  I've been fortunate to not have had many racists approach me in my life, but I can state absolutely that I'm terrified of the next one coming, after seeing all the videos of these "fine people". 
The situation upsets him, but it does not overwhelm him. Zaidi subscribes to what he considers a “perverted form of optimism,” a belief in the power of joyful pragmatism leavened with perspective on the unlikelihood of his journey. He bursts with laughter. He disarms agents and rival executives with humor. He ribs Dodgers staffers, trades barbs with the players about fantasy football and shares ideas with Manager Dave Roberts. He can forge a relationship “with anyone, whether it’s the CEO of a company or it’s the janitor,” said Alex Anthopoulos, the Dodgers’ assistant general manager.
ogc:  I love his humorous side. I look forward to his press conferences.  He's very personable, and based on admittedly little experience with him and knowledge of him, I'm very encouraged that he's a wolf in sheep's clothing, and that he'll talk the other teams into giving us good players, while disarming them with his humor.  I've read/heard that he's very competitive (see his quote that ends this article) and most of what I've read says that he's very personable, and can get along with anybody.

I like the note on "joyful pragmatism."  Life is hard enough, then you die, so you may as well be as happy as you can be, I believe, without making life worse for others.  And I am a pragmatist to the Nth degree.  I think a baseball leader needs to be pragmatic, because there are a lot of situations that you can't do anything about, you just have to deal with it.  And by joyful, I take that to mean being positive.  I think you need to have a positive view to get through the bad times.
Zaidi laughs off the notion that his inexperience on the field would merit insecurity. If you talk to seasoned baseball men, Zaidi said, “and they were like, ‘Yeah, he’s a total nerd, he doesn’t get baseball, he’s a total weirdo,’ I’d be like, ‘OK, that’s fair. Because you know what? We work together, and that’s an informed opinion . . . Maybe I am just a huge nerd.’
“But the notion that people see where I went to school and see that I didn’t play and draw conclusions like that — what are you going to do about it?”
ogc:  Speaking of being pragmatic!
The request stunned Billy Beane. His drive to the airport interrupted by a phone call, he struggled to formulate a response. On the other end of the line, Andrew Friedman waited for an answer.
It was October 2014, and Friedman had just become the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations. The search for a general manager had brought him to Beane, architect of the “Moneyball” Athletics and the boss of Friedman’s top target. Friedman needed Beane’s permission to proceed.
ogc:  Frankly, I'm not that impressed with Beane. His early success had to do with inheriting a bad team that got him a lot of top first round picks, and I am impressed with what he has done lately, but at the time of Moneyball (or even Friedman's 5%), he was not all that good, in my opinion.  The trade that makes me scoff at his "genius" is his trade of Ethier for Milton Bradley: he must have had no idea what he had in Ethier, because Ethier, in the very next season after the trade, produced more WAR than Bradley did.  His trade of CarGo (plus Street) for Holliday is another.  For a long time, I viewed him more as Trader Billy:  I'm making trades, lets see what sticks.  I've been more impressed with his work since his last rebuild.  Well, hopefully he's learning something after being in the job for about 20 years now.
Zaidi had just finished his 10th year with Oakland. He had risen to assistant general manager, third in the power structure behind Beane and general manager David Forst. The team had defied its low payroll to reach the playoffs in three consecutive seasons with a roster bearing Zaidi’s fingerprints. His colleagues gushed about his singular blend of statistical proficiency, social intelligence and ingenuity.
ogc:   This!  "singular blend of statistical proficiency, social intelligence and ingenuity."  As a saber, love the first, statistical proficiency is key to a 21st Century organization, whether baseball or any other business.  I also think social intelligence is key to making your way through the world, and especially if you are negotiating with others.  I believe that also helps with translating his statistical discoveries into something scouts, players, and managers can understand and then utilize.  I think that also helps Zaidi be conscious that these are humans he's analyzing, not just the back of a baseball card.  And, of course, ingenuity is great to have in any job.
In the process, Zaidi became one of the game’s most coveted minds — and one of the most untouchable. He had no interest in leaving Oakland. And his boss had no interest in losing him.
After a lengthy pause, Beane sputtered an answer.
“Come on, Andrew,” he said. “You can’t do this.”
In that moment, Beane regretted all the times he had raved about Zaidi to Friedman. He lamented the cruelty of running a small-market team: The rich can always poach your best people.
ogc:   Or a just as rich team could poach your best people... 
“It’s one thing to lose [Jason] Giambi and [Miguel] Tejada,” Beane told Friedman. “And now you’re going to take Farhan?”
Zaidi became one of the game’s most coveted minds — and one of the most untouchable.
On Feb. 23, 1986, as the citizens of the Philippines revolted against president Fernando Marcos, tanks rumbled through Manila. Inside a gated community near the unrest, Sadiq Zaidi pondered what to do with his family.
The Asian Development Bank, where Sadiq worked as an engineer, had suggested its employees book hotels outside the city. His wife Anjum agreed, but Sadiq was unconvinced. Persuasion became easier after the conflict inched close enough to rattle their 9-year-old son, Farhan.
ogc:   If I remember right, Zaidi bought his first Baseball Abstract by Bill James later that year.  He also apparently attended his first MLB baseball game the following year, at Candlestick, he noted that Candy Maldonaldo and Will Clark hit back to back homers in that game, with the second, a walk off.  There's a YouTube video of it!   August 10, 1987.
“At one point, there was gunfire, and it really sounded like it was coming from right outside my bedroom,” Zaidi said. “I was so terrified.”
The family found a room in a seedy spot away from the tanks, but stayed only one night. The People Power Revolution ended on Feb. 25 without bloodshed. Marcos fled to Hawaii, and Farhan went back to his boyhood.
He was the second of four children, three boys and a girl. The family had left the woodsy outpost of Sudbury, in the Canadian province of Ontario, for the Philippines when he was 3. Before they left, a friend warned about Manila’s three seasons: Hot, Very Hot and Extremely Hot. Farhan developed asthma in the tropics. His father held him on his shoulder in a rocking chair to soothe him.
