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  1. Huff was actually the Giants 3rd choice. They made a run at Nick Johnson as well.

    Comment by Josh G — November 1, 2010 @ 4:11 pm

  2. I’m not sure exactly what the focus of this article is. On the one hand, we have a question like “Can you win big in the majors focused only on drafting?” That answer is clearly no. Perhaps on this front it would be worth looking at whether you can effectively build an offense or a pitching staff with just the draft. But any team is going to sign SOME free agents, whether at the minor or major league level.

    The other question lurking around here, and the one that seems more interesting, is “Do you need to sign big free agent contracts to compete?” The question seems answered already; the Giants don’t have big free agents producing at a high level, and just about every team that doesn’t play in Boston or New York, but still competes, is in a similar boat. Some big contracts pay dividends; others Barry Zito you.

    If you’re trying to respond to the Royals’ chances of winning a World Series based on their organizational strategy by saying Andres Torres and Aubrey Huff have compiled high WARs this year, you’re almost being nonsensical. Of course the Royals can do the same! A few players start overplaying their contracts, and a farm system matures, and you’re there.

    Comment by Alex — November 1, 2010 @ 4:31 pm

  3. I thinkt he Giants represent this article very well, but where are the players the Rangers have drafted on this team???

    Seems to me that the Rangers have done most of their work (at least as far as impact players) via trade. All I can come up with through the draft is Ian Kinsler and C.J. Wilson (again..impact players). Of course, it’s all relative, as Mark Teixeira was drafted by the Rangers and netted them a lot of talent. They ended up on the better end of the Volquez/Hamilton trade. They also have done a nice job picking players up off the scrap heap.

    Comment by Frank — November 1, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

  4. There are so many thing that have went right for the Giants this year, that think the odds of another team doing it are long against. You have to start by drafting the nextLincecum, Cain, and Sanchez, to begin with. Then you have to have them mature at the same time in the majors. Then, you have to have them stay healthy.

    Then, when you get around to it, either sign some big names and have them perform to contract or sign some craps and have them turn in career years.

    Yeah, it’s really as easy as we make it sound. *grin*

    TB is often the example brought up. But since no other team is an [1] expansion team that has [2] been bad for 10 years, that’s apples to oranges.

    The other strategy is to trade known commodities for unknown prospects and have the trades be incredibly lopsided, like another horrible GM (Kenny Williams).

    I do, somewhat, enjoy the fact that these horrible GMs have made moves that have paid off so greatly to get to (and win) a world series … if for no other reason the fervor and passion that they are attacked here.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — November 1, 2010 @ 4:47 pm

  5. The thing is, though, it happens for one team every year. The chances of winning the World Series at the beginning of spring training are long against any team. Players underperform or overperform their contracts every year. Draft picks come up and succeed or bust. If things go right for you, ballyhoo! If not, shoot! But if you can point out a team that has, say, one draft pick for each of the previous 5-6 years playing well, and all players performing at contract level, robotically winning a baseball championship I would be rather surprised.

    Perhaps you could argue that signing big name free agents is a more likely path to World Series success, but that’s not a particularly more interesting statement than the truisms I just spouted above.

    Comment by Alex — November 1, 2010 @ 5:12 pm

  6. woooow that would have been bad. guy hit sub-.200 then was injured for 5 months…

    Comment by phoenix — November 1, 2010 @ 5:19 pm

  7. Dayton Moore could win a ring. Ruben Amaro also could have. So could have anti sabr man Bill Smith. It seems that there is a consensus on who these horrible gms are but yet their teams do incredibly well. And as someone who has openly called for Sabeans head I realize the error of my ways. Savvy Sabes makes trades for horrible low obp vets, yet he also has made several good decisions that looked very bad when he made them. The Lopez trade and the Freddy Sanchez trade were lampooned as foolish at the time and now look great. Meanwhile sauch lauded gms as Theo Epstein and Jack Z came in with sabr based approaches and one failed miserably and one simply fell behind in the east. I think with gms there is no one way that works. Kenny Williams gets a lot of hate, some justified some not, but he almost always keeps his team in the race. I think what I’m trying to say is that we all can villify gms if they don’t make moves that adhere to our style of baseball analysis, and then when they succeed its purely luck!

