Call him a genius. Call him just lucky. One way or another, GM Brian Sabean put together a very unique team in San Francisco. A National League championship team that does not include Barry Bonds, but rather nine draft selections raised through the farm system, five journeymen plucked up from the depths of minor-league free agency, and one playoff hero stolen off waivers.

Okay, since Sabean had around $98 million to work with in 2010 (more like $58 million when you consider all the money guaranteed to Zito, Rowand, and Renteria), the Giants aren’t quite the storybook team. Nevertheless, it’s impressive to see a “team of scrubs” match-up against a bankrupt ballclub from Texas in the World Series. Let’s breakdown how this Gyros squad came together:

Team Salary: $97.8 million
Average Salary: $3.5 million
Total Years of Control: 88
Average Age: 29.4

Draft Picks

C Buster Poseydrafted in the first round (fifth overall) in 2008; $6.2 million signing bonus
Season salary: $400,000
2010 stats: 443 PA, 58 R, 18 HR, 67 RBI, .305/.357/.505
Playoff stats: 54 PA, 5 R, 0 HR, 4 RBI, .271/.333/.340

Posey was drafted over catchers Kyle Skipworth (Marlins) and Jason Castro (Astros) in the ’08 draft; two years later, he’s a Rookie of the Year hopeful. Posey led all rookies in batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS (.862), while his 32.5 VORP, .300 TAv, and .228 MLVr ranked third among Giants hitters.

1B Travis Ishikawadrafted in the 21st round in 2002
Season salary: $417,000
2010 stats: 173 PA, 18 R, 3 HR, 22 RBI, .266/.320/.392
Playoff stats: 9 PA, 2 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI, .286/.429/.444

Ishikawa tallied 158 AB this season, far fewer than in 2009 due to the addition of Aubrey Huff. Ishikawa is a solid defender (1.2 UZR, 7.3 UZR/150), but there was no way manager Bruce Bochy would play Iskakawa over the veteran Huff.

RF Nate Schierholtzdrafted in the second round in 2003
Season salary: $416,500
2010 stats: 252 PA, 34 R, 3 HR, 17 RBI, .257/.312/.332
Playoff stats: 9 PA, 2 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI, .250/.333/.250

Schierholtz, who played on the 2008 Beijing Olympic squad, was chosen second behind both reliever David Aardsma (22nd overall) and catcher Jeffery Jennings (55th overall) in the 2003 draft (Schierholtz was taken 63rd).

Like Ishikawa, Schierholtz can hold his own defensively (6.4 UZR, 17.9 UZR/150), but never did much during his few short stints as a starting outfielder.

International Free Agents

3B Pablo Sandovalsigned as an amateur free agent in 2002
Season salary: $465,000
2010 stats: 616 PA, 61 R, 13 HR, 63 RBI, .248/.310/.440
Playoff stats: 16 PA, 0 R, 0 HR, 2 RBI, .214/.313/.286

Sandoval’s True Average dropped from .314 in 2009 to .253 in 2010. His HR total (25 to 13) and WARP (5.8 to 2.0) also dropped. Though the Panda is a fan favorite at AT&T Park, Bochy has decided to start veteran Juan Uribe at the hot corner this postseason—and for good reason (i.e. his three-run homer off Darren O’Day in Game One of the World Series).

Minor League Free Agents

C Eli Whitesidesigned a minor-league contract in 2008, re-signed in 2009 and 2010
Season salary: $405,000
2010 stats: 141 PA, 19 R, 4 HR, 10 RBI, .238/.299/.397
Playoff stats: Has not played

It’s not easy backing up a guy named Buster behind the plate, but Whiteside’s play wasn’t too shabby during the regular season. His FPCT in 55 games was .995 with two passed balls and no wild pitches. It helps when you’re catching games started by Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez.

