2012 Organizational Rankings: #12 – San Francisco

Dave Cameron laid out the methodology behind the rankings. Remember that the grading scale for each category is 20-80, with 50 representing league average.

2012 Organizational Rankings

#30 – Baltimore
#29 – Houston
#28 – Oakland
#27 – Pittsburgh
#26 – San Diego
#25 – Minnesota
#24 – Chicago AL
#23 – Seattle
#22 – Kansas City
#21 – Cleveland
#20 – New York NL
#19 – Los Angeles
#18 – Colorado
#17 – Miami
#16 – Arizona
#15 – Cincinnati
#14 – Chicago NL
#13 – Milwaukee 

San Francisco’s 2011 Organizational Ranking – #12

2012 Outlook: 54 (14th)

Last season, the Giants were the defending World Series Champions. This season, they’re trying to get back to the playoffs.

Since Barry Bonds‘ last year with the Giants in 2007, San Francisco has been all about pitching, pitching, pitching. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain have been an outstanding 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. Madison Bumgarner, just 22 years told, was pivotal in the 2010 playoffs and is poised to have a huge season. Ryan Vogelsong is back after his “comeback from out of the blue” year in 2011. And then there’s the $126 million man: Barry Zito, fifth starter.

Yesterday, Cain signed a contract extension with the Giants through 2017 with a club option for 2018. (Details on Cain’s extension can be found here and here). A few months back, Lincecum signed a two-year contract with the Giants, taking him through the end of the 2013 season when. That is also, mercifully, the last year of Zito’s contract, although the Giants will have to pay him another $7 million to go away in 2014.

With Cain’s extension, and the emergence of Bumgarner, the Giants just cracked open their window of opportunity to win with their superb pitching. San Francisco missed out on that in 2011 by failing to upgrade the offense after winning the World Series. Indeed, the pitching (rotation and bullpen) was actually better last season than in 2010, but the offense was historically bad.

The Giants didn’t pursue any free agents this winter, saying they were saving money to re-sign Lincecum and Cain. Instead, they traded for Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan to replace Aaron Rowand, Cody Ross and Andres Torres in the outfield. They also touted the return of Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez — two important offensive pieces during the 2010 title run — both of whom missed more than half of 2011 with season-ending injuries. Posey’s had a positive and productive spring training. Sanchez, on the other hand, will start the season on the disabled list.

To get back to the playoffs in 2012, the Giants need the pitching to be as great as it’s been, and they need big seasons at the plate from Posey, Pablo Sandoval and whoever plays first base (more on that in a minute). Sandoval hit with authority in 2011, and despite missing six weeks with a broken hamate bone in his right hand last season, accumulated 5.5 WAR, the same as Prince Fielder.

Who will play first? Aubrey Huff or Brandon Belt? Just the mention of Belt’s name — or the infamous #FreeBrandonBelt hashtag — stirs deep emotions in Giants fans. Belt was a Top 25 Prospect heading into 2011. He made the Opening Day lineup due to injuries to Cody Ross and Andres Torres, but when he didn’t immediately perform, he was sent back to Triple-A. Then back to the majors. Then a broken wrist. Back to Triple-A. Back to the majors. And so on. In the meantime, Aubrey Huff, signed to a two-year/$20 million contract in the glow of the World Series victory, struggled to find his swing. He never did.

ZIPS projects Belt to have the 17th highest OBP in the majors this season. Yet, he’s fighting for a roster spot while Huff is penciled in as the everyday first baseman. For a team like the Giants, which scratches and claws for every run, keeping Belt in Triple-A makes absolutely no sense.

The Giants head into 2012 with a razor-thin margin for error. The pitching needs to be just as good as it’s been the last two seasons. The offense needs to kick it up a notch from last year. If either of those two things don’t happen, the Giants will likely be sitting on the sidelines during the playoffs in 2012.

2013+ Outlook: 47 (20th)

The young players the Giants have already promoted to the majors form a solid core going forward: Bumgarner, Posey, Sandoval, and Belt. And even with Cain’s $100+ million contract extension, the Giants should have good payroll flexibility after 2013, when the Zito contract expires. They’ll need that flexibility to trade or sign other pitchers and position players, however, because the Giants’ farm system is pretty thin.

Our own Marc Hulet ranks the Giants’ minor-league talent twenty-third out of thirty teams. Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus and Keith Law at ESPN give the Giants even lower grades. Goldstein ranks San Francisco twenty-fifth; Law ranks them twenty-sixth.

Gary Brown is considered the Giants’ top prospect. The speedy center fielder could see action in the majors as early as this season, particularly if the Giants fall out of playoff contention. Joe Panik is also well-regarded. He was drafted as a shortstop, but will likely be moved to second base as he makes his way through the minors. The Giants also have several notable catching prospects, including Hector Sanchez, Tommy Joseph, and Andrew Susac, all of whom could become important if Buster Posey is eventually moved to first base.

But the strength of the Giants’ farm system for years — the pitching — is now a weakness, particularly with starters. Erik Surkamp and Kyle Crick are the highest-ranked starters, but neither is expected to replicate the success of Lincecum, Cain or Bumgarner. Heath Hembree, a righty with a mid-90s fastball and a deceptive slider, is being groomed as the new closer once Brian Wilson becomes a free agent after the 2013 season. There’s not much pitching depth after that.

Financial Resources: 56 (8th)

The Giants payroll will hit $130 million this season, putting the team in the top 10 in player salaries. That’s comfortably above the league-wide average of $92 million and below the trend-setting Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies. With new TV deals in place, the Rangers and Angels are quickly moving into the upper echelon of spending, with the newly-sold Dodgers and the Cubs not far behind.

For the last several seasons, more than 3 million fans have filled the seats game after game at AT&T Park. That’s a lot of tickets sold in a metropolitan area with a population of just over 4.3 million people. The Giants, of course, “share” the area with the Oakland A’s, but it’s not an even split. Indeed, the Giants claim they need to sell 3 million-plus tickets to just to “break even” on their $130 million payroll. That’s one reason the Giants are steadfastly opposed to the A’s proposed move to San Jose, itself a larger city than San Francisco, and in the center of booming Silicon Valley. The Giants claim that 30-35% of their tickets are sold to fans who live in and near San Jose.

The Giants play in their own privately-financed ballpark on which they pay $20 million in annual debt service. But the mortgage on AT&T Park will paid off by the end of 2017, giving the Giants an extraordinarily valuable asset, debt-free.

The Giants are locked into a twenty-five year broadcast agreement with Comcast SportsNet, a deal signed in 2008. But the Giants aren’t paid a set sum every year. Instead, according to Giants beat writer Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, Comcast pays the Giants a percentage of total revenue, likely in the range of 30-33 percent. Whether that kind of deal will enable the Giants to keep up with the new TV deals around the league remains to be seen.

Overall, the Giants are in good financial shape. The team claims to be very worried that an A’s move to San Jose would significantly cut into its revenue but the true numbers are not public. And in five years, the Giants will have paid off the expensive mortgage on AT&T Park, considered the crown-jewel of major league ballparks.

Baseball Operations: 40 (27th)

This is the Giants’ Achilles heel.

Brian Sabean has been the Giants’ general manager since 1997, making him the longest-tenured GM in the majors. The Giants have enjoyed success under Sabean, particularly in the years when Barry Bonds was hitting home runs into McCovey Cove on a regular basis. And of course, Sabean put together the 2010 team that won San Francisco’s first World Series.

