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Is Good Drafting Enough? World Series Edition, 1

Posted By Matt Klaassen On November 1, 2010 @ 4:00 pm In Daily Graphings | 30 Comments

However and whenever it ends, one thing that the 2010 World Series has demonstrated is that even teams without significant contributions from high-priced free agents have a shot at a championship. (Yes, the Giants still have a lot of money bound up in Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito, but the former has been consigned to the bench and the latter didn’t even make the playoff roster.)

The successes of the Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants this season would have been impossible without good drafting and development. This has given hope to fans of other franchises such as the Kansas City Royals. While Dayton Moore has made many terrible trades and free agent signings in the past, it can’t be denied that he has done a splendid job of rebuilding the Royals’ minor league system. Featuring draftees such as Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers, Mike Montgomery, John Lamb, and Danny Duffy, among others, the Royals’ farm system is almost universally considered to be the best in baseball at the moment. While Moore’s record in trades and free agent signings has been pretty horrible taken as a whole, the same can be said of Giants GM Brian Sabean, leading Rany Jazayerli, Dean of Royals bloggers, to tweet (following a related blog post)

If Brian Sabean gets a ring, there’s no way on God’s Green Earth you can convince me that Dayton Moore can’t do the same thing.

It is an interesting thought, and one that isn’t unique to Jazayerli. Others have seen in the Giants and/or Rangers a draft-based “plan” that other less-affluent (i.e., not the Yankees or Red Sox) franchises can embrace. No one denies, of course, that it is necessary for almost every team to draft and develop well. The question is how far doing so is sufficient for a team to compete. It would be silly to argue that a team can compete solely with players they originally drafted or signed — neither Jazayerli nor anyone else is making that claim. But just how much did the World Series teams need to “supplement” their excellent drafts by way of free agency and trades? Rather than focusing on the Royals’ situation, Rany’s discussions, specifically (see also the recent excellent posts at Royals Review), or whether the current World Series teams got “lucky” in their acquisitions or not, in lieu of a detailed study I want to take a cursory look at the provenance of some of the more significant contributors to the 2010 success of the Giants and Rangers. Today’s post will focus on the Giants; the follow-up will deal with the Rangers.

The Giants’ recent drafting prowess is obvious from a look at their World Series starting rotation. Staff ace Tim Lincecum put up 5.1 WAR in a “down” year for him; Matt Cain, 4.0; Jonathan Sanchez, 2.6; and Madison Bumgarner, 2.0 (in only 111 innings). Closer Brian Wilson is also a Giants draftee, and had 2.7 WAR this season. That’s more than 16 wins from pitchers the Giants drafted and who are all still under club control. Among the position players, catcher Buster Posey stands out as another budding superstar, accumulating 3.9 WAR in less than 500 plate appearances this season.

However, it is clear that the Giants, who just barely made the playoffs, couldn’t have done so without some surprising performances from other kinds of acquisitions. As good as Posey was in a partial season (for reasons totally not related to service time), the 2010 Giants’ two most valuable players according to FanGraphs WAR were 2009 scrap-heap signing Andres Torres (6.0 WAR) and first baseman and second-choice first-baseman Aubrey Huff (5.7 WAR, imagine if first-choice Adam LaRoche had accepted the Giants’s offer). Juan Uribe, brought back as a bench player, was worth about three wins, as was Freddy Sanchez, and Pat Burrell was as valuable as Sanchez in just over half a season in San Francisco after being fished out of Tampa Bay’s dumpster. That’s about 20 wins from veterans signed for far below what they were worth. Indeed, even if, for example, Huff had been “only” a 3 WAR player this season, that would have been a great deal for the Giants, but they wouldn’t have made the playoffs.

The point isn’t whether or not the Giants “knew” these players could do this or that they got “lucky,” but that, even with their excellent recent drafting, they required significant contributions from other players to make it into the playoffs. The next post will take a look at the Rangers and make some concluding reflections.


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