    Comment by TexasRanger — November 1, 2010 @ 5:48 pm

  8. It’s worth noting in this discussion that both of these teams were fortunate to win their divisions in down years.

    The “truisms” that this article (and Part II, presumably) will be exploring might be true in one division, but not in another.

    For example, it’s conceivable that the Red Sox raise payroll this offseason. Imagine if the Yankees enter the 2011 season with a $230M payroll, having signed Lee and Crawford, and traded for Grienke. And the Red Sox push far past lux tax territory near $200M, signing Werth, John Buck, and an FA first baseman (letting V-Mart and Beltre walk to collect four picks).

    In that scenario, it’d be crazy for us to say, “Hey, good drafting is enough” or “good drafting and bargain hunting is enough” in the AL East. The statement would be clearly untrue.

    Divisions matter in this discussion. The Red Sox and the Yankees have the opportunity this offseason to buy a near-guaranteed 2011 playoff berth. If they really flex their financial muscles, they render any systematic strategy used by the other AL East teams moot.

    Comment by Jacob Jackson — November 1, 2010 @ 5:51 pm

  9. I’m still not quite sure if the analogy holds true between Sabean and Dayton Moore. Sabean has made some bad moves, but to an extent there appeared to be some rationale to them. Like… Rowand, for example. Bad signing. With that said, they wanted a CF with some pop and he produced that. If you assume he played a full season for each of the last 3 years, he’d be averaging about 2 WAR. Definitely a waste, but filling a position of need. Plus, they’re in a weak division where getting a 2 WAR player in every position means you’ll have a pulse in the playoff hunt anyways.

    Then, look at Moore’s signing of Jose Guillen. They threw down 36m on a DH, when it would give them no chance to compete anyways. Plus, they already had guys in the system who could have used the playing time at DH. Never will understand that.

    So, to me, that’s a significant difference. Throwing way too much money at something potentially useful seems like a very different bad habit than throwing money at parts that aren’t making you closer to a playoff-caliber team.

    Comment by B N — November 1, 2010 @ 6:07 pm

  10. I agree that it’s a problematic analogy, but the quote from Rany re: Moore/Sabean was just a (perhaps awkward) seque into a discussion into how much “more” needs to happen than just drafting well in order for a team to win.

    Comment by Matt Klaassen — November 1, 2010 @ 6:28 pm

  11. I’ll be discussing the Rangers in part 2.

    Comment by Matt Klaassen — November 1, 2010 @ 6:28 pm

  12. “It’s worth noting in this discussion that both of these teams were fortunate to win their divisions in down years.”

    While I agree that the Giants were fortunate to win their division (it was a tight race and the Padres had a late-season collapse), I have a hard time believing that the NL West had a down year. The Giants ended the season with the second best record in the NL and the 5th best in the majors. In terms of wins/team, the NL West ranks third with 82 (first is the AL East with 86.2, second NL East with 83.2, last is the AL West with 78). They were third in wins/team last year (with 84) and sixth in 2008 (with 75).

    I’m not sure where the statement came from, but it wasn’t from looking at what actually happened.

    Comment by Ken — November 1, 2010 @ 7:02 pm

  13. Strategically, I would have posted the part about the Rangers first– they may be irrelevant in a few hours, whatever happens tonight the Giants won’t be.

    Comment by baycommuter — November 1, 2010 @ 7:32 pm

  14. Will you be discussing the blank check that Selig allowed them despite their bankruptcy?

    Comment by delv — November 1, 2010 @ 7:48 pm

  15. Yeah apparently the Giants and Yankees made similar offers and he chose the Yankees

    Comment by Josh G — November 1, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

  16. …aaaaand Rowand starts game 5.

    Comment by BlackOps — November 1, 2010 @ 8:08 pm

  17. I’m just referring to how easy we all make it sound.

    For example, the answer to everyone’s playoff push issue was “David DeJesus”. Well, that’s just great … except for the fact that there’s ONE David DeJesus. Same thing with Tim Lincecum.

    All of these players that every team needs do not exist, which is why teams sometimes over-pay for stars.

