Friday, August 19, 2011

Cinderella 'bout to lose the Glass of her Foot


So I won't make a habit of using rap lyrics for blog entries, but sometimes Drizzy puts things so eloquently that I simply don't have a hope of being more creative on my own. So I have been inactive for the last few days for solely personal reasons, my job has me temporarily relocated and I have yet to find a way to make this enterprise profitable. Google adsense and a $1.25 won't get you a cup of coffee. I have boycotted them as a result.

On to the meat and potatoes. Most people in sports love the underdog. It is the reason why a team who is overachieving and underrated is considered the "Cinderella Story." Because wikipedia is the greatest thing ever, I provide you this historical explanation:

The term comes from the ending of the fairy tale Cinderella, and it implies unexpected success after a period of obscurity.
Over the past few seasons in baseball, there have been several teams that have shown glimpses of the aforementioned definition. The 2007 Colorado Rockies come to mind. They strung off 21 wins in 22 games to force a tiebreaker with the San Diego Padres for the NL Wildcard. They then swept both Philadelphia and Arizona to make it to the World Series. Unfortunately they were no match for the Boston Red Sox who swept them in 4 games. This is the typical 'Cinderella Story' in sports. The Rockies were a perfect example, as were both the 2008 and 2010 versions of the Tampa Rays. A team who comes out of obscurity to find unexpected success, except as the sport's version of the story usually goes, the team rarely winds up winning it all.

Enter the 2010 San Francisco Giants. The Band of Misfits. I find very rarely to I agree with a moniker associated with a team or player. Too often they are driven by a media outlet and happen to catch on simply based on repetition. But this one unquestionably fits. It was a team banded together consisting of players that other teams simply didn't want. The Giants were the 6th team Andres Torres had played with before posting a career best 6.6fWAR. Aubrey Huff joined the Giants as his 5th team in the past 4 seasons, and he too posted a career high 5.8 fWAR. Juan Uribe had bounced around from the Rockies to the White Sox before finding a home in San Francisco (though he has had stints with both LA teams since). Pat Burrell found himself the odd man out in Philadelphia, signed a deal with the Rays in 2009 and was traded to the Giants for their 2010 run. Freddy Sanchez started out his career with Boston and then played for the Pirates before the Giants. Edgar Renteria joined the Giants as his sixth different team. This team offensively was not exactly the definition of homegrown talent.

The Misfits they certainly were in terms of origin, but perhaps more so in their performance. I like to think of a misfit as something that is unpredictable and hard to understand. The 2010 Giants offence was just that. The only offensive performance that may have been predictable prior to the season was Buster Posey, but I doubt many if any would have thought that in 108 games he would post a 3.8fWAR as a rookie. Looking closer at some of their career seasons you quickly get a sense that this year's team is more about regression to the mean than bad luck.

Let's start with Andres Torres: Torres led the Giants with a 6.6fWAR. Yet in his 8 years as a professional baseball player prior to that (albeit a large chunk was spent in the minors), he had never posted higher than his 2.2 Win season the year before. While some may suggest that his 2.2 wins came in such few games in 2009, thus suggesting his breakout wasn't that unrealistic, I think that is a clear overvaluation of a player who had yet to ever show consistency throughout his career. His 2011 numbers seem far more realistic as they are far closer to his career norms than his 2010 outlier.

Moving on - Aubrey Huff: Huff had the second highest fWAR among the Misfits, posting a career high 5.8 win season. Huff is an interesting paradigm. He has shown throughout his career flashes of above-average talent. His 2010 season was his third in which he produced more than 4 wins. But inconsistency as always been the name of his game. In the three seasons between 2005 and 2007, Huff produced a paltry 2.4 wins despite well over 1700 at bats. He then had strong 2008 season where he showed signs of life with a 4 win season. But regression reared its ugly head and in 2009 Huff was actually a below replacement level player - posting -1.8 wins.

To put into perspective how incredible of a turnaround he would follow it up with in 2010 - consider this: Jose Bautista's 2010 season is considered one of the greatest turnarounds in MLB history - his differential in WAR was 4.8 between 2009 and 2010. Aubrey Huff had a differential in WAR of 7.6 wins. Almost 3 more wins then the "greatest breakout ever." Andres Torres' 2010 season was a 4.4 win increase from his previous career high he set in 2009 the season prior.

What happened to Buster Posey this season was unfortunate, however injuries happen quite often. The fact that no one else was brought in this off season to aid what was a historically inept offence (no team in the past decade that has won the world series as scored fewer runs) should receive far more criticism than placing the blame on bad luck. When the two players who led your offense were buoyed by a combined 11 win increase from the year before, it shouldn't come as a surprise whatsoever that regression is inevitable and in this case all but guaranteed.

The Giants pitching was among one of the best that has ever led a team to a World Series, but you still need to score runs and that is something this team simply can't do with such a weak offence. In contrast to their inept offence, no pitching staff for a World Series team in the past decade as allowed fewer runs then the Giants staff.

But as one further note of how bad this team was offensively and the cause for what I believe is nothing more than regression this season - THE Madison Bumgarner (who is beyond bad ass by the way) produced the same amount of value offensively last season (0.2 fWAR) as Aaron Rowand. Rowand made $12 Million last year and was the highest paid offensive player on the team. I think that about sums up this argument.

Am I that out of touch or is this just a perfect example of people expecting too much from a team that should have performed far worse all along?

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