As a teenager, Zaidi became obsessed with collecting baseball cards, drubbing his younger brother Jaffer in basketball and being a free-swinging Little League first baseman. When he played cricket on trips to Pakistan, he found his mechanics corrupted because of his baseball grip. When they traveled to Canada, he rooted for the Toronto Blue Jays. He devoured the writing of statistics guru Bill James.
ogc:  Another article (The Athletic, subscription needed) noted that he found that Bill James book in a Philipines Army book store in 1985, however, that article noted that he was nine then, as well, so he probably bought the book not that long before military conflict.
The children attended an international school, one with high standards and strict graders. They absorbed the culture of their American, Canadian, Chinese and Japanese classmates. “We were sometimes the only Muslims in our group of friends,” said Noor Zaidi, Farhan’s sister. “Everybody we spent time with was somebody different, with a different story.”
ogc:  I've read many a story of people who went through the same situation, having to meet and interact with people who were much different than they were, and they used humor in order to assimilate quickly, plus it gave them a good perspective of other humans.  Plus, he earned a PhD in Behavioral Economics, which is studying how people behave economically, so that probably also gave him a good perspective as well.
Farhan treated class with a nonchalance that puzzled his parents. Older brother Zeeshan hunkered down for marathon study sessions. Farhan goofed off and whipped through homework in the morning.
ogc:  This suggests to me that Farhan might be similar to those people who can read anything and retain that immediately.  I would not say total recall, because anecdotally, people with total recall tend to have pretty bad relationships with other humans, as many (most?) people can't stand to be wrong all the time, in terms of memory recall.  That's how these people can not do the work others do, whip through homework in the morning, and still get good grades.
In the spring of 1994, during Farhan’s senior year, his parents made the pilgrimage to Mecca. When they returned from Saudi Arabia, Farhan met them at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. He came bearing news. Like Zeeshan, he had been named valedictorian. “I honestly was shocked,” Anjum said.
ogc:  For me, this bodes well for Zaidi's reign as the Giants baseball leader. He's smart, can read and retain and use a ton of information, and excel while not even trying, when he was in school, but now that he's focused on something he loves, it'll be that much better.
“That’s a pretty good encapsulation on how I kept them in the dark on my academic career,” Zaidi said.
He left home at 17. At MIT he found economics, met his future wife Lucy and graduated in 1998 with a job at a management-consulting firm. Zaidi considered the gig a holding pattern. His mother suggested he go to business school, as Zeeshan had at Harvard. “Mom, people only do MBAs to get rich,” Farhan told her, and went for a doctorate.
Zaidi kept flirting with the world of sports. Focusing on behavioral economics at Cal, he wrote a paper using baseball card collectors as a window into irrationality. Inspired by “Moneyball,” he sent his resume to the front offices in Oakland, Toronto and Los Angeles. He never heard back, so he returned to his studies. “I could see him becoming one of the leaders in the profession,” said Cal economics professor Stefano DellaVigna.
In December 2004, Zaidi found a listing for an assistant in Oakland’s baseball operations department. The team needed an analyst to replace Paul DePodesta, who had become the Dodgers’ general manager. Zaidi stood out among an avalanche of applicants. Forst, then the assistant GM, invited him to interview.
On a lark, Zaidi had included in his resume his love of 1990s Britpop. Beane opened the interview on that, and they bonded over the shambolic genius of Oasis. Zaidi made them laugh. He impressed them with his preparation. They even liked that his suit didn’t quite fit.
ogc:  I love Oasis too, as I love love love the Beatles.
The job paid $32,000. Zaidi waited five days to tell his parents, afraid he would upset them. He asked his brothers for advice. His fear was unfounded. His parents were ecstatic that he had found a purpose he could pursue with vigor.“This was his passion,” Anjum said. “And I feel if you can make a good, honest and honorable living out of your passion, then you are set for life.”
 ogc:  I love this quote from his Dad!  He must be an awesome Dad, being that pragmatic and open.
This was his passion. And I feel if you can make a good, honest and honorable living out of your passion, then you are set for life.
Anjum Zaidi
The numbers came easily to Zaidi. Forst gave him an ideal first assignment: Assemble the team’s argument in arbitration against reliever Juan Cruz. Zaidi made a presentation with a format he learned at his management consulting firm. Oakland won, and “it soon became clear he wasn’t just going to be our analytics guy,” Forst said.
ogc:  Houston's leader, Luhnow, came from a management consulting firm as well, McKinsey. 
Zaidi accumulated responsibility quickly. Statistics were his specialty — he built an in-house projection system that came to be called “FarGraphs” — but the front office’s limited manpower forced him to venture outside the comfort of laptops and spreadsheets.
The transition tested the patience of those around him. Zaidi wasted hours hunting small-college gems in the draft, recommending players who would never dream of reaching the majors. He questioned the scouting director about the team’s interest in a well-rounded player with only “average” tools. “I was so clueless in so many ways,” Zaidi said.
ogc:  In-house projection system: check!
He recognized his blind spots and rectified them. Zaidi once told his sister that “nobody likes anybody who thinks they’re too good for the job they have,” so he puddle-jumped between minor league affiliates and baked in the sun watching amateur games. He pored over video. He sat in advance scouting meetings, quizzed infield coach Ron Washington about positioning and debated in-game strategy with Manager Bob Geren. He proved as capable with a stat as he was with a quip, and “he would say things you wouldn’t expect an assistant GM to say,” former Athletics and Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson said.
ogc:  Shows that he can learn from his situation, and get better. This is in line with his comment during his introductory press conference, about being "humble in process". 