But Sabean’s penchant for signing veteran free agents has led the Giants to overpay (and in some cases substantially overpay) for players way past their prime. These include contracts for Edgardo Alfonzo, Dave Roberts, Aaron Rowand, Edgar Renteria, Mark DeRosa, Miguel Tejada and the contract extension for Huff signed after the World Series victory. Yes, Edgar Renteria hit the game-winning home run for the Giants in the clinching game of the World Series. But he produced very little value to the team the first 23 months of the 24-month contract. And yes, I’ve left Barry Zito’s contract off this list because, by all accounts, that deal was made by Peter Magowan, the former managing general partner of the Giants.

We know very little about the Giants’ use of advanced metrics. We know the Giants employ at least a few smart, young analysts. We just don’t have a sense of what they do or how the information they generate is incorporated in the Giants’ decision-making process. We do know that Sabean rarely mentions analytics and doesn’t seem particularly comfortable talking about them when asked. Overall, it’s puzzling that a team that plays so close to Silicon Valley (and that relies on Silicon Valley money in the form of corporate sponsorships), seems so detached from the technological and statistical advances taking place in the game.

Overall: 51 (12th)

The Giants likely will be in the thick of the race in the National League West in 2012, in part because the West isn’t a particularly strong division, and in part because good pitching will keep the Giants competitive, at least for a while. A healthy Buster Posey, a productive Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt in the majors and not in Fresno, should give the Giants a better offense than they had last season.

The future is promising, but murky. The five-year deal for Cain is a good first step in solidifying the rotation but Lincecum’s future with the club is a big open question. The Giants will need to add to the solid core of Posey, Sandoval and Belt, only some of which is likely to come from their depleted farm system.

The Giants appear strong financially and fairly well-positioned to withstand the competition from the new Dodgers ownership. But they will have to make better strategic use of their resources. More investment in drafting and developing young players, and less investment in veteran free agents on the downside of the aging curve. More investment in advanced analytical tools, and less investment in marketing gimmicks. It can be done. Whether it will be done remains to be seen.

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Wendy writes about sports and the business of sports. She's been published most recently by Vice Sports, Deadspin and NewYorker.com. You can find her work at wendythurm.pressfolios.com and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.

120 Responses to “2012 Organizational Rankings: #12 – San Francisco”

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  1. Bob says:

    Just a heads up, the link to the Oakland page directs to the Houston page.

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  2. SC2GG says:

    The streak of mid-level NL teams is at 9 straight now. The NL certainly does have a lot of teams that “could win but you’d expect someone else to beat them”.

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  3. j6takish says:

    Looking back on Sabeans free agency signings, good God. Isn’t free agency supposed to be one of the easier aspects of being a GM?

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    • Bill Smith says:

      It’s easier than making trades.

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    • Baltar says:

      Every single one of the Giants best players is homegrown: Sandoval, Posey, Belt, Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Wilson, Romo and even Vogelsong (in a roundabout way).
      There would be more on the list if the Giants never traded.
      Sabean’s only weaknesses are FA signings, trades, analytics phobia, and being an obnoxious windbag. Well, maybe there are a few more.

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  4. begonias says:

    Thanks, Wendy. One of the hardest things for Giants fans is to explain to the casual fan why, even though the team finally won the World Series, Brian Sabean sucks. The last paragraph of the Baseball Operations section is on target.

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    • ScottinMarin says:

      “Brian Sabean sucks” LOL…only the well informed fan has that opinion. LOL

      Nice analysis. Yes, yes of course winning the World Series was ALL luck. It had nothing at all to do with the baseball operation drafting Lincecum, Cain, Madbum, Posey, et al…they all just fell in his lap don’t ya see?

      Oh and that trade for Lopez and Ramirez was forced upon him…lol Yes sir, it’s only the hard core fan that understands….”Brian Sabean sucks”

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  5. xeifrank says:

    This ranking is right. I have them at #14.

    Washington Nationals are overdue.

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  6. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    Marketing gimmicks? I’m a non-Giants-person; tell me more.

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    • L.UZR says:

      Bring your dog to the game was awesome.

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    • jp_on_rye says:

      Beards, panda hats, etc.

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      • nv says:

        I don’t know. It seems to me that Sergio Romo, the first beard in that ‘pen, is one of the best setup men in the game. And Panda, hats or no, is a top-shelf 3b by now as well, behind Evan Longoria, José Bautista (when he plays third), and… probably no one else.

        (Wilson is overrated and declining. I hear that.)

        One charming thing about the team is the way that their marketing gimmicks are actually tied to the players on the team. And of course, the ballpark: certainly the best place to watch baseball I’ve ever been, but I haven’t been everywhere.

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  7. Baltar says:

    This is a very well-written post that covers nearly all of the key points. Well done, Wendy.
    My only nitpick is that the Giants extraordinary weaknesses at the keystone, 5th starter and wherever Huff plays (they are apparently going to start him in the outfield) are worth a mention, but you can’t have everything in a short article.
    I also think the FanGraphs writers did a good job on the ratings. The 2013+ rating is a couple of points too high for the reasons you mentioned, which would have dropped them a few ranks.
    This is also a quibble, as the middle ranks are so close as to be a virtual tie anyway.
    Again, kudos to you and all the FanGraph authors. This is your best set of org rankings and posts ever.

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  8. Jordan says:

    Many of the other posts in this series have stressed the need to weigh results pretty heavily in evaluating a Baseball Operations staff. Yet despite producing teams that have, for the most part, been successful, the Giants front office ranks near the bottom because they don’t appear to use advanced metrics and have a poor track record in Free Agency.

    I’m not disputing either of those claims, nor would I argue that their player valuation wouldn’t improve if they did a better job of incorporating advanced metrics. But valuing and signing FA’s is only part of a front office’s job. The Giants have done an excellent job of drafting and developing young talent, which has allowed them to consistently field above average teams despite poor performances in the FA market. They haven’t finished with a sub-.500 record since the 2007 season, and I think the front office – including scouting and player development personnel – deserve credit for that.

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    • Scott says:

      I agree with this. The Baseball Operations section of the article did not mention the the rest of the front office (which includes highly regarded scouting and development types like Dick Tidrow and John Barr) that has had a long string of successful first round picks (Cain, Lincecum, Bumgarner, Posey, etc.), a seemingly good collection of lower round talent (Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, Brandon Belt), and even the occasional international signing (Sandoval). We all understand that Sabean is not the best GM, but the “Baseball Operations” section should at least mention the positive contributions of the front office that led to a World Series victory.

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    • ScottinMarin says:

      You just don’t understand. Fangraphs ignores the numbers when it comes to evaluating the Baseball Operations….that World Series thingy…luck I tell ya ALL luck….

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      • cs3 says:

        agree 100%
        obviously Sabean is not the most statistically inclined GM in the game, but so what?
        The results, both in player development and in on field results speak for themselves.

        Ranking the Giants Baseball operations 26th is analogous to awarding the ERA title to the pitcher with the best FIP.

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  9. bpdelia says:

    Im not a giants fan. I do believe in SABR analysis.
    But 27th for a team that has drafted and developed lincecum cain bumgarner sandoval belt wilson wheeler nathan liriano etc during this gms tenure is ABSURDLY low. I understand the process vs results argument but after 15 seasons of data on this front office with 2 ws appearances and one title as well as the best record in their division and consistently being amongst the better teams in the game……….how is this their “achilles heel”??
    What we have here from fg is an example of using ZERO actual data ( how “comfortable” sabean “appears” while talking about analysis) is not data) to make a jydgement that overides the fifyeen YEARS of actual data (i.e. consistent on field and player devrlopment success.

    Its just guess work. We know nothing of what happens in the front office. All we can do is examine what was actually done. There were bad signings and good. There was clearly excepgional development success. I cant see how the 15 years of actual success can be accompanied by a ranking as the third worst front office. In the one category that is 100% subjective and basically arbitrary.