3B Juan Uribe: signed a minor-league contract in 2009, re-signed to a major-league contract in 2010
Season salary: $3.25 million
2010 stats: 575 PA, 64 R, 24 HR, 85 RBI, .248/.310/.440
Playoff stats: 39 PA, 3 R, 2 HR, 9 RBI, .171/.231/.343

Uribe’s top-notch play did not start in October. His 20.2 VORP was fourth-best among Giants hitters, and his 24 homers were second on the club behind Aubrey Huff. The White Sox made no attempt to re-sign the versatile infielder during the 2008 offseason, even with manager Ozzie Guillen calling him “the best player you’ll have if you need to put someone at second, third, or short.”* In his biggest moment as part of the black and orange, Uribe’s go-ahead blast in Game Six of the NLCS not only knocked out the Phillies, but gave Giants fans a memory they will never forget.

*That was said during the World Series FOX broadcast of Game One

LF Pat Burrellsigned a minor-league contract in 2010
Season salary: $9 million
2010 stats: (with Texas) 341 PA, 41 R, 18 HR, 51 RBI, .266/.364/.509 SLG
Playoff stats: 41 PA, 5 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, .176/.317/.353

From World Series champ in 2008 to minor-league free agent in 2010, Burrell was on the threshold of being another lost baseball slugger. Luckily, Sabean was desperately in search of a power hitter and decided to give “Pat the Bat” another chance. Burrell’s 676 OPS with the Rays rose to 872 with the Giants (in 289 AB). Surprisingly, he played a fantastic left field (4.9 UZR, 10.7 UZR/150) compared to his career norms (-39.7 UZR, -6.4 UZR/150) after primarily DHing in Tampa Bay.

CF Andres Torressigned a minor-league contract in 2009
Season salary: $426,000
2010 stats: 570 PA, 84 R, 16 HR, 63 RBI, .268/.343/.479
Playoff stats: 50 PA, 4 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI, .244/.306/.289

It took Torres six teams (namely the Tigers, White Sox, Rangers, Twins, and Cubs) before he found a home in San Francisco. His speed at the top of the order has been called invaluable, as he stole 26 bases in 2010 (out of 33 chances). That value is shown in his 32.7 VORP, second behind Huff.

Major-league Free Agents

1B Aubrey Huff: signed a one-year contract in 2009

Season salary: $3.0 million
2010 stats: 668 PA, 100 R, 26 HR, 86 RBI, .290/.385/.506
Playoff stats: 51 PA, 6 R, 0 HR, 6 RBI, .283/.353/.304

Can Huff really be pinned as the Giants “big bat?” Well, he certainly was before Pat came to the city by the way. He was ranked 10th in the National League in 2010 with a .891 OPS and 12th with .506 SLG. He’s been the leader of the Giants lineup all year long, and it’s nice to finally see him on a winning ball club in his 10th Major League season.

SS Edgar Renteriasigned a two-year contract in 2008 with 2011 club option
Season salary: $9.0 million
2010 stats: 267 PA, 26 R, 3 HR, 22 RBI, .276/.332/.374
Playoff stats: 27 PA, 5 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, .240/.296/.360

At 35, Renteria is (strangely) the elder member of the Giants’ lineup. He’s never been a superb defender (career 1.7 UZR, 0.2 UZR/150), and has not been the same offensive force since his days with the Cardinals, Red Sox, or Braves. However, he’s been much more valuable to San Francisco this season (9.8 VORP) than in 2009 (5.5 VORP), earning him starts at short in the NLCS and now World Series.

CF Aaron Rowandsigned a five-year contract in 2008
Season salary: $12 million
2010 stats: 357 PA, 42 R, 11 HR, 34 RBI, .230/.281/.378
Playoff stats: 8 PA, 2 R, 0 HR, 2 RBI, .375/.375/.750

Similar to southpaw Barry Zito, the Giants have a multi-million dollar player wasting away on their bench. Rowand’s career took a turn for the worse after he left Philadelphia in 2007, as his offensive numbers dipped lower and lower every year (.301 TAv in ’07, .262 in ’08, .260 in ’09, .238 in ’10). He lost his job in center this past season to a younger, faster Andres Torres. Rowand remains a defensive wonder, but it’s unlikely he’ll start again in San Francisco.