And I love that he dug in and learned what scouts do, so that he could understand their language, what they are looking for, etc.  That just informs greatly any analytics that he did going forward.  That's what I would have done in his situation, you need to understand where they are coming from, their bias as well as their insights.
His evolution coincided with the industry-wide realization that scouts and analysts needed to collaborate. Zaidi added a comedic twist to the merging of disciplines. In the draft room, Zaidi became the “Tools Police.” Whenever a scout could not identify a legitimate tool on a prospect, Zaidi smacked a siren that set off a blue light. His hand hovered over the button as a warning.
ogc:  I loved this, it wakes people up in meetings, which can get very dry and tiring, puts a jolt of energy to keep everyone going, as well as keep everyone loose, as it's a funny thing to do, like a Gong Show type of thing.
“It’s like I don’t even know you anymore,” Beane told him, and started calling Zaidi “The Emotional Stat Guy.” Zaidi co-opted that as his fantasy football name.
ogc:  Again, great sense of humor, and self-deprecating.
Dormant for years, Oakland sneaked up on the American League West to win a division title in 2012. It was Zaidi who stumped for the team to pluck Yoenis Cespedes out of Cuba before the season. A few months later, Zaidi penned a lengthy memo, later known as “The Moss Manifesto,” arguing the team should recall well-traveled minor league outfielder Brandon Moss and install him as their starting first baseman. “The only thing I’ll take credit for,” Beane said, “is saying ‘We’re doing what Farhan says.’”
ogc:  The Giants could use a lot of that, maybe we would have kept Duvall then and the Giants have never been any good with IFA, so any improvement would be welcomed, even if Cespedes is his only example of success, as that's still one more than the Giants under Sabean.
Another division title followed in 2013, but both teams fell in the fifth game of the division series. Those losses paled next to 2014, when the Athletics squandered a six-game lead in the division race and then a four-run lead in the eighth inning of the wild-card playoff game in Kansas City.
ogc:  This is where the Giants can help Farhan, Sabean (or Tidrow, one of the two) has been very good at identifying bullpen guys, from Rodriguez to Eyre to Casilla to Strickland, to Petit to Dyson.  Whatever Zaidi has been doing with the bullpen in LA, clearly, that's been lacking.  Plus, Bochy has been managing bullpen well basically since Zaidi graduated from high school, roughly.
Zaidi never got over the loss to the Royals. He keeps a ticket stub from Kauffman Stadium in his wallet. And he was still grieving when Friedman called Beane.
ogc:  Good to remember these moments, as they will drive him to be better , get better.
After Beane hung up the phone, he took 15 minutes to decompress. Zaidi was walking out of Oakland Coliseum when his phone rang. Beane passed along Friedman’s proposal. The job sounded similar to Zaidi’s responsibilities in Oakland, only with a loftier title and for a team in a different financial stratosphere.
ogc:  Kind of similar to the Giants call, but it didn't take him as long to accept, per the below, he took two weeks to accept LA's offer.
The etiquette of baseball requires that a team request permission to interview a rival executive. Beane was accustomed to these overtures being futile. He once said he fretted about losing Zaidi to Apple or Google, not another team. The Angels tried to hire him. So did the Houston Astros. Anthopoulos tried twice in Toronto. Forst worried more about Zaidi’s friendship with Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey, “because I know basketball is his real, true love,” Forst said.
The offer from Friedman surprised Zaidi. They were not close. But Zaidi figured he should listen. No team had ever before offered to make him a general manager. “I don’t think that was the answer that Billy wanted to hear,” Zaidi said.
Zaidi flew to Los Angeles. Club president Stan Kasten led a tour of Dodger Stadium and promoted the team’s history. Zaidi sat with Friedman and Josh Byrnes, the senior vice president of baseball operations. Friedman had just left the small-market stability of Tampa Bay for the pressure and promise of Los Angeles. He was asking Zaidi to make a similar leap.