    Just seemz absurd to me.

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    • EDGY SMART says:


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    • MajorDanby says:

      successful home grown talent largely came from the latter part of Sabean’s tenure. Sabean largely built those late 90’s, early 00’s giant teams around Barry Bonds and good trades. if you look at that 2003 WS series team, none of their main components were drafted by the giants with the exception of russ ortiz. now, maybe sabean knew he neglected his farm system so badly that he used it largely for trading for veterans – e.g. jim stoops for ellis burks, vogelsong and rios for schmidt, grilli and bump for livan. i can only think of joe nathan and liriano as players drafted by the giants during that era that have had sustained success in the majors. after that 02 team was dismantled, sabean and ownership scrambled to put a team together to build around bonds – that’s when we saw sabean go nuts with bad free agent signings (sabean really didnt do a whole lot of this during his earlier years – darryl hamilton as the only example i could think of off the top of my head). as the team gradually slid down the standings, ownership and management continued to cobble a team around Bonds – and in the end simply just marketed the team around his chase of ruth and aaron in the hr all time standings. i remember those years – who cares if our team sucks, come to the ballpark to watch Bonds pass ruth and aaron!! after bonds left and magowan stepped down, the giants invested more in their farm system and made a conscious effort to give playing time to their young players – many were misses (frandsen, burris, velez), but plenty were hits (lincecum, cain, posey, romo, wilson). i think sabean gets unfairly trounced for his management of the team – i think he deserves a lot of criticism for how he structured this team from 03 to the end of Bonds’ career – but, i think he deserves more credit for what he did before (build around Bonds and Kent, make good trades) and after (grow some talent, give them the opportunity to play). It will be interesting to see the direction of this team moving forward and how Sabean will adjust.

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      • quincy0191 says:

        The Giants had Bonds for several years before Sabean came aboard and couldn’t win. Then he acquired Jeff Kent in an incredibly controversial trade and they did, for quite a long while. After rebuilding for only four seasons (the worst of which was a 91-loss team, not exactly the bottom of the barrel), they came back and look poised for contention at least through 2013. If four seasons seems long, look at playoff droughts/losing records for the A’s/Mariners/Rangers/Pirates/Astros/Brewers/Marlins/Nationals/Orioles/Rays/Blue Jays/Royals.

        I’m no Sabean apologist, and I do think he’s not in the top half of GMs, but he’s better than 27th, and the Giants’ record speaks to that. People who are bad at their jobs don’t get this lucky for this long.

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      • Peter says:

        Good post MajorDanby.

        The Giants under Quinn, with Sabean as scouting director, trimmed their scouting staff by about 75% following the 94′ strike. Not sure how to distribute the blame for that, i.e. among Sabean, Quinn, McGowan. But that is the main reason the Giants had such a poor record of player development until they reversed course late in McGowan’s tenure.

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      • Shankbone says:

        Excellent point on the gutting of the scouts Peter.

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    • cs3 says:

      agree 100%
      obviously Sabean is not the most statistically inclined GM in the game, but so what?
      The results, both in player development and in on field results speak for themselves.

      Ranking the Giants Baseball operations 26th is analogous to awarding the ERA title to the pitcher with the best FIP.

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  10. Brian says:

    I can’t stand a lot of the signings Sabean makes, but he deserves credit where credit is due: he strikes gold on bargain players. Vogelsong, Uribe, Casilla, Burrell just to name a few major contributors he picked up relatively for free. He sucks when it comes to determining who deserves a big contract, but he always seems to find a hidden gem each year.

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  11. Anon says:

    Since when is AT&T Park considered the crown-jewel of major league ballparks?

    I could see PNC Park or New Yankee Stadium with that title. AT&T Park is excellent, but definitely not ‘crown-jewel’.

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    • Brendan says:

      Clearly you’ve never watched a game there.

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      • Eric says:

        I have to agree with Brendan – it’s one of the very few ballparks that I think it’s worth going to a game when you couldn’t care less about the teams playing.

        Now, I spent many years going to Shea as a Mets fan, so I’ll admit that there are minor league parks that would be an upgrade over that… but AT&T park is legitimately gorgeous.

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      • Johnny Come Lately says:

        I agree too. Incredible park. An argument could easily be made for it being the #1 park in all of MLB. It’s just gorgeous.

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      • Atlee says:

        To be fair, there are a lot of suburban thugs at at&t too willing to start trouble.

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    • cs3 says:

      Not only is it in contention for most beautiful park in all of basbeall but the location is amazing. Its easily accessible by multiple forms of mass transit, there are tons restaurants, bars, and attractions to hang out at in the immediate vicinity, and the weather is generally perfect for the entire season. Contrary to popular belief, it is almost always sunny at ATT, with daytime summer temps in the high 70’s, low humidity, and not much rain.

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    • nv says:

      PNC feels an awful lot like AT&T, BTW, down to the bridges.

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  12. Shankbone says:

    Very good assessment of the Giants. Tough and fair. The only aspect I have issue with is the Free Agent signings of the past by Brian Sabean. Giants fans have a hard time letting go of any mistake Sabean might have made and they nitpick him to death. I am not disputing those are all bad contracts, they are miserable and boneheaded moves. What I am disputing is instead of looking to what Sabean has done lately, his not so glorious past of sign a vet to support Barry is trotted out.

    Alfonzo signed a contract (without a physical!) in 2003. You skipped over Benitiez, which was most likely even a worse signing because he punted draft picks with it in 2005, only the deepest draft in recent memory. Aaron Rowand is gone, lets stop talking about him already. 2008 is the rearview mirror. I hated the panic signing of Tejada, that was a classic blunder but it was only one year.

    Sabean has become much more disciplined about contract length and successfully avoided the middle market this offseason where mediocre and expensive hitters lay in wait. He didn’t sign Crisp, Willingham or Dejesus for example. The Giants have improved their drafting and scouting in the past 6 years, its a minor miracle, as the farm system is the key to success.

    Finally, Sabean has had strong success with scrap heap signings, both hitters and pitchers. As long as he sticks to short term contracts, its actually an overlooked strength.

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    • MajorDanby says:

      dont forget matt morris.

      also, dont forget the contracts he offered during the off season of zito – was reported to offer more to carlos lee (who ended up in houston so he can ride his horses) and soriano (reported that he was never interested in the giants but just used them to increase the cubs offer)….offered big contracts to juan pierre (dodgers paid more) and gary mathews (angels paid more). they settled on dave roberts and barry zito.

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      • Shankbone says:

        Great points. Sabean with money to burn on the FA market is not where Giants fans want him. Yet another reason why the Cain signing is the best place to put your bets. I’d also add that is 2007, and he hasn’t chased a single FA for long term years since Zito, Roberts and Rowand in 2008.

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    • walt kovacs says:

      giants are paying for rowand to sit on his ass this summer…nope, not gonna forget about him

      the stiff couldnt make the fish….think about it

      and i think that sabey sabes is under orders not to spend caishe on fa

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  13. Brendan says:

    I think most of this is pretty accurate, though I would rank the outlook for this season a few spots higher. It’s easy to forget because of just how bad the offense was last year that they still won 86 games. The pitching staff is likely to put up similar performance (Cain will be Cain, Timmy will be Timmy, MadBum will be a little better, Vogey will be worse but still excellent for a 4th starter, and the 5th spot won’t produce much exactly like last year). Buster coming back is HUGE, he and Pablito will give them a legit 3-4. Pagan and Cabrera aren’t world-beaters, but they are finite improvements over the amalgam of players they’re replacing. Add in the fact that Brandon Belt will have an impact eventually (even Sabean isn’t dumb enough to waste his potential for the entire season), and the offense should be a lot better; league average isn’t out of the question (league average being what their offense was in 2010). Short stop is a wash (Tejada to Crawford gets roughly no gain, but with upside at least), and second base will be unchanged at a negligible level of production. Looking only at the changes from last year’s team to this year’s team, I think they’re unlikely to win fewer games than they did in 2011. Add back in that that 2011 baseline was 86 wins, and I think ranking them 14th for this year’s outlook is too low.

