Monday, November 8, 2010

Lessons learned from Los Gigantes

It's been a week now, but we're just starting to shake out the cobwebs from our otherwise addled brain and make heads and/or tails of San Francisco's World Series win. Without wanting to suggest that the Giants have blazed the only path to success, we thought that there are a few lessons that can be drawn from how they made their allegedly unlikely run that might be worth remembering as we kvetch and moan about the Jays in the coming years. (All standard caveats about the distinction of playing in the AL East apply.)

It's all about pitching, stupid.
People love to fictitiously trade an arm for a bat. Multiple arms, even, for one big middle of the lineup guy. But if there is one thing that we can learn from the Giants' rather tidy disposal of two of baseball's most potent offenses, it's that good pitching will win out in the end. (So don't go trading Tim Lincecum for Alex Rios, or anything silly like that.1)

Whatever happens to the mish-mosh of other players around them, Lincecum/Cain/Bumgarner/Sanchez look like they can keep this team in contention for years to come. And if we're trying to apply this lesson to our own team, let's just say that we're going to pull back on the Marcum or Drabek deals for some .840 OPSing first baseman. For now, anyways.

Slaughter your sacred cows
The Giants left their highest paid player off the playoff roster; they kept a big late season acquisition of the roster for understandable reasons; they left a guy making $13.6 Million on the bench, as though he were some scrappy super sub; their big offseason acquistion bare sniffed the sea air in the Bay; and they benched a player in the middle of the playoffs who is supposed to be a cornerstone of the franchise's future success.

Maybe a couple of years with The Manager has us subconciously buying into the orthodoxy, but we found the way the Bruce Bochy managed his roster to be pretty ballsy throughout the playoffs. And it reminds us that the notion that the Jays "have to" play Lind or Hill or Wells everyday because they've already commited financially to do so is a bit of a false argument that we trick ourselves into.

You can find a lot of help out there for not much
The Giants got Cody Ross (maybe their best offensive player through the postseason) for nothing. They also pulled Pat Burrell off the reclamation heap, and signed Aubrey Huff for a below market contract. If you need to find pieces to supplement the team's core, you can find guys who are low-risk to come in and fill in.

Deeper depth with take you deep
All those extra bodies that the Giants brought in this year resulted in a bench packed with guys who many would consider everyday players, and a lot of additional arms in the bullpen. We give credit to Bochy for using his resources well, but he also had a lot to work with.

Depth has generally been a strength in recent years for the Jays, but we're just reminding ourselves not to think that we can empty the bench of any remaining talent in order to package up for some dreamboat acquisition, or to make room for the prospect of the week.

Closers are funny, so don't take them so seriously
Take Kevin Gregg: Add one or two miles per hour on the fastball, and trade the goggles for a silly mohawk and a sillier beard, and you've pretty much got postseason hero Brian Wilson. Wilson's modus operandi was pretty much the same as Gregg's throughout the season: Throw down and off the plate, and hope that you gets calls or swings. For Gregg, it resulted in a few walk-a-thons in tight spots, and more than his share of blown saves.

But given that Mariano Rivera isn't walking through that door, the Jays could do much worse than going back to Gregg for another year, right?


So that's what we've taken away from this...and you? And feel free to tell us how wrong we are.

1. That was never going to happen. We probably shouldn't even bring it up. It only encourages a completely false line of argument. But if you feel compelled, please, go ahead and tell us why J.P. Ricciardi was deficient for not making this trade happen, even though Brian Sabean was never THAT dumb.


William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

I think you hit most of the nails on their heads. But there is also the larger story here that a team can make roster mistakes and still compete and that despite the fatness of some teams and the leanness of others, a team can get super hot and run the table.

Good post.

Hurley said...

The Burrell, Ross and Huff foray worked out pretty well, but to use that as any kind of player acquisition model going forward could be dangerous. I just can't shake off the Mencherson experiment that we tried here a couple of years ago.

PdcD said...