After a few hours, Zaidi left the stadium without an answer. He spent a fortnight mulling his decision. The intellectual challenge intrigued him. He worried about stagnation in Oakland, and felt he needed “to make myself uncomfortable, professionally, to get better.” Friedman raised a similar theme to keep Zaidi interested.
ogc:  Probably the same reasons he took the Giants job, so that could explain the shorter decision making cycle for him.
Yet Zaidi agonized over his attachment to the Athletics. The team had plucked him out of academia and welcomed him into a dream job. He had shredded his vocal cords next to Beane at Oasis shows. Zaidi ran the front office’s fantasy football league and “was arguably the most popular employee in baseball operations among every department,” Beane said. Beane and Forst salivated over Anjum’s chicken kabob patties and banana bread. They were a family.
After two weeks debating his choices, Zaidi made up his mind. He would stay in Oakland. He did not care about the title or the money. Loyalty mattered more. He fashioned an email to break the news to Beane, Forst and owner Lew Wolff.
Before he sent it, Zaidi went for a run.
About two miles in, he felt tension overtake his body. Zaidi had never before experienced a panic attack, but now he started to hyperventilate on the pavement of Oakland’s Montclair neighborhood. He was consumed by fear of ignoring the opportunity offered to him. He stopped running and went home.
“I have to do this,” he told his wife.
A couple hours later, Zaidi called Friedman. He was coming to Los Angeles.
ogc:  Again, similar type of situation, so maybe that's why he decided so fast this time.
In his first few weeks on the job, Zaidi felt like the host of a variety show. He and Friedman shared the general manager’s office, and a procession of visitors streamed through. The pace felt frenetic.
Friedman and Zaidi inherited from former general manager Ned Colleti a two-time National League West champion with an attractive farm system. But acrimony had riven the clubhouse and the team looked top-heavy, with a reliance on a small group of players. The new front office gathered inside a San Diego hotel suite during baseball’s winter meetings in December 2014 hoping to deepen the talent pool.
ogc:  Not at all the same here with the Giants, but the clubhouse is great, we have no superstar reliance, and I would argue (as I did in my last post, as well as previous posts) that a rotation of Bumgarner, D-Rod, Suarez, Stratton (and hopefully Holland, though Zaidi did mention looking for reinforcements here, so maybe he can get us Sonny Gray from the Yankees?) plus a good bullpen (that could be great with the addition of Andrew Miller) is a great base upon which to build on.
As Friedman paced through his room, in the hours before acquiring catcher Yasmani Grandal from the Padres in a trade that sent star outfielder Matt Kemp to San Diego, he saw Zaidi reach into the refrigerator for a drink. The tension was high, and Zaidi was agitated to the point of absentmindedness. When the fridge closed, he spun around and conked his head against a wall. A lump sprouted across his dome.
“I’m sure it hurt him,” Friedman said. “But in that moment, there could not have been a better thing to happen.”
The others tumbled to the ground in laughter. Zaidi posed for a picture. Friedman saved it in his phone as Zaidi’s contact photo. And, eventually, they consummated a series of trades to reshape the roster.
 ogc:  The ability to laugh at yourself is a great one to have.
Zaidi’s contributions soon had more concrete value. He pushed for reliever Grant Dayton in a minor league swap with Miami in July 2015. Later that summer, he floated the idea of moving Cuban infielder Hector Olivera, who had signed a six-year, $62.5-million contract months before. Zaidi argued against feeling beholden to the investment. Olivera became part of a three-team trade that brought Alex Wood and Luis Avilan.
ogc:  Who the heck is Grant Dayton? Oh, shows off how the media does not know the prospects all that well, sometimes. He had a great short stint with the Dodgers in late 2016, with shiny numbers in the minors the previous two seasons, but at age 26-27, and he was already 28 in 2016.  This mention did not age well.