    Realistically, for a team to “draft a WS champion” they’d need top 10 draft pick for multiple years AND have a deep draft. So, they’d need to suck for a few years, while drafting the highest talent, and having them develop in the minors and be MLb high quality within 5 years.

    Could a team “draft a WS champion”? Sure, theoretically they could. But given the high amount of scouting skill combined with the small margin for error make it highly unlikely.

    The best bet is to sign quality free agents to join the talent that you did draft when it is mlb dominant ready.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — November 1, 2010 @ 10:36 pm

  18. Dayton Moore could win a ring. Ruben Amaro also could have. So could have anti sabr man Bill Smith. Ot seems that there is a consensus on who these horrible gms are but yet their teams do incredibly well.

    I think the inclusion of Dayton Moore in your statement seriously undermines your point.

    Also, your entire summation of Epstein’s work in Boston is ‘simply fell behind in the east’? I think you may be overlooking a few things that he’s accomplished since taking over in Boston.

    Comment by NBarnes — November 1, 2010 @ 10:37 pm

  19. The AL West is going through some rough times, but Texas deserved a spot.

    The Padres maxed out every bit of potential they had, and the Rockies might have been the best team in the majors not to make it.

    Comment by baty — November 1, 2010 @ 10:41 pm

  20. I think teams are showing that you can’t survive by relying on high priced long term contracts for already proven players. Maybe it’s the PED era fading a bit, and maybe it’s because MLB is experiencing a bit of a golden age with the amount of young star talents throughout the league, but when you look at payrolls of the teams that have survived longest these last few years, the spending results are all over the board. For the most part the major contributors are guys that have been developing through their original team’s system. The teams that make it are the teams that know how to fill in holes by spending the rest of their money wisely.

    Comment by baty — November 1, 2010 @ 11:04 pm

  21. When your’e pushing 200M receiving just a playoff berth is certainly not enough.

    Comment by baty — November 1, 2010 @ 11:06 pm

  22. One thing they did this year was to keep bringing in players to plug holes. Fontenot, Ross, Lopez, all made key contributions at the end of the season. Small additions at the time, that paid off big in terms of getting them to the playoffs. Luck, maybe. Maybe they had a good handle on exactly what they needed and went out and got it.

    What’s most impressive to me is that they didn’t lose anything they needed; nor did they spend boatloads of cash for any of those guys.

    And as an aside, I don’t care what fangraphs metrics say about Matt Cain. He’s a helluva pitcher.

    Comment by jirish — November 1, 2010 @ 11:40 pm

  23. Yeah, but the playoff berth is the only part you can guarantee. The rest is a crapshoot.

    Comment by Jacob Jackson — November 2, 2010 @ 2:32 am

  24. Wins isn’t a good proxy for quality of division. That’s skewed by the AL’s superiority, which – as you noted – is driven by the AL East.
    The AL continues to dominate the NL in interleague play. When the average AL team plays the average NL team, the AL is about a 97-win team. This is true over the last 5+ years of interleague play.

    Every year in the NL West is a “down” one, in comparison to the talent that resides in the AL East. So the fact that four scrappy NL West teams all maintained good, competitive records all year long (while avoiding the AL East meat grinder on their schedule) means nothing to me.

    Comment by Jacob Jackson — November 2, 2010 @ 2:38 am

  25. The Giants, for example, were fortunate enough to avoid drawing either the Rays OR the Yankees on their regular season schedule, despite matching up with the AL East this year. Their interleague slate included six games against Oakland, and three apiece against Tor/Balt/Bos.

    When you consider that the NL West came down to the last two days, this fortunate scheduling draw was arguably the difference. And I’m using it to point out the inadequacy of comparing “quality of division” by looking at W/L records. The Giants would’ve lost many more games if they had to play the Yankees and Rays 15 times apiece, the way AL East teams had to.

    Comment by Jacob Jackson — November 2, 2010 @ 2:46 am

  26. “Fontenot, Ross, Lopez, all made key contributions at the end of the season. Small additions at the time, that paid off big in terms of getting them to the playoffs”

    See, this is a good idea, but like a lot of things the Giants did this year, it came out gravy. Last year the Tigers traded for Aubrey Huff and Jarrod Washburn at the deadline. Those are similar moves to Fontenot, Ross and Lopez. What happened? Washburn started about three games and Huff was worth negative WAR the rest of the way as the Tigers tanked and blew the Central.

