Joe Sheehan, as usual, says it better than I do:
…. I keep coming back to the trend line of the last few offseasons. The industry is getting smarter, valuing things that matter—expected on-field performance, applied skills, proper evaluation—over a knee-jerk preference for experience. Teams are coming around to the idea, first expressed by Bill James in the 1980s, that talent in baseball is not normally distributed, that for every great player there are multiple above-average ones, and for every above-average one many average ones. There’s no reason to pay extra money for average performance, and the vast majority of players are at that level or below.
The majority of baseball players, even major leaguers, are fungible. If you pay $4 million each for three players who will produce $2 million worth of value, you’ve wasted six million that could be better spent on high-impact players. The key mistake that continues to be made—and we’ve seen it with Kendall and the Royals, Ivan Rodriguez and the Nationals, Brandon Lyon and the Astros—is money wasted in dribs and drabs on players who are fungible by teams that have no reason to chase wins.
Or, as in the case of the Giants, you pay $9 or $10 million each for three or four players who will produce $2 million worth of value, in which case; you are mired in the bottom of the standings, and your franchise is completely hamstrung in it’s efforts to acquire true top-tier talent. To make matters worse, Giants fans get to watch a team run by a man who thinks this kind of worthless babbling matters in the day to day operations of running a baseball team:
DL: Earlier today, Peter Gammons told me that you do a good job of handling a bullpen. Why do you think he feels that way?
BB: Well, I’m fortunate that I have a good bullpen, and I’ll say this: A good bullpen makes a manager look a lot smarter, because when you’re making moves and taking pitchers out, if they don’t get the job done, then it looks like it was a horrible move. But if they do, then they make you look good. To have [Brian] Wilson as my closer, and to have Jeremy Affeldt and Bobby Howry, [Brandon] Medders—those guys did a great job. My job is to manage the bullpen, and not just for a game, but through the season. So if people believe that, great, because it’s an important part of the game. But it still always comes down to the personnel getting it done for you.
Good job of handling the pen? Really? This is a manager who thinks its perfectly OK to use four relievers to get two outs in a four run game. Sure, his moves looked good this season, his pitchers were lights out. But he walked out to that mound as often as anyone in baseball, often chasing the tiniest percentage; and more often than not, taking out a pitcher who was cruising along. Bcohy’s at least honest in his answer, it’s all on the players to make him look good.
DL: What the Giants need more than anything is a couple of players at the top of the batting order who can get on base. True or false?
BB: Yeah, I’d say true. You know, our leadoff hitter, [Eugenio] Velez, there’s no question we’d like to have a little higher on-base percentage between him and [Andres] Torres. That’s an area that we’re looking at.
DL: Can a team win in today’s game without power?
BB: Yeah, it’s been done, and I think today they can, although they are going to have to throw the ball awfully well, and they’re going to have to catch the ball, and they’re going to have to play the game of baseball. What I mean by that is they have to execute sound, fundamental baseball.
Um, no, it hasn’t been done. Not in today’s game, not for a very long time. There have been but a handful of teams in baseball history that have won a championship without an offense in –at least– the top third of the league power production. A handful. Forget about the 1985 Cardinals. The 1985 Cardinals were second to last in home runs (just 87), but they led the league in triples, with 59, were fourth in doubles (245), and were 6th in slugging percentage, just 11 points behind the league leaders. Oh, and they led the league in runs scored, by the way.
You have to go all the way back to the 1965 Dodgers to find a team that won a title with an offense as bad as the Giants. Just to get to the Serious, Koufax and Drysdale threw 640 innings between them, with 15 combined shutouts and just shy of 600 combined strikeouts (Koufax had 382!). And then it took them seven games to win that Series. They lost the first two games to the Twins, but finished the Series off with Koufax throwing two complete game shutouts in games 5 and 7.
In other words, even with a shutout by Claude Osteen, it took their best pitcher throwing 18 shutout innings in three days (after a season in which he had already thrown 320 innings) to win a single series in seven games. How many more pitches do you think Koufax had left in him after that? Because back then, all a team needed to do was win one series. The ’65 Dodgers were lucky to beat the Twins at all, coming back from an 0-2 deficit. You think Lincecum can do that three series in a row? You think he can do it once?
In today’s game, a last place offense would never be able to accumulate the 11 wins (most likely 12 starting next year) needed to grab a title. There’s too much pressure on the pitching staff, against too good a level of competition. This team needs power, it needs guys on base.
It needs to play Posey, at the least. It really does need Holliday, even if the cost does seem prohibitive. I mean, how can you justify paying Randy Winn $10 million per these last four seasons, and then balk at paying a hitter like Holliday $16 per? It doesn’t make sense, but then again, trading one of the top pitchers in your minor league system for 115 at bats from a career backup doesn’t make too much sense either.