How do we judge a GM who seems to make so many wrong moves -- and wins anyway?
What does Andrew Friedman do well? He finds low-cost talent, drafts productive players in the first round, and banks on strong run prevention to win games. Where does Friedman stumble? Generally when dealing with relatively big-money free agents. Wait, my computer keeps autocorrecting “Brian Sabean” to “Andrew Friedman.” What a weird glitch.
Any card-carrying baseball fan can name four or five of Sabean’s greatest follies. He employed Barry Bonds for 11 seasons and failed to win a title. When Sabean did win a World Series, he allowed sentimentalism to interfere with upgrading his team, thus hurting its chances of a repeat. He favors veterans over prospects and once admitted to signing (not very good) players in order to forfeit draft picks. Then there are the times he signed Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand to budget-busting deals that looked no better at the time than they do now.
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In Michael's column this week, he looks at San Francisco's first base battle, as well as how injuries are affecting the values of Ike Davis and Justin Morneau.
Two of the main considerations for real-world and fantasy baseball managers during Spring Training are injuries (which I looked at last week) and playing time. This week, I’ll look at a little of both at first base, starting with the Giants’ positional battle and moving onto the futures of two players with mysterious—or at least difficult-to-detect—ailments.
Taking a look at whose season of ineptitude may have cost his team a spot in the playoffs.
Picking up where I left off on Monday, the Replacement-Level Killers is our semi-annual all-star team of ignominy, highlighting the positions at which poor production helped sink contending teams, with an eye toward the steps they've made to correct those problems as spring training approaches. For the purposes of this exercise, I've loosely defined contenders as non-playoff teams who finished no more than 10 games out of the running in 2011, which limits this particular turkey shoot to members of the Red Sox, Angels, Blue Jays, Braves, Giants, Dodgers, and Nationals, not all of whom are represented this time around. If a particularly sizable hole in your favorite team’s production isn’t represented here, fear not, as all 30 teams are eligible for the forthcoming Vortices of Suck squad, the absolute bottom of the barrel.
Looking for something to read with your morning coffee? Check out The Daily Rathman in the Baseball Prospectus newsletter each weekday. There, you'll find my take on pertinent baseball news, a rant about my sleepless college life, or something in between. For those readers who haven't subscribed to the newsletter, here is today's entry:
The speedy Ben Revere and much-hyped Brandon Belt return to VP this week.
Last week's choice of players spurred some interesting discussion in the comments about Casper Wells, with a smart reader looking even smarter now, as Wells has posted a nice .308/.400/.538 batting line this week. However, the Mariners seem to agree with this author's opinion that he's nothing more than a fourth outfielder, limiting him to just 15 plate appearances. He's someone to keep an eye on, to be sure. Meanwhile, owners who were able to find space for AL-only multi-position pick Trevor Plouffe were rewarded with a fine .308/.357/.500 batting line and 28 plate appearances. Meanwhile, former NL-only VPTrent Oeltjen had a nice eight (8) plate appearances, hitting .429/.500/.857 and stealing a base, raising his season line to .250/.387/.438. Of course, as Derek Carty points out, he's started only one game in the past (nearly) two months, so he's purely deep-league filler. Onward to more significant players...
How important is a team's glove work up the middle when stacked against the offense provided?
Earlier this month, I examined the timeworn adage that a ballclub must be strong up the middle—at catcher, second base, shortstop, and center field—to win. What I found was that while the aforementioned positions are the most demanding ones defensively—they're the four at the right end of Bill James' defensive spectrum, which runs 1B-LF-RF-3B-CF-2B-SS-C—the collective defensive abilities of those players had a much lower correlation with team winning percentage than their collective offensive abilities. In other words, having good hitters up the middle is far more vital to the winning effort than having good fielders.
Ronnie Belliard and Luis Hernandez head for Triple-A, Brandon Belt breaks camp with the big squad, and Matt Holliday loses an appendix but keeps a roster spot.
By my count (or more accurately, Rob McQuown’s), Christina Kahrl has devoted 952 articles to analyzing transactions, and that’s probably selling her short, since our database doesn’t go back quite as far as her byline. In the first Transaction Analysis entry that I could find, Ozzie Guillen appears not as a manager, but as a shortstop and the owner of an exceedingly low OBP; given that Guillen has just entered his eighth season at the helm of the White Sox, it’s clear that Christina has been at this for some time, and unlike Guillen, she didn’t overstay her welcome before shifting to a new role.
What has Brian Sabean been up to, and will it provide enough stuff for a successful title defense?
Almost two months later and still basking in the afterglow of having gotten to the game's pinnacle, there isn't a lot of controversy or second-guessing—the Giants are world champs, after all. But now's the time to start dialing in on what, if anything, they should have done and should be doing. How has Brian Sabean responded to life on the other side of the ultimate? More importantly, what, if anything, has Sabean done to guarantee his team's future as a contender? No time to rest on one's laurels, after all—there ain't no rest for the wicked.