    Could anyone have really predicted that one set of mediocre pick-ups would flourish while another set of similar true-talent players would flounder? I don’t know, perhaps some of it can be chalked up to coaching but at the end of the day you have to put your team in position to win and hope for some luck. Sabean did that . . . like a number of managers, and that’s about it.

    Comment by The Nicker — November 2, 2010 @ 3:54 am

  27. I should know better than to respond to trolls, but delv’s statement is such a blatant misrepresentation of facts I had to chime in. The Rangers were absolutely on a budget, had to deal extra prospects to save cash in their trades, and still kept to one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. Get a clue.

    Comment by todmod — November 2, 2010 @ 2:17 pm

  28. You turned Barry Zito into a verb, I’m impressed, it made me laugh out loud.

    Comment by Josh Shepardson — November 2, 2010 @ 3:14 pm

  29. While I agree that the AL East is definitely the hardest division, measuring whether or not any particular division is good by whether or not that division plays the AL East (which the NL West did do in 2010, remember we’re talking division, not the Giants) is a pretty poor measuring stick.

    The NL West went 18-21 against the AL East in 2010. Is that a winning record? No. Is it sucking? Hardly.

    If you don’t want wins to be a proxy for how good a division is, what do you want? Propose something better.

    Comment by Ken — November 2, 2010 @ 5:18 pm

  30. Sabean’s black mark is the signings the team has made in terms of big free agent contracts.

    On the whole, though, he has been successful. He has been successful with picking up guys off the scrap heap (Grissom, Huff, etc.) and getting good production. He has also been successful with trades, you need to look at his body of work there, and not focus on the A.J. trade, he has gotten a lot of useful players for little given up, from Schmidt to Franchez, Rueter to Winn. He also picked up Jeff Kent.

    What he’s been trying to do the past few years is to acquire players who can play multiple positions and/or there are other players who can play the same position, using a portfolio management risk management process. With so many players who can play multiple position at relatively similar production, you can tolerate a player getting injured or faltering, because there would be another who could step in and produce. This reduces the overall risk of lower production while adding players who relatively risky when viewed on their own.

    What people has not been getting, but I’ve been saying for years now, drafting a first round pick is not the same for all teams. Teams that have been contending regularly get really low odds picks in the back of the first round that pays off in a good player maybe 10% of the time. When you are one of the worse teams in the majors, you get a pick that pays off in an good player around 40-45% of the time. Huge difference.

    That’s why “genius” Billy Beane, once his team started winning and regularly contending, had a barren farm system that forced him to trade away Hudson and Mulder to rebuild via trades. And those two deals show the extremes in how that might work out. That why “idiot” Brian Sabean, who was derided for being unable to draft people, suddenly is a “genius” for his picks lately, after the Giants have been losing pretty badly for a while.

    Losing is no panacea – see KC, Pittsburgh for why – you still need to put together the team well via the draft. What Sabean has done basically follows the blueprint that Baseball Prospectus and The Hardball Times had outlined for success deep into the playoffs: pitching and fielding improves your chances, offense adds no benefit. BP also gave guidelines: high staff K/9; high closer WRXL; high defensive rating.

    That’s why Sabean succeeded in the playoffs this year while Beane was stopped all those other years. While both teams had a great starting 3, the Giants have a lot of strikeout artists, while the A’s didn’t. The Giants cultivated Brian Wilson, recognizing the value of a reliable closer, while the A’s regularly switched closers, thinking they are easy to replace on the cheap. I think both have emphasized fielding defense excellence.

    Another factor that I’ve been promulgating is that a team with as many aces/near-aces as they do – four with high DOM% PQS – has a huge advantage over other teams in short series. A high DOM% results in a lot more quality starts and thus you can beat the other team’s back of rotation regularly. Meanwhile, Sabean has Lincecum who can outduel most team’s aces. That was their formula for winning in the playoffs, Lincecum on top, Bumgarner beating up on other’s #4 starters.

    Comment by obsessivegiantscompulsive — November 3, 2010 @ 9:05 pm

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