Alex Wood has turned out much better, though, as well as Avilan, who then got them Alexander (I'm hoping Zaidi can trade off Dyson and Strickland for interesting players to help fill out the roster or to add interesting prospects to the farm system).  Peraza has turned out good too, though they ended up trading him off for other prospects before he developed fully. 
Like Friedman, Zaidi treasures flexibility. In conversations with Roberts, he has debated the wisdom of rigid roles for relievers and a static batting order for hitters. The deployment of players, Roberts came to believe, should involve a daily assessment of the situation, rather than an ironclad pattern.
ogc:  Zobrist was a find by Friedman, so that makes sense. As noted, Giants have looked for flexibility, but has not gone as into it as the Dodgers have under Zaidi, to my disappointment, as Sabean has talked about it for years now, over a decade, but flexibility has not been something actively acquired or implemented internally, other than the occasional playing a player at one other position. 

Rigid roles, one could say that Bochy did that with the Core Four guys or even Core Five, with the closer (du jour), but then Lopez was mostly LHH, Romo was mostly RHH when set up, Casilla and Affeldt were used when needed, 6-7-8, though one could argue that those roles were as flexible as befits their capabilities, as Lopez sometimes was thumped by RHH, Romo sometimes by LHH, and the rest could handle either okay to not be limited. 

One thing that I liked about Bochy, in terms of flexibility, is that he would allow new players to prove to Bochy that they can handle situations that their career stats says that they can't do.  In the first half of the season, Bochy would use players in different situations, some not optimum, but gives them a shot to show what they can do. But then in the second half, when every game is very important if you are playoff competitive, he starts favoring some players, sticking with same situations, whether lineups, rotation, or bullpen roles.

