Saturday, July 27, 2013

Friday Baseball Post

Here's the thing: as Bill James said long ago, and as I've often repeated, the worst thing you can do after a championship season is to try to keep the exact same team together. For one thing, it means you're pretending that there are no weaknesses on the team, which is never true. For another, almost all champions get there in part because they have guys who were at least a bit over their heads, and they're going to come down to earth. It's just a terrible idea.

And lo and behold, there you are: twice Sabean tried to keep the exact same team, and twice it ended with a terrible year.

Now, some of it is just how it goes. Keeping Matt Cain and expecting him to be at least fairly good was reasonable. Lincecum? It wasn't nuts to hope for a bounce-back season, although it was an obvious problem spot coming in. And Bumgarner has been OK.

But Vogelsong's collapse isn't really a surprise. He wasn't actually all that good last year -- ERA+ was 105. Yes, that undersells him a bit because it excludes four excellent postseason starts...on the other hand, he was 34, and of course had no history of sustained success.

Which leaves...Zito. Postseason heroics notwithstanding, we're talking about a guy who turned in an 85 ERA+ at age 34, and that was a comeback year. Of course he was bad this year; it would have been a shocker if he was any good.

Did Sabean even know that last year's champs were a great hit, mediocre pitch team? Who knows? China Basin has been playing as an extreme pitcher's park, and you just never know what Sabean picks up on and what he doesn't.

What it comes down to is that the team started the year with two seemingly reliable, although not star, starters; two major question marks; and one guy with little hope of being close to league average. And very little in the way of Plans B, C, and D; there was Chad Gaudin, and then...what?

Now, I don't know what options were available, but they just shouldn't have gone into the season expecting league-average results from that rotation.


  1. Two things:

    Sabean has his flaws, but let's not pretend 2011 can be summed up as keeping the same team. We'll never know how it turns out if Posey doesn't have that horrific ankle injury. Hell, the team almost made the playoffs (if Beltran had hit when he first came over...).

    Second, "Bumgarner has been OK." Wait, what? That's an understatement and unfair to Bum. He's been pretty damn good.

    The Giants can't hit, and the lack of depth has killed them. That's on Sabean, but there have also been injuries. Pagan going down has hurt, and Vogey might have hurt.

    I certainly understand being frustrated, but let's not get the facts wrong.

  2. Success over a long 162 game season and success in a short post-season series aren't the same; or stated another way, the causation isn't the same. Would the New York Yankees who won five straight championships (from 1949 through 1953) have won them all, or any of them, if they had to win several post-season play-off series just to reach the world series? It's far easier to build a team for either a long 162 game season or a short post-season series than to build a team for both.

  3. Rayward's observation leads to an interesting thought: will the expansion of MLB playoffs diminish our interest in the efforts of Sabean and other front office-types? Expanding on Rayward's point, while the Giants won the 2012 WS, they also lost the first two games of the playoffs at home. One of those losses, at least, was obviously bad luck (Cueto going down at the outset of Game 1).

    And while it was certainly wise to travel to Cincinnati, and the (Extremely) Friendly (to Visiting Playoff Teams) Confines of GABP, winning three in a row on the road is the kind of rare outcome for which a GM can't easily plan.

    Both the NHL and NBA have gone to 16 playoff teams; doesn't it seem to be the case that seedings matter much more in the NBA playoffs than the NHL playoffs (or the MLB playoffs, for that matter)?

    It also seems, speaking entirely subjectively, that fans care a lot more about personnel activities on NBA teams than NHL ones; could that be because personnel moves have more relevance to the eventual champion?

    Food for thought. I find it interesting, maybe no one else does.

  4. When the Cubs win a championship we can expect to see an interesting subsequent season.

  5. I think you're understating how big Cain's fall has been. He was quite good in recent years, and has been absolutely terrible this year. And without the herky-jerky delivery that Lincecum had that scouts could see a comeuppance in the future.

    No disagreements on the others, though.

  6. I wonder if winning a championship makes players overrated on the trade / free agent market, so that it's smart to trade them out for someone better or sign someone cheaper.


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