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  14. Greg says:

    As a Giants fan, Brian Sabean will definitely be the death of me. Moves like releasing Mike Fontenot and starting Manny Burriss just don’t make any sense, yet it’s a consistent thing with him… ah well at least we our homegrown core of Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Posey, Sandoval, and Belt so hopefully Sabean’s throw-at-useless-veterans money will be used on them, leaving him to fill the rest of the spots with what Sabean is really good at: somehow getting good production from seemingly terrible players.

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  15. Kellin says:

    So other than having a great movie about all of their success, how can Oakland have a FO ranking of 10th and the Giants be 27th? Is the grading based on how best to sell decent players for prospects that might never pan out? They are good at getting rid of players, but not so good at winning ball games. Seems like all of that activity is being recognized but not the results that have followed.

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    • ScottinMarin says:

      “So other than having a great movie about all of their success, how can Oakland have a FO ranking of 10th and the Giants be 27th?”

      Fairly simple. She has no earthly idea what she’s talking about. There is no other conclusion to be had.

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      • Scott says:

        Reading comprehension fail. All of the rankings, including the Baseball Operations rankings, are based on a composite score of ALL of the Fangraphs writers. Not just the author’s ranking.

        Fairly simple.

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      • ScottinMarin says:

        Ok…Entire Fangraph staff FAIL..there ya go.

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    • The Nicker says:

      Since the year 2000

      SF: 1,033
      Oak: 1,045

      Payroll totals
      SF: 1,000 million (or 1 billion, if you prefer)
      Oak: 696 million

      Does that give you an idea why people think the A’s FO is better?

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  16. Fletch says:

    Are Brian Sabean and Ned Coletti clones? Twins separated at birth? Literally everything said about here Sabean could apply to Coletti if you just swapped out the names. As a Dodgers fan, I can really relate to how Giants fans feel about their GM.

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  17. DrBGiantsfan says:

    I really believe the Giants current farm system is grossly underrated. Belt doesn’t get counted as a prospect because he is technically “graduated” but he isn’t exactly an established major leaguer either. Brown and Panik appear to be very likely to become above average major leaguers at positions not currently occupied by current homegrown core players.

    The catching depth is impressive and Hector Sanchez is looking more and more like a future starting catcher and a very good one as opposed to the career backup a lot of prospect rankers have laid on him.

    Hembree has a high probability of replacing Wilson as BWillie hits free agency.

    The lower minors are filled with potential breakout players.

    I would be willing to bet that the Giants current farm system will produce more MLB starting players than many of the systems ranked higher.

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    • walt kovacs says:

      you guys need to listen to the doc

      first of all, hes a doc, which means he is smarter than all of you

      second, he has a blog, whenthegiantscometotown, where he does a full break down of everything

      and a few years back, a full revamp of the farm system was done, making it more balanced and capable of developing talent….not just for trade bait

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    • Who, under the current stars in the sky, can tell anything useful from the AAA record of a non pitcher from the PCL.

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    • ScottinMarin says:

      Ranking the Giants baseball operations 27th is the biggest joke I’ve ever seen. It completely destroys the credibility of the author.

      As a founding member of the lunatic fringe I’ve had my problems with Sabean over the years. But I give him credit for turning things around.

      Sabean has excellent baseball people working for him. Tidrow, Evans, Barr and Stanley are top notch. The Giants are without question a top tier baseball operation. And have been for a few years now.

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      • Kevin says:

        If you had read the methodology behind the rankings, you would know that the rankings are not solely the author’s, but an average of rankings by the Fangraphs staff.

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      • ScottinMarin says:

        Sorry my mistake. The ENTIRE staff is clueless and has NO credibility. Is that better?

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    • vivalajeter says:

      “I really believe the Giants current farm system is grossly underrated.”

      Every fan thinks the same thing about their team. They overestimate the ceiling and chance of success for their prospects and think they’re going to pan out at an abnormal rate.

      “I would be willing to bet that the Giants current farm system will produce more MLB starting players than many of the systems ranked higher.”

      And how many of those starting players will be stars? Brown is considered to be their best prospect, but he’s not exactly the next Carlos Beltran. Last year he was 22 and didn’t get an at bat in AA. Developing above average players is nice, but if you don’t develop stars then you’re not going to be ranked high.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        The landscape is littered with players who the consensus thought were going to be stars who didn’t end up that way.

        If you really get to know who the Giants have in their system, you will see that they have a mix of high floor prospects and a whole lot of other lower floor, but much higher ceiling guys in the system. There is a good chance that their system will be ranked much higher by as early as next season.

        That’s not just my opinion. Go read John Sickels’ responses to some of the comments after his Giants Top 20 post.

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  18. Keystone Heavy says:

    I agree with the sentiment that it isn’t fair to rank ther FO 27th. Just because they don’t do things how the FG staff would, doesn’t mean that that 15 years of consistent success should be written off because of “process”.

    We don’t really know what their process is. Maybe they have a system of scouting more effective than most statistical approaches. Maybe they have a statistical approach that is so great that amatuers that read websites like Fangraphs just don’t get it.

    Who knows? Maybe they, through scouting or statistics, actually know why Matt Cain doesn’t allow home runs, and laugh at stats like xFIP every day. And maybe there is an actually statistical reason that they sell out to hoard pitching. But Thum said it herself, Fangraphs doesn’t know. Give them some credit.

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    • ScottinMarin says:

      Do they not have editors on this site? There is no possible way that anyone that knows the game could conclude that 26 teams have better baseball operations than the San Francisco Giants.

      It’s ridiculous.

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  19. Hurtlockertwo says:

    The Giants are going back to the World Series this year, you heard it here first.

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  20. West Coast Baller says:

    It’s obvious that sabremetricians have a difficult time with the Giants. On paper, these guys should be a .500 club.

    Good thing baseball isn’t played on paper…

    Unfortunately, analytics can’t measure heart. In 2010 the Giants won because they had unbelievable chemistry as a team, and possessed the collective heart of a champion. And, of course, they had kick-ass pitching (which will almost always beat good hitting).

    While I think this analysis of the Giants isn’t bad, Sabean and his front office get a bad rap. As the GM with the longest tenure it’s easy to take shots at Sabean and his crew. During the post-Bonds era, I think this is finally Sabean’s real team – and it’s built in similar fashion to the Dodgers of the 1960’s. They have taken a page from the O’Malley playbook of building through the farm system, and building around stellar pitching. It is entirely possible that at some point this season the Giants roster will feature 19 or 20 homegrown players on their 25 man active roster. How many other teams can boast this? Isn’t this a testament to Sabean and his baseball operations staff?

    Guess Mark Twain was right. There are lies, damn lies and statistics. The Giants won in 2010 because of their belief and trust in one another – and that core is intact for 2012. As an old ballplayer, I’ll put my trust in this formula over one driven purely by the numbers.

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    • Hurtlockertwo says:

      I’m tired of people saying the the Giants got lucky in 2010. The Cardinals were 4 games over .500 and ten games out at the end of August last year, did they just get lucky too? The Phillies and the Yankees and Red Sox all got picked to win the World Series by various people here, did they just get unlucky? Go Giants!

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    • ScottinMarin says:

      “It’s obvious that sabremetricians have a difficult time with the Giants.”

