Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday baseball post

Back to the Giants, and back to Brian Sabean.

I have a bit of a dissenting view of Brian Sabean, I think. First, I think most of the Sabean-haters don't give him enough credit for drafting & developing pitchers. That's to Sabean's credit, and I think does a great deal to offset his obvious failure at developing hitters. Overall, the Giants have developed a fair amount of talent during the Sabean years, especially considering that they did draft low (or give away draft choices) during many of those years. That it was almost all pitching is odd, but not necessarily a bad thing.

Then there's his inability to judge talent, which gets into the thing about him being sabermetrically challenged. Via Steven Rubio, here's a good example of that sort of thing. And, you know, I don't exactly disagree with it -- he does do a terrible job of judging talent, and it seems to follow the pattern of someone who believes that triple crown stats are a good way to judge a player -- but I'm not really sure how much it's hurt the team over the years. Some, for sure.

So, what is (even more) wrong with Brian Sabean? It's that he does not use all of the available sources of talent, at least not when it comes to hitting.

Here's a quicky study. I went through the starting players with the eight postseason teams this year, and looked at where each of those players came from. Then, I did the same for all Giants starting hitters acquired by Sabean from 1997 to now. It's not a careful study...I made a lot of snap decisions of who to count and who not to count as "starting players." But it's good enough to demonstrate the point.

I counted 22 players on the 2009 playoff teams who were acquired after establishing themselves as regulars. Examples include A Rod, Furcal, Hunter, Vlad, Feliz (all FAs), as well as Blake, Swisher, Lowell, Bay, and Victor Martinez (all trades). That's 33% of the players.

The Giants had 23 players in that group: FAs such as Molina, Roberts, Hamilton, Alfonzo, and Alou; and players obtained through trades such as Kent, Snow, Bell, Winn, and Burks. That's...wait for it...about 75% of the players in the group.

Now, there is one large group that the 2009 playoff teams had the the Giants basically didn't have, but that I at least partially give Sabean a bit of a pass on, which is drafted & developed (or signed & developed) players. The 2009 teams had 32 of these guys, and the Giants have had...well, it's hard to count, but it's no more than five, and as few as two.

Here's the thing: that's a huge, huge, enormous disadvantage for the Giants. But it's actually a result of a non-insane strategy, a strategy that has produced Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Liriano, Nathan...and then lots of other guys. Grilli, Linebrink, Taschner, Bonsor, Hennessey, Lowry, Correia, Hensley, Palmer, Aardsma, Wilson, and some other current guys, and burnout cases such as Vogelsong, Ainsworth, Williams, Foppert, Bump.

There is one category that Sabean uses that the current playoff teams don't: washed up former major league regulars. Don't laugh; it's worked out well once (Santiago) and OK once (Uribe). Sabean has one to this well about 5-7 times compared to zero for the 2009 playoff teams.

But now we get to the guys who Sabean just won't touch, and this is where IMO he absolutely deserves to be fired.

Four regulars for 2009 playoff teams were castoffs who had not established themselves as regulars. Sabean has not picked up anyone in that category and made them a starter (there are two borderline guys here, Mayne and Alfonzo).

Two regulars for 2009 playoff teams were FAs from Asia or Cuba. Sabean? Zero.

A few regulars from 2009 playoff teams were bench or platoon players before being acquired in a trade (depending on how it's counted, it's about three regulars). Sabean? Zero.

Two regulars from 2009 playoff teams were acquired in trades when they were still minor leaguers. Sabean? Zero.

And one regular from a 2009 playoff team was picked up in the Rule V draft. Sabean? Zero.

Here's the 2009 playoff team all-stars picked up from categories Sabean won't touch:
C Varitek
1B Morales
2B Tolbert
SS Punto
3B Figgins
LF Ludwick
CF Victorino
RF Werth
DH Matsui

Bench: Ortiz, Rivera, C. Gomez, Torrealba

It's not an actual All Star team, although there are some nice players there. And they were not all cheap; Matsui was pricey, and trading for prospects is a different kind of expensive. But still: these are all players that Brian Sabean would not have picked up, because none of them was an established major league regular before they were signed or traded for.

And then, if you combine a massively pitching-intensive farm system with ruling out all these sources of talent, there's just no possible way to build a good team unless you're lucky enough to have Superman doing most of the work (and Sabean also inherited lots of other talent, so he didn't have to start by building from scratch).

He really should be fired.

1 comment:

  1. Good points, and they really point to why, even if Sabean would be a useful GM for some franchise, he's the wrong one for the Giants at this time. They need someone right now who does a decent job of evaluating offense ... that is probably Sabean's biggest blind spot. The pitching he has acquired sets the foundation; someone else needs to fill in the blanks.

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