How I wish Sabean was just a little bit dumber than he actually is and did agree to the Lincecum/Rios deal. But then that might have meant JP Ricciardi would've stuck around as Jays GM...hmmm.

Tao of Stieb said...


Yeah, I don't think I would say: "Let's go get those guys in that way"...But it's more a thing of chilling out when or iff they go and get a Mencherson-type next year.

(And actually, Cody Ross is definitely a step above Mencherson level, so if there are guys with .800-plus OPS's out there, maybe that's a guy you go get and try to fit in, regardless of what you've already got.)

Anonymous said...

I'm not quite sure why we have to learn ANYTHING about the Giants playoff win, other than it's easier to win the World Series through the incompetence of your opponents than your own skill. Sand Diego lost 10 in a row to make San Francisco's playoff dream even possible, they got the Braves first round, and I've never, never seen a team shoot themselves as badly in the foot as the Phillies kept doing. Yes, San Francisco has good pitching and that allowed them to skate to a championship.

SP said...

Sabean was not interested in Lincecum-Rios from the very beginning. He kept trying to peddle Noah Lowry instead and for Lincecum or Cain, it would've cost Rios and another top Jay like McGowan and that would've been too much. JP should be given credit for even considering the trade and taking it that far, but like you said, it was never going to happen.

Ty said...

I dunno Tao, I think that handing over playing time to bench-y guys like Cody Ross and Pat Burrell only worked because the "regulars" on that team were significantly worse. In the Jays' case, neither of those guys would make the team better because Snider, Wells, and Bautista are all a lot better than them.

The general idea that San Fran won because they played "misfits" is a bit misleading, I think, at least in the sense that letting those guys play was some kind of stroke of genius. They didn't play them because they saw talent where nobody else did: they played them because the worst players on many other teams were still a lot better than the regulars on the Giants.

Mencherson was a disaster because Mencherson got playing time instead of Adam Lind. Cody Ross was a success because Cody Ross got playing time instead of Nate effing Shierholtz.

It all comes back to the pitching: the World Series was won by the best rotation in baseball, and they probably would have won with pretty much any combination of hitters playing behind them. That's not to say that the Giants weren't an awesomely fun team to watch, but they're the last team I'd take any lessons from, other than "having an outrageously good rotation can make up for basically every other mistake you've ever made".

Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

I hope to never hear about the Lincecum for Rios trade again.

Darren Priest said...

I would argue that of all the post-season series, the "right" team only won once in the AL playoffs: NYY over the Twins.

In the NL, I would say the Phillies should have beaten the Reds. The rest were upsets of varying degrees.

For that reason alone, I don't think we can learn much from the Giants. Zito being on the bench isn't a lesson I want the Jays to learn -- or more accurately, HAVE to learn. I'd like to think that the Jays baseball execs have yet to grasp "good pitching beats good hitting."

162 games tends to eliminate luck in a way that the playoffs can't.

Darren Priest said...

Correction: I'd like to think that the Jays have grasped "good pitching beats good hitting."

Anonymous said...

You can't run Huff and Burrell out in the AL East. Experience has already taught us that.

Anonymous said...

Sabean was not interested in Lincecum-Rios from the very beginning. He kept trying to peddle Noah Lowry instead and for Lincecum or Cain, it would've cost Rios and another top Jay like McGowan and that would've been too much

With three years of McGowan arm injuries as hindsight, how would a McGowan/Rios package for Lincecum have been too much?

Tools of Ignorance said...

With three years of McGowan arm injuries as HINDSIGHT

You seem to have answered your own question.

Heckler said...

What I learned from 2010 playoffs and specifically the Giants is that while deep rotations can get you to the playoffs (Reds,Braves,Twins,Rays) it's sure nice to have front end talent come playoffs. Lincecum, Sabathia, Halladay, Lee are no doubt aces the Jays currently lack. I don't hate the Jays exploring a Drabek package for Greinke.

bkblades said...

I'm particularly happy that my comparison of Matt Cain looking like a fatter AJ Burnett continues to be apt every single time. said...

This won't actually have success, I think so.