      It’s not just the Giants.

      Here’s the problem I have with most, NOT ALL, (relax) of the stat nerds. They can’t evaluate a player without numbers. They can only tell you the “what” but have no earthly idea as to the “why” Why are a players numbers what they are? They haven’t a clue.

      They couldn’t tell the difference between a player with a good swing that needs some adjustments to a hack that can rake in the minors but will never handle big league pitching.

      It would seem the fangraph “staff” suffer the same fate when evaluating MLB baseball operations.

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      • West Coast Baller says:

        You couldn’t be more right!

        Here’s the thing…I think there’s a place for all of this. But, it irritates the hell out of me when a someone writing about baseball doesn’t really know baseball. Process is important, but the only that counts between the lines are results.

        And those results are influenced by what Sabean and his staff produce. Lincecum-Cain-Bumgarner-Wilson-Posey-Sandoval-Belt aren’t flukes, nor are they the product of the third-worst front office.

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      • ScottinMarin says:

        There is definitely a place for statistical analysis. It’s of great importance. It just doesn’t mean you have any clue as to the game itself or how to evaluate ANYTHING.

        If your baseball people don’t know the WHY. All the numbers in the world won’t help you find potential MLB players.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        Yup, and a perfect example is the constant head scratching that goes on here about how Cain and other Giants pitchers keep their HR rates down. They’ve even gone so far as to attribute it to “something in the water” or “pixie dust”, partly tongue in cheek I know, but still….

        Anyone who watches the Giants pitch day in and day out is not the least bit surprised by these numbers. It’s actually very simple. Their pitchers have great fastball command and they don’t give in to hitters. No, you can’t say that about every team out there!

        It’s not just Righetti either. The front office scouts, drafts and signs those types of pitchers. I read an interview with Dick Tidrow where he was talking about drafting Matt Cain, who almost every analyst thought was a reach at the time. Tidrow said he personally scouted Cain and when he gave his report to Sabes, he excitedly told him, “he’s perfect for us. He commands the fastball on both sides of the plate!” He made similar comments about scouting Bumgarner.

        So, kudos to Dave Cameron and Fangraphs for noticing a statistical aberration that does not regress to the mean, but they can go on scratching their heads and attributing it to “something in the water” and “pixie dust”, but those of us who watch the games know why it’s happening.

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  21. Sonny says:

    Wendy, this is a great post. Well done. The analysis is thorough and well stated.

    The only portion I have to disagree with is (and it’s been stated above) the ranking of the FO as 27th/30 (and I understand it was an FG staff ranking). I have been hpyer-critical of the Giants front office in the past, particularly when it came to the over-reliance on veterans and multi-million dollar contracts to aging “stars.” Without question, this is a hickey-sized blemish on Sabean’s group (and to that degree, Bochy for continuing to run corpses onto the field).

    BUT, I don’t believe it is possible that a team can continue to win “in-spite of” it’s own front office. It just doesn’t stand to reason. At some point, the Giants front office has to get some credit, and a ranking of 27 out of 30 is placing far too much weight on the perceived process and not nearly enough weight on the successful end result (which, really, is the most important thing).

    While I agree that results alone do not necessarily mean a good process was used, the results do at least suggest that the process used was/is better than fourth worst in the entire game. This is a team that won the World Series 18 months ago, after all, and finished second in two of the last three years. You can’t do that with an incompetent front office (which is what, relatively speaking, 27/30 implies).

    To this point, there are plenty of organizations that have a “good process” that struggle year in and year out. While these organizations might be more public or forthcoming with their use of advanced metrics and statistical analysis, the results don’t necessarily back up an argument that this alone is the best way to go. To Wendy’s point, “we don’t know” the degree to which the Giants use this data. Which is to say, we can’t say with certainty that the Giants don’t routinely incorporate this data in their decision making, or that the Giants do a bad job in this area. Saying they don’t use it is the same as saying they use it all the time. We just don’t have factual evidence to support either claim (unless you use the dismissive Sabean quote from years ago).

    I’ve never been a Sabean apologist and am not about to start. Likewise, I am not saying that the front office should be in the top 5-10 (I see them as more of a 12-17 range). My point is simply that the ranking in this particular area seems a bit misguided and does an injustice to a front office that, by all accounts, has done some very impressive things in recent years. Not the least of which is bring home a World Series trophy, which, as a fan, is all that you can ask.

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  22. samuelraphael says:

    Brian Sabean makes his free agency decisions by using a magic 8 ball.

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  23. Ale says:

    I’m puzzled as to how it can be logically argued that the Giants have the fourth worst Baseball Operation in the majors when they have drafted like this in the past years:
    2011 Joe Panik
    2010 Gary Brown
    2009 Zack Wheeler
    2008 Buster Posey
    2007 Madison Bumgarner
    2007 Tim Alderson
    2007 Wendell Fairley
    2006 Tim Lincecum
    2003 David Aardsma
    2002 Matt Cain

    You can’t possibly equate use of stats as the ultimate arbiter of BOps. Sabean and his team have a knack (is it stats? is it scouting?) of finding players like Ross, Burell, Voglesong. Otherwise the analysis is good but the BO is a real head scratcher as to what the hell you were thinking. A fourth worst Baseball Operations simply does not draft the way they have and make it to two world Series in 10 years

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  24. Kellin says:

    Stings that FG thinks Kenny WIlliams & the White Sox have it more together than Sabes. I guess I really don’t understand how they’re grading the “Baseball Ops.” Drafting not that important as they have several super successful high draft picks (Cain, Lincecum, Posey, Bumgarner) and several low round picks that are succeeding (Belt, Romo, Wilson). They’ve pulled several players out of nowhere that have contributed nicely (Torres, Vogelsong, even the one year Huff deal). But they do have some terrible contracts on the books. I understand that this is not the most efficient/best Front Office in the bigs, but i do not see how they can even approach the worst.

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  25. cpebbles says:

    The article seems to imply that the Giants’ attendance is 3 million per game. Just something I found a little amusing.

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  26. Kevin says:

    For every Alfonzo, Roberts, Rowand, Tejada, DeRosa, Renteria there is a Burrell, Uribe, Casilla, Volgelsong, Torres, Lopez success. And where are the comments on the drafting/development done? Name one other team that has hit on as many draft picks/international signing as the Giants have? Posey, Lincecum, Cain, Wilson, Romo, Sandoval etc… He made great trades for Jeff Kent that lead us to a World Series appearance and Freddy Sanchez that led us to a World Title. It ignores the fact that Sabean rebuilt this team is 4 years, same can’t be said about the Rays, A’s, Orioles, Rangers, Royals, Pirates, Nationals, Marlins, Reds…

    This is absolutely a terrible ranking for the front office.

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  27. Shane H says:

    This offense will ae top five in the national league by 2013 and will still be a top five pitching staff. Baseball OPS score should be higher as well. Excellent player development, and the Rowand, Renteria, Huff, Tejada, Ross, Burrell, signings were lousy but the Giants had to do it because they had that pitching staff and had to take chances with the offense as they could not land a big time bat. The Zito deal was dumb but the Giants owners pushed for that. Gary Brown, Joe Panik Panda, Posey, Belt, Tommy Joseph and Nate Schierholtz could be amngst the best lineups around. Even if they let Lincecum walk or even better trade him while his value is high, They ahve enough to be contenders for years to come.

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  28. DrBGiantsfan says:

    I have to say, for all the complaining here, I was pleasantly surprised to see Fangraphs rank the Giants as high as #12. That is a very fair ranking.

    Like others, though, I just can’t see how an organization that is ranked #12 can have a front office that is ranked #27. That is just a huge disconnect that reeks of bias. For a site that supposedly prides itself on evidence based opinions and using objective criteria, that is unconscionable.

