A Championship Offseason
This post is brief, because I know that Jeff Sullivan is currently writing a version of this same idea over at Lookout Landing. His post is going to be way better than mine, because he’s a better writer than I am, so rather than try to compete with his thoughts, I’m just going to win through brevity. He sucks at brevity. But you should still read his post when it goes up, because I’m sure it’s going to be really good.
In 2011, the Giants scored 570 runs. They finished with a wRC+ of 87, the fourth worst mark in baseball. Put simply, the Giants couldn’t hit, and their best hitter — Carlos Beltran — was a free agent.
The Giants didn’t re-sign him, despite surrendering top prospect Zach Wheeler to get him at the deadline. In fact, they didn’t sign anyone of note last winter. They signed one free agent position player from another organization to a Major League contract – Ryan Theriot, who got $1.25 million to serve as their utility infielder. A team that couldn’t win because they couldn’t hit let their best hitter leave and spent no money in free agency to try and replace him.
Instead, they traded for Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera and signed Gregor Blanco to a minor league contract, essentially building an entirely new outfield from scratch with players that weren’t wanted by their previous organization. Then, they handed shortstop and first base over to rookies Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt. That was their offensive makeover. That was the plan to fix an offense that couldn’t score.
The Giants just won the World Series, beating the crap out of the team who spent $214 million to sign Prince Fielder last winter. The Giants finished 30th in the Majors in home runs this year. Their starting left fielder slugged .344. Their starting first baseman hit seven home runs. Their shortstop is essentially the NL’s version of Brendan Ryan. One of their two deadline acquistions was bringing in a 36-year-old slap-hitting contact guy who was posting his worst offensive season in years after getting traded to Colorado.
Repeat after me: There is no right way to build a baseball team. You don’t need a power hitting first baseman or a true slugger in left field. You don’t have to hit home runs. You don’t have to be the slave to any kind of traditional idea of what a team is supposed to look like.
The traditional model of ace pitchers and big time sluggers can work too. Detroit got to the World Series, after all. Hitting home runs is good. Having great pitchers is good. The Tigers defense was atrocious, and they still won the American League. You don’t have to play good defense to win either. There is no magic formula.
To win baseball games, you need to outscore your opponents. You can do that with pitching and defense. You can do that with sluggers and a great bullpen. You can do that with sluggers and defense. Runs are runs and wins are wins. It matters not how you get them. The consistently perpetuated idea that the Mariners have lost because they’re chasing some kind of mythological roster construction that doesn’t work was just destroyed by the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series. The Giants are exactly the kind of team that the Mariners have been trying to build for the last few years. It hasn’t worked, obviously, but the failure to create a winner here with this model doesn’t invalidate the model. You can win a World Series with Angel Pagan as your best hitting outfielder and Gregor Blanco starting in left field. The Giants just did.
The Giants didn’t do anything last winter to prove they wanted to win. They didn’t make any significant free agent signings to improve a dreadful offense. They took a team that couldn’t hit and they improved their defense. A year later, they’re World Champs.
Runs are runs and wins are wins. And it really doesn’t matter how you get them.