"The deployment of players, Roberts came to believe, should involve a daily assessment of the situation, rather than an ironclad pattern."  This is exactly what Bochy has tried to do, making his best judgments from what he knows about his players' current situation, their historical tendencies, and an element of playing the hot hand. 
“I challenge the players to be comfortable being uncomfortable,” Roberts said. “And Farhan does the same thing to me. Which is a good thing.”
ogc:  I wish that Bochy would do that more with players, so I hope that this is Zaidi's philosophy too, since he does that to Roberts.  We always read (and hear from relievers in interviews) that they want to know their role, so that they can mentally prepare for when they can expect to come in.  They should know that their role is to come in and get outs, at any time necessary, so maybe they can think along with the manager as to the baseball situation on the field, and mentally prepare when it looks like they might need to come in.
Zaidi can champion disruption. He favors the aggressive promotion of prospects. He wonders why teams design personnel plans that extend beyond three years. So much can change so quickly, and the powers of prediction tend to be overstated. An organization must be responsive, not rigid.
ogc:  As I noted in my prior post, the Giants are not always that aggressive with promotions under Sabean, though in recent seasons, it was clear that both Fabian and Ramos got aggressive placements, given their youth. 

I agree about planning personnel plans beyond three years, as players can deteriorate very quickly, see how fast Lincecum declined after 2010, Cain after 2012.  One can just look at the prediction systems that spew out projections for every player, and they often miss the mark by a lot, because you can't predict injuries, poor performances, acts of God (appendicitis!?! dying in a boating accident), among others. That said, you need to have some long-term strategy for how to run your operations, guiding principals and the like.  It sounds like he does, from this article.
Last July, Zaidi received an assignment that was unique in its importance and awkwardness. The Dodgers divide tasks among their executives based on relationships with other clubs. When the team targeted Oakland starter Rich Hill and outfielder Josh Reddick, that meant Zaidi negotiated with Beane.
Zaidi wore his affinity for his old boss with pride. He kept in his office the index card upon which he wrote down Beane’s cellphone number when Oakland hired him. He once joked about affixing a portrait of Beane to his wall to befuddle visitors. Now he became an adversary at the bargaining table.
Their decade of shared experience eased the conversation, and helped lessen the discomfort. Each man understood what the other wanted. The Dodgers received the two veterans in exchange for a trio of pitching prospects. The relationship of the two executives proved essential. “The deal doesn’t happen — I know it doesn’t happen — if we’re not negotiating with each other,” Beane said.
ogc:  Will this yield the first Giants-A's trade in a generation? Also, I wonder if this will impact his choice for GM.  Would he want someone with AL experience then?  Or non-NL West experience?  Kim Ng worked for the White Sox, then Dodgers, then MLB.  Bloom works for the Rays, that would cover the AL. I recall there being an Indians exec on one of the speculated people who might be targeted.  Somebody from Boston?
Despite the gravitas of his position, Zaidi still injects levity into his work. When the Dodgers finished a trade recently, Zaidi wagered with assistant scouting director Alex Slater about the players the other team might make available. If Slater was right, Zaidi would give up his office and sit in Slater’s cubicle for a week. If Zaidi was right, Slater would wear a suit of Zaidi’s choosing for a week.
Zaidi won the bet. He sent a picture of his selection: The one-piece man-kini made famous by Borat. “Technically,” he explained, “this is a suit.”
Added Friedman, “That is a suit.”
ogc:  Shows off his fun loving side, keeps everyone loose, yet makes it a learning experience, as Slater had to think hard about who the other team might offer, which with time and practice, he'll probably get better at.  As many military strategy methods note, you need to know your enemy well.
The matter remained unresolved as spring training wound down. So was the fate of the 2017 Dodgers, who returned an overwhelming portion of the roster that finished two victories away from the World Series and then incited their general manager’s sleeplessness. The insomnia is something Zaidi carries with him, like the index card from 2004, like the ticket stub from 2014, like all the mementos accumulated in a career still in its infancy.
ogc:  Reminds him of the pain of losing, which will drive a humble man like Zaidi to focus on getting incrementally better, roster position by roster position, player by player.   
People ask Zaidi about the best and the worst of his job. Early in his career, he pontificated with nuance: He relished the camaraderie and the relationships. He despised the stress and the time away from family.
As the years passed, his answer has become more succinct.
“The best part is winning,” Zaidi said. “The worst part is losing. That’s it. That’s the whole thing.”
ogc:  That's all we fans want to hear from our baseball leader.

Go Giants!

