Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Genius

So, with our beloved Giants doing their best to reach the postseason, there has been plenty of talk of how general manager Brian Sabean deserves credit for putting together such a gutsy, enjoyable, and, most importantly, winning team. That's really a bunch of crap because what Sabean has done is finally piece together a kinda sorta league average offense after five consecutive years of dramatically subpar offensive campaigns. That's not hyperbole. From 2005 to 2009 the Giants ranked no higher than 10th in the National League in runs scored, and that was way back in 2006. In 2005, 2007 and 2008 they ranked 15th, and in 2009 they ranked 13th. By the way, there are 16 teams in the NL. So in three of the last five years the Giants have had the second worst offense in the league. Outstanding!

But wait, they're winning this year. Sabean must've finally figured out the game of baseball in his 14th year of being the Giants' GM, you say? Not really, the Giants ranked 10th in the NL in runs scored through yesterday's games (it's worth noting that tonight's game will probably boost them into 9th place, but there are still nine more games for them to exhibit their futility and fall back down to the lower third of the league).

Who cares? The team's winning, and that's what's important. Sure, that's what most people care about, but really, the more this team wins the longer we'll have Sabean around trying to rebuild late 90s/early 00s offenses, literally - Huff, DeRosa, Rowand, Burrell, Guillen. Which brings me to another issue; some people are saying Sabean's myriad transactions this year have been nothing short of genius (never mind the fact that he originally built the completely offensively inept team that needed to be totally rehauled on the fly just to be league average).

Don't get me wrong, some moves were indeed great, and necessary. Namely, jettisoning Bengie Molina to create room for Buster Posey. And getting Pat Burrell for nothing certainly has worked out. But I still don't quite understand the Cody Ross and Jose Guillen acquisitions. They didn't cost much, but the Giants already had a younger, better Jose Guillen in John Bowker (who was traded for Javier Lopez, and Lopez has been lights out for the Giants, but that's not my point right now). Ross offers more defensive versatility than Bowker or Guillen, and he's a better hitter than he's shown in his time with the Giants, but he's still not much to write home about. Not that Bowker is either, but please humor me.

So far in September, Cody Ross is batting .184/.279/.237 and Guillen is batting .259/.279/.431. Meanwhile, John Bowker is batting .250/.298/.477 for the Pirates. I'd rather have Bowker, who is two years younger than Ross and seven years younger than Guillen. Even if you prefer more advanced metrics Bowker is far superior, although certainly far from a really great option. Ross has a wOBA (weight On Base Average) in September of .233. Guillen's is .306. Bowker again beats both with a wOBA of .327. Granted, this is based on three weeks worth of stats and probably doesn't mean a whole lot, but it highlights the fact that Sabean doesn't really know how to assess offensive ability, and the Giants as an organization can't seem to develop any useful position players, save for extreme talents like Buster Posey (and hopefully Pablo Sandoval, although that's severely in doubt at this point).

Defense is definitely a factor to consider, and Ross has value based on the fact that he CAN play centerfield, whereas Guillen and Bowker would never find themselves in center under any circumstances. That likely played a key role in the Giants' decision to pick up Ross, since Aaron Rowand is sooooo good at everything. However, while Guillen still appears to have a pretty strong arm in rightfield, fangraphs indicates that his overall defense is lacking, based on a UZR/150 of -4.9. Bowker, on the other hand, wouldn't necessarily be a defensive upgrade over Guillen, as his UZR/150 is 11.7 in leftfield, but -36.1 in right.

What's my point? I think it's partly that my hatred for Brian Sabean is justified and partly that, while it is fun to root for the Giants to go as far as they can this year, the reality is this isn't a very good team and whatever it achieves this year will be more than it should have. Then next year Brian Sabean will put together another crappy offensive team that will barely score enough to eek out just enough wins to make their games relevant in September. Then sooner or later there will be no Lincecum, Cain or Sanchez and we'll just have Buster Posey (hopefully) and a whole bunch of crap. Hummm baby, indeed.

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