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  29. Never understood how Sabean still has a job after: Boof Bonser, Liriano, and Nathan for Pierzynksi, then he non-tendered A.J. and signed Matheny. That alone is a set of firing offenses.

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    • DrBGiantsfan says:

      You know, I think every GM should be fired immediately after they make their first bad trade, especially if it comes after about 10 good ones.

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    • tbd says:

      luckily for Giants fans, you’re not the one responsible for hiring and firing the SF GM.

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  30. Nivra says:

    Wow. You guys have taken a lot of heat in this thread for the Giants’ Baseball Ops score.

    Aside from that, I have a question about 2013+ Outlook. Hulet ranks the farm system 23rd, yet the Giants are 20th. I assume that’s because of this: “That category is not just current prospects or recently graduated prospects, but also the expected future value of every player under team control beyond this season.” You mention team control for players like Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Posey, Panda, Belt, Wilson, Romo, Crawford. That’s an immense amount of value locked up at really cheap rates. Does it really only raise the Giants’ ranking by 3? What orgs have the greatest disparity between prospect farm rankings and 2013+ Outlook? Is +3 a substantial difference, or is that above listed crop of young, 2-6 WAR producing talent pretty typical, if better than average?

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  31. Dave Flemming says:

    Full disclosure – Dave Flemming here. I have been part of the Giants broadcast team for the past 9 years, so I have an obvious connection to Sabean and the Giants franchise. I am only placing some brief comments here at the invitation of Wendy, one of many fine contributors here at Fangraphs.
    On twitter this morning (@FlemmingDave in case you’d like to check it out) I offered the comment on this piece to the effect that I saw no justification for a front office ranking for the Sabean and the Giants as low as 27 out of 30 MLB teams. Many comments here reflect concerns with that ranking as well. Not my job to defend Brian Sabean or the Giants as a whole, but I do feel compelled to do so, at Wendy’s invite.
    I don’t question that assessing a front office’s collective performance is a challenging task, and the Giants record is far from perfect. The free agent contracts that have not worked well in the last decade are too numerous, to put it mildly. Some of those mistakes have been particularly damaging.
    But I still cannot understand how a front office that has developed a core of young, star players that would be the envy of all but a few organizations; that has had a string of astounding success with its valuable high round draft picks; that has far more often than not in the past 15 years fielded a contending and winning team; has an enviable record of making productive trades; and has a world series championship just a year ago – how that team’s decision makers could rank only ahead of three others in the entire sport makes no sense to me.
    I’d add that this Giants front office has also picked three separate but successful managers, and has fostered a continuity in the coaching staff (particularly on the pitching side) that has greatly benefitted the franchise as a whole. A GM’s ability to choose a field staff and then maintain a healthy relationship with that staff is an important part of the job, and Sabean has done that quite well.
    I wouldn’t be taking issue if the Giants front office was being criticized for its failures but credited for its great successes. I am not seeing any credit given for those successes with a rank of 27/30. I’d argue that at worst, the Giants have the second most successful front office in the NL West, and Sabean’s and Towers’ records are quite similar IMO, given the context of where each has spent his career. I’m not going to make a list, but there are PLENTY of other franchises around the game whose front offices, in my opinion, have nowhere near the track record of the Giants’ – whether by failure of their own or a complete lack of a track record.

    I guess the real motivation for all of this is to say that Sabean is not at all a self-promoter, and not an outgoing personality. He doesn’t call powerful baseball writers to feed information in exchange for media plugs. He does not discuss openly his methodology or his decision making. He’s also not perfect – but I think he consistently gets undervalued by many analysts around the sport.

    Keep up the excellent work, Fangraphs!

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    • DrBGiantsfan says:

      Wow! Thanks Dave! Very well put.

      BTW, I live in SoCal, and mostly get Kruk and Kuip on the TV broadcasts. Last summer, I had to drive up to the Bay area and got to listen to you and Jon do an afternoon game on KNBR. Best drive I’ve ever made in my life! They were playing Washington and Matt Cain was on fire. That was the game some fans got on Laynce Nix for the spelling of his first name. I nearly wrecked the car from laughing so hard at you and Jon’s description of the whole thing. Great broadcast! You and Jon are the best!

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    • walt kovacs says:

      9 years? why do you still look 16?

      very good points flem

      and while sabey sabes doesnt self promote…he sometimes has great on air fights with local talent

      thats how i know he hasnt had a vacation in 15 years

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    • Hawk_941 says:

      Well put, Dave. And since you couldn’t say it, I’ll say that placing baseball operations for teams like the Mets, Pirates, and Astros ahead of the Giants is ludicrous.

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    • tbd says:

      nice job Dave.

      Prob not a great idea to lower yourself to commenting with the common riff raff like us but you might start a trend though and before we know it all the announcers and front office hot shots are commenting on these stat nerd websites.

      say hi to Kruk and Kuip. (i don’t like Jon Miller and you can tell him i said so, haha)

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  32. Atlee says:

    Perhaps their close proximity to Silicon Valley allows the Giants to see advanced metrics as lot of to-do about absolutely nothing…

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  33. sabean shrewdly placed Ned Colleti in charge of a division rival, thereby negating that rival’s financial advantage. He deserves a higher ranking for that bit of sabotage.

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  34. 27th is generous says:

    Zack Wheeler (#17 ranked overall prospect) for 44 games of a 34-year old Carlos Beltran. That deal alone makes Sabean the laughing stock of the league. Inexcusable.

    Also, there’s no way the best team in baseball won the WS in 2010. Inferior teams frequently win a best of 7 series.

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    • walt kovacs says:

      i hated that trade….the doc liked it

      everyone thought that carlos would come out of the gate hitting, and lead the giants back to the post

      i knew carlos was gonna be a rental, and that wheeler was insurance needed if either cain or timmy walked

      but sometimes you have to roll the dice

      sabes did, he lost

      doesnt make him a laffing stock

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    • Naveed says:

      Sabean has made plenty of bad moves; there’s no need to dock him for the moves that weren’t bad. Beltran was fantastic for the Giants; it’s entirely possible that Wheeler never gives the Mets the value that the Giants got from Beltran. If you want to look at ridiculous moves in 2011, look at the trade of Thomas Neal for Orlando Cabrera that was made at the same time. The Giants would have lost that trade even if they had given up nothing, because Orlando Cabrera played as badly as any major-leaguer I’ve ever seen down the stretch in 2011.

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    • ScottinMarin says:

      Here is a perfect example of someone not understanding WHY the deal was made. The Giants were trying to repeat as WORLD CHAMPIONS not win the trade. The Giants had a 4.5 game lead and needed an impact bat. They went out and got the best available.

      The fact it didn’t work out is irrelevant. They had NO chance without making a move for a bat. NONE. Call me crazy but I’ll go with some chance to win as opposed to no chance.

      Finally I’ll trust the judgement of Tidrow and Co…Clearly they felt it was worth unloading Wheeler. This isn’t Lincecum or Cain we’re talking about, he’s got a very long way to go. There is no guarantee he will be able to solve his command issues.

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    • tbd says:

      lol, they just got stronger and stronger as the playoffs went on. by the time they got to the WS, the Rangers had no chance.

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  35. Wendy Thurm says:

    This has been a terrific discussion and I appreciate the many substantive comments. I especially want to thank Dave Flemming for taking the time to include his comments here after he expressed disagreement with the ranking this morning on twitter.

    As many have mentioned, the rankings reflect the votes of every FanGraphs writer. I, alone, did not determine any of the scores for the Giants or any other team. Once the scores were compiled and teams were ranked, I was asked to analyze the scores and write the post. As a long-time Giants fan, I believe I have insights into the organization that other FanGraphs writers do not.