Hey Dodger Fans Bagging on the Giants For Hiring Zaidi  

I see some Dodger fans denigrating the Giants for "stealing" their guy.  First of all, one can view it as just payback, as they stole our #2 person in Colletti over a decade ago, because they were so lousy and scuffling.  I would also note that a lot of the young prospects that debuted under Friedman/Zaidi were guys that Colletti had picked up for their franchise, so they are still benefiting a lot from stealing Colletti, as many of their key players were Colletti finds.  Take them away and Friedman/Zaidi don't look as good. 

Secondly, bash the Giants farm system all you want, and the experts for the most part have, during Sabean's era, but the experts barely acknowledge the good players the Giants won on the backs of from 2009 to 2015, yet which won 3 in 5.  I don't think our farm system is as bad as experts think. 

Thirdly, people (both Dodger fans and Giants fans) talk about 3 in 5 as if it was a generation ago, but really, it was just 4 years ago.  How many years was their last championship?  Maybe win one before you trash talk?  And do you really think that the skill to identify talent degrades that fast?  Sure, it has been dry since Belt, but we still don't know about Duffy, Panik, Stratton, Suarez, Williamson, Slater, Shaw yet. 

Farhan Can Be A Great Addition to a Good Core We Already Have  

That said, no team nor leader is ever perfect.  As much as I've been a supporter of Sabean, I've also documented his problem areas.  But it's been a good core, with Sabean, Tidrow, and Barr as the leaders.  And, just as Barr joining helped to add a component of position player drafting savvy that Sabean and Tidrow never had, I see Zaidi coming in and adding a lot to the mix as well. 


Most of all, I do want to see better analytics being employed.  I know that behavioral economics requires a high degree of statistical knowledge, so I feel good from this article that he knows what needs to be analyzed and, just as importantly, know how to communicate it so that it gets used. He's also a people person, and that means that he'll be better at working with other teams in working out trades. In addition, he's worked hard to understand the scouting world, and be able to speak their lingo and address their concerns.  Moreover, these combine so that he can take what he can from the scouting world, translate into analysis projects that the quant side could execute on, which findings he can then feed back to the baseball side, in a way that they can understand, as well in a way so that they will buy into the quant's solutions, as well.

In particular, I'm hopeful that he can help improve our IFA drought, which has been ongoing throughout Sabean's era.  There has been a few high profile changes and people assigned to handle it, but results have been very sparce.  Sandoval the only real find in all those years, though I guess Liriano was one too, but he got traded away.  Moronta is the only player on the roster from all our investments in Latin America, and we've never gotten anyone from Asia before.

I love the flexibility that he espouses, regarding position players (a key with the short 4-man benches) and pitchers (I've been agitating for relievers who can go more than one inning at a time, most were starters before, they should be able to go two on the nights when they got it going good; and the usage of relievers without giving a role, just get them out).  Flexibility has been a key ever since the bullpen expanded from 9-10 pitchers to the current 12-13 that teams carry today.  Yet, not a lot has been done to address this issue.

Hey Farhan!  

He loves weird ideas, and I've been pushing for many.  Hopefully he likes some of these.  I think a 6-man rotation could work if you have enough talent on the club (and I think that helps SP maintain their stuff with extra rest).  Then, if you lose one pitcher for a while, you revert back to a five man rotation, without skipping a beat.  On top of that, you train a few relievers to be able to go multiple innings regularly in order to handle the occasional blow out, and bridge to finish the game.  

I've been wanting to see more relievers be pinch hitters as well.  I used to coach my son's PONY League, and all of our best pitchers were also our best hitters.  Some of them must have retained and can develop that ability.  Plus, look at Bumgarner. He was bad early on, but worked on it and because a legit power threat, for a pitcher.  Livan used to have the pitchers compete on hitting, and Muelens used to have contests between groups of players, including pitchers, to encourage the pitchers to hit.  There's really no excuse for an NL team to not continue to develop their pitcher's hitting abilities as they rise through the farm system, don't wait until AAA to do it. 

Likewise, I would like to see more bench players be able to pitch as well, so that they can eat a inning or two occasionally, in order to bridge to the end of the game.  Lots of position players have been pitchers before.  So you have them practice some during the season, so that they keep their arm in shape for that one moment when the team needs them.  

Teams need to think out of the box, if they hope to gain an advantage over other teams.  I see the above as ways to do that, to gain flexibility.  Hopefully Zaidi will find other ways.  

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