2B Freddy Sanchezacquired from the Pirates for minor league RHP Tim Alderson; signed a two-year extension with San Francisco in 2010
Season salary: $6.0 million
2010 stats: (with Texas) 479 PA, 55 R, 7 HR, 47 RBI, .292/.342/.397
Playoff stats: 55 PA, 5 R, 0 HR, 4 RBI, .294/.321/.373

Back in July of 2009, Sabean gave the Pirates another soft-tossing prospect for a two-time All-Star second baseman. A second baseman that also won a National League batting title in 2006. Sanchez is a doubles machine (30 XBH, 22 2B in 2010) and plays an above-average second (5.9 UZR, 9.3 UZR/150). At six million a year, one could argue Freddy is a bargain, and even at 32-years old, he could be seeking $10 million or more in the upcoming offseason.

2B Mike Fontenotacquired from the Cubs for minor league OF Evan Crawford
Season salary: $1 million
2010 stats: (with Texas) 76 PA, 10 R, 0 HR, 5 RBI, .282/.329/.310
Playoff stats: 15 PA, 1 R, 0 HR, 0 RBI, .214/.267/.357

Fontenot was nothing more than an addition to the Giants’ depth chart in August. With four guys (Renteria, Uribe, Sandoval, and Sanchez) simultaneously playing in three spots, no one expected Fontenot to get much playing time. Even so, Sabean now has three more years to control a backup infielder with a .262 TAv.

Waiver Claims

RF Cody Rossclaimed off waivers from the Marlins
Season salary: $4.45 million ($1 million paid by San Francisco)
2010 stats: (with Texas) 82 PA, 11 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI, .288/.354/.466
Playoff stats: 47 PA, 9 R, 4 HR, 9 RBI, .317/.404/.732

Ross landed in San Francisco for the pure satisfaction of ticking off Padres GM Jed Hoyer in the waiver wire process (the Friars were ahead of the Giants at that point). How did Ross respond from being called nothing more than a managerial insult? 4 HR and 9 XBH in 12 post-season games. That’s a small sample size, but still quite the response.

Click here to see part two of "How the Giants Were Acquired," focusing on San Francisco’s pitching staff.

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Jesse, great article. I wish that the Houston Astros' Ed Wade and ownership would read over this. It is amazing to me that teams who don't have Yankee money still don't seem to understand that past-their-prime free agent players won't produce a winning team. It seems obvious to me that building from the inside is the only way for mid and small market teams to have any success in baseball today. Why aren't more teams actively pursuing this route?
Giants' Formula for success:
- Draft develop a good core
- Get lucky with a few lower level FA signings
- Hide expensive mistakes (Rawand, Zito) on the bench
Yeah, what sticks out with the Giants is that most teams have some expensive mistakes. Ideally, you wouldn't have any of those as they are quite painful. But what is fatal about those signings is thinking "he's being paid $X million a year, so we have to play him everyday". A guy making league minimum might well be the better choice.

The biggest ingredient for success with the Giants though is play in a mediocre division and get lucky. The Giants are a good team, but they would come 5th in their division if they played in the AL East.
"The biggest ingredient for success with the Giants though is play in a mediocre division and get lucky. The Giants are a good team, but they would come 5th in their division if they played in the AL East."
Two sentences there. The first is false, the second true. The AL East makes all other divisions look poor. But in the grand scheme of things, the NL West is comparable to or stronger than both Central divisions, likely stronger than the AL West short-stack as well and very comparable to the NL East. Unless you are of a mind that all division outside of the Al East are mediocre, I don't see your claim holding truth.
While the Giants might "come in 5th in the AL East", it does point out that all 5 of those, so-called, "better teams", are at home. Watching the Giants on TV. The same as the rest of us.

Better talent doesn't always win. Better playing just might.

While I'm not a Giants fan, I have to respect just how they built this squad. And, getting lucky is better than not getting lucky. But, don't most good teams eithe "get lucky" at some point? Or, make their own luck?
Somehow I doubt that many teams will try to emulate the Giants and build their lineups with some shots in the dark from the leftovers bin. And somehow I doubt the Giants will either.

The more likely takeaway is to aggressively tweak your weak roster spots throughout the season, and hope for the best.
I love Buster Posey, but Mike Stanton had a higher slugging percentage and Carlos Santana has a higher OPS.