    Much of the criticism is focused on the ranking of the Giants’ baseball operations, at 27th out of 30 teams. Speaking only for myself, and not the other FanGraphs writers, I do think some of the criticisms are well-founded. The Giants have had a remarkable run of success over the last 10 years with their first round draft picks. That takes good scouting to make those picks and good player development to move those players through minors and to the majors successfully. Other teams have not been so successful. The Giants also have had some success with finding good players in later rounds of the draft.

    Much of the Giants drafting success has been with pitching. Much, but not all, of course, if you look at Posey, Sandoval and Belt. On the other hand, the Giants, in my view, squandered many opportunities to surround that stellar pitching with even a league-average offense. Indeed, the only time the Giants managed a league-average offense since Bonds stopped playing was in 2010, when they won the World Series.

    Other than 2010 (and even then, too) the offense was seriously hampered by poor-performing veterans signed to expensive contracts. Not only did those veterans block younger, more talented players from coming to the majors faster (i.e. Bengie Molina blocking Buster Posey), but the money spent on those aging veterans could not be spent on more productive talent. That’s true even now, with the Giants still responsible for Rowand’s $12 million salary and the second year of Huff’s 2-year/$20 million contract this season. Huff is being paid a lot, he seriously underperformed last year, and has been blocking Belt’s path to the majors. The Giants could have added another impact bat with that $22 million. That list goes on as you look at the roster back several years.

    As for the Giants use of advanced analytics — well, this is a site that develops and advocates the use of these advanced metrics. We don’t believe statistics are the be-all and end-all of baseball operations, but we do believe that there is important information to be gathered, analyzed and used to make good baseball decisions, on rosters, on trades, and on free agent contracts. If you don’t think advanced analytics should play an important role, then you fundamentally disagree with everything we try to do here at FanGraphs.

    Indeed, these rankings are FanGraphs’ rankings, and therefore give particular weight to those teams who, in our view and based on the information we have available to us, incorporate baseball analytics in their decision-making. We recognize that the Giants have several talented analysts in their baseball operations unit. On the other hand, it’s a fair criticism to say that, in general, both GM Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy, do not seem particularly interested in or knowledgeable about baseball analytics.

    Finally, as with all of these rankings, it’s worth noting that many teams are bunched together with little difference. The Giants were ranked 27th for baseball operations but were just points below the Nationals, who were ranked 20th. And for all the criticism that said, “How can you rank the Giants so low given their recent success,” note that the Phillies, who have won the National League East for five consecutive seasons, were ranked only 4 spots above the Giants in Baseball Operations. Overall the Phillies were ranked higher, and you’ll see the full rankings for them later this week.

    Again, thanks to everyone for their input. Good feedback and constructive dialogue lead to better results in the future.


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    • muzak says:

      Let me stop you at the 4th paragraph because we now have hindsight to vet the decisions made. To say that Posey was blocked by Bengie Molina is to assume that he would’ve hit as well from day 1 as he did from May 29. No one can say that is a fact. What can be said is the transition from Molina to Posey was tough on the pitching staff and did systemically contribute to the August slide. Lincecum in particular noted the difficulty. I do not believe that the transition would’ve been smoother had Bengie not been there at all that year. Furthermore without Bengie’s experience and preparation they may not have gotten through some of those greater difficulties like pitching the extended innings into PS, or Jonathan Sanchez not pitching well and blowing up in Philly for instance. It’s extremely nieve to assume that the pitching staff would’ve been the same from day 1 had Molina not been there. Posey’s responsibilities would’ve been so much greater had he been tasked with the guidance of that staff from day 1 through game 5 or the WS it’s not logical to assume the pitching would’ve been as excellent as it was. With that pitching the championship was won.

      Now to say that Huff is blocking Belt: that is a half truth. It is also true that Posey figures to play a significant amount of time at 1B this year. As much as 3 days/week is possible. Now I’m inclined toward the opinion of Eric Byrnes that Belt has to play every day. That means 600+ ABs this year period- and Belt himself has admitted his goal is to do that first and foremost. So to say that Belt could play 1B for that Giants all year this year is not true. And moving him to the OF on days when Posey plays 1B is not the best option to start the season, if at all. Belt told Byrnes he’s not as comfortable playing OF. It might come with a little more work- work that he could get done in Fresno. The worst option for Belt is to break with the club and play sparingly- that is unanimously agreed upon.

      My personal opinion is that Belt should have the job at 1B this year and the comments of Huff lead me to believe – since he’s expecting that to happen – it will. But for right now having Huff platoon with Posey is not a bad option, until Belt is ready to rope, and play a bit in LF.

      Lastly it should be clear now that players get paid for what they did- not what they do. Averaging out Huff’s 3 years with the Giants for 25+mil is a little high, but not nearly as excessive as a contract like Andruw Jones who’s undoubtedly still waiting to get paid by a team he doesn’t even play for in the wake of the McCourt bankruptcy. Rowand was clearly a waste, but he did contribute in 2010. Rentaria was a complete failure in 2010 until he hit .400 in the PS. Point being: the Giants at least get something out of their failures, that’s more than can be said about plenty of teams in mlb. Even at the height of the worst deals, those first 6 start wins for Zito in 2010 led to a profitable conclusion.

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    • DrBGiantsfan says:

      I wondering why, on a site that champions defensive metrics almost as it’s raison d’etre, there is not one mention of the fact that under Brian Sabean the Giants are at or near the top of team UZR rankings almost every year?

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    • ScottinMarin says:

      “Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy, do not seem particularly interested in or knowledgeable about baseball analytics.”

      And there you have it. They do not SEEM particularly interested. That’s great evidence. Based on your writings, you don’t SEEM knowledgeable enough about the game to be evaluating MLB baseball clubs.

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      • Lynn Walker says:

        Scott, trust me on this. They’re not interested and they’re not using stats analysis in any competent way. My husband was the first analyst the Giants had, way back in Tom Haller’s day, and nothing has changed since then. He spoke to someone currently working in that area for the front office and they asked him what analysis could do. That tells you enough right there.

        In addition, when you read that the chief analyst takes a player’s “heart’ into account, you know they’re just not serious about it.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        Tom Haller’s tenure as GM is certainly relevant to the curren discussion.

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  36. MaybeNextYear says:

    There you have it Giants: Molina/Posey, and Rowand with a side of Huff. The GM and Skip don’t say the things that Fangraphs and the tech-savvy fan base want to hear.

    Gonna have to wait til next year to rush Fangraphs again. Good luck, pledge!

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  37. muzak says:

    Wow. Now here’s a shocker addendum to both Wendy’s comment and my reply: Bochy is apparently hinting at trying the opening day Huff in OF, Belt at 1B experiment. This would not be the RF side and hopefully not entail the tape outline that came with the season prior.

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  38. Snow Leopard says:

    As a Giants fan, I feel like I have participated in many “Is Sabean A Bad/Good GM” discussions over the years

    My opinion:

    Sabean (and his org)’s strengths and victories:

    * Drafting and developing pitching — Lincecum, Cain, MadBum, Wilson, Sergio Romo, Joe Nathan, Russ Ortiz, Jonathan Sanchez, Francisco Liriano, Noah Lowry, Jeremy Accardo, Scott Linebrink, Keith Foulke, Brad Hennessey, David Aardsma, Kevin Correia, Pat Misch, Ryan Jensen

    * Some great trades — paying out peanuts to obtain Jason Schmidt, J.T. Snow, Robb Nenn, Freddie Sanchez, Livan Hernandez, Javier Lopez, Ramon Ramirez, David Bell, Ramon Martinez, Mike Stanton, Dustan Mohr, Kenny Lofton, Sidney Ponson, and a Joe Carter’s last kick — getting Jeff Kent, Randy Winn, and Ellis Burks not for peanuts but they were still good trades — getting positive value back for the rotting husks of Matt Morris and Edgardo Alfonzo

    * Re-signing Bonds a few times and generally keeping him around, following the league-wide policy of blissful ignorance with regards to “late career resurgences”

    * Over-thirty scrap heap finds — Vogelsong, Andres Torres, Omar Vizquel, Benito Santiago, Marquis Griscom, Santiago Casilla, Scott Eyer, Andres Galarraga, Juan Uribe, Deivi Cruz, Pat Burrell, Randy Johnson, Keiichi Yabu, Brad Penny, Cody Ross (shhh he was almost thirty)

    * A few good free agent signings — Ray Durham, Moises Alou — and a bunch of his re-signings (not gonna look em all up)

    * Whatever the front office/coaching staff has figured out to systematically develop low HR/FB rates for pitchers

    Sabean (and his org)’s weaknesses and failures:

    * Does not understand the value of walks/isoOBP for hitters, both the value of walks in terms of getting men on base, and their value in terms of not making outs (this misunderstanding has been demonstrated both in which players are selected and which are let go, and in the coaching that young players report getting)

    * Poor job developing raw hitting talent into productive major leaguer position — Panda, Bill Mueller, and Panda have been good, yes — Pedro Feliz, Nate Schierholtz, and Marvin Bernard have had their uses — but the misses far outweight the hits: Todd Linden, John Bowker, Travis Ishikawa, Kevin Fransden, Matt Downs, Manny Burris, Travis Denker, Ryan Rohlinger, Damon Minor, Calvin Murray, Carlos Villanueva, Dante Powell, Edwards Guzman, Dan Ortmeier, Lance Niekro, Cody Ransom, Clay Timpner, Chad Santos, Tony Torcato, Eddy Martinez-Esteve, Jason Ellison, Adam Shabala — the list of guys who didn’t develop goes on and on

    * Horrible/bad free agent signings — Zito, Aaron Rowand, Armando Benitez, Edgardo Alfonzo, Neifi “El Malo” Perez, Dave Roberts, Huff re-sign, Jason Christiansen re-sign, Miggy Tejada, Mark DeRosa, Edgar Renteria, Shawon Dunston final signing — attempted to sign Sarge Jr and Juan Pierre but got outbid

    * Bad trades — Nathan and Liriano for AJ Pierzynski is one for the ages, of course — Jeremy Accardo for Shea Hillenbrand — also, getting rid of Scott Linebrink, Russ Ortiz, Ben Webber, and Bill Mueller — picking up players that were useless when he got em like Jose Guillen and OCab — I’d imagine Zach Wheeler for two months of Beltran may end up on this list

    * Poor job understanding the importance of first base as an offense-first position (especially important for NL teams) — generally overvalues defense at first base

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    • Snow Leopard says:

      And, as for Sabean’s track record of success: yes, thankfully, it has generally been impressive. And I think that he yes deserves a lot of credit for that.

      But, I do not think Sabean should be given that much credit for Barry Bonds’ (pbuh) somewhat improbable run of godlike excellence at age 35-39. Without that, Sabean’s track record would look markedly worse.

      Also, in the time between Bonds’ decline and the youth movement coming to bloom, ie the four years 2005-2008, the Giants were seventh (among MLB teams) in attendance, fourteenth in payroll, and twenty-fifth in wins. Only Kansas City, Baltimore, and the Cubs had similar negative disjuncts between money spent and on-field results during those years.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        Brian Sabean had a plan for the immediate post-Bonds era. It is now referred to by a lot of Giants fans as AFW: Ainsworth, Foppert, Williams. When those 3 were still prospects, BA said that the Giants “have as much pitching as any organization in baseball.” Yes, we all know that pitching prospects can be dicey, but to have all 3 of those fail the way they did was monumentally bad luck. Of course, if they had succeeded, the Giants might not have been as bad as they were in subsequent years and might not have had the opportunity to draft Timmy, MadBum and Buster!

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    • Shankbone says:

      Excellent and fair points. No GM is without faults, I just feel that Sabean’s are dredged up constantly without consideration to what he does well, or that he might learn from past mistakes and do something different. The Giants aren’t signing proven vets to long term contracts anymore, and haven’t been since the disasters of 2007/8.

      Up above the poster Peter had the excellent point about Quinn or the ownership group gutting the scouting 75% after the 94 strike. This contributes mightily to the poor record of bringing hitters into the organization. The Giants concentrated on pitching – Tidrow and Sabean’s comfort zone – and suffered the consequences. Sabean was very adept in his first 6 years at using the farm system as a trading post to supplement the major league roster.

      The bad trades part is my other point of contention. Nathan-AJ turned into a disaster quickly, but was not considered that way at the time of the trade. Similarly, the Beltran-Wheeler deal will be judged either neutral or a failure because the Giants missed the postseason. Here is where I feel Sabean is in a no-win. If he signs Beltran up this year, and Beltran gets hurt, critics will immediately say Sabean chases old vets and doesn’t do his due diligence. Beltran signs with the Cards instead for consensus reasonable money and Sabean isn’t doing enough to support the offense. But if the Giants get involved in the bidding, there is no telling what the eventual price tag is.

      Getting outbid and used as a stalking horse has been seared into Sabean’s brain. My point is he has learned from the experience. He gobbled up Rowand and suffered the consequences. To be fair this could be mandated from above by a gun-shy ownership group that has definitely been shaken by the Rowand/Zito deals.

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  39. SF Giants #1 says:

    12th or 1st?

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  40. ScottinMarin says:

    Yeah Wendy,

    Can you please explain to me how a FO ranked 27th overall can possibly win 2 World Championships in 3 years?

    Can’t wait.

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  41. I came across this by accident, but it is kind of fun to see the pundits dig a 6 foot hole in the ground regarding the Giants during this run of greatness.

    This is not up there with Baseball Prospectus publishing their 2010 screed – which basically lists similar arguments as above – about how the Giants need to fire Sabean, like now!, and goes through the usual litany of sins that Sabean has done to deserve such a fate.

    But it is still interesting and informative, particularly since Wendy actually follows the Giants (a fault I find with most site’s analysis of the Giants is their usage of generalists to analyze any team, missing simple details that would inform the analysis greatly).

    Still bias is shown. My biggest problem is that such analysis of Sabean’s record is very common, yet I’ve never seen one yet of Beane’s record, which is filled with just as many bad free agent signings, has a heck of a lot more bad trades, has poor record with drafting players as well (which Beane himself acknowledged when he did a massive sell-off, despite starting to be competitive, because his farm system was barren, which to credit of sites like these, they did point out the emperor’s new clothes).

    And as much credit as he’s given for being saber, when BP analyzed what Beane (and teams) need to do to go deep into the playoffs, they created a formula in that book (around 2005 or 2006) for teams to follow – high K staff, great closer, and good defense (plus a strong rotation to boot, really) – and Beane has never gotten close to that formula, having low K staffs, trading closers right and left once they get good, whereas the Giants (ignoring whether they followed the advice or not) has basically followed that formula to the T (though lately the K has gone down). Meanwhile, over the years, the Giants have leaked bits of information regarding their internal operations, making it clear that they have a saber analytics unit, but like any GOOD company, refuses to share their secrets with the public. But nobody ever mentions that when the new FX Defense system came out, the Giants were one of the first beta testers, and in interviews, were eager to get it put in and used. If that’s not a good sign of a team into sabermetrics, I don’t know what is.

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