In the middle of December I have joined a baseball blog devoted to a team that just won the World Series and one that also happens to have most of its players locked into multiyear contracts.
Yes, well, no one has ever accused me of having perfect timing.
Anyway, there may be fans of other teams reading this blog (probably trying to imagine what a glamorous lifestyle we Giant fans lead) so I’ll try to limit the complaining about how boring the offseason following a World Series victory is. What I want to do is give a quick visual explanation of why that is.
This graph doesn’t actually quite tell you why this offseason is so boring. We’ll make some adjustments and get to that in a moment. This graph shows the 3 year average of Fangraphs WAR for every player who’s had at least one AB in the majors over 2008-2010. All of those players are divided into buckets, depending on what their 3 year mean is, and the number of players that fall into each bucket is shown.
Now, I’m not claiming that this is the actual talent level of each of those players. WAR is too dependent on the whims of managers and the cruel chances of injury to make such a claim. Included in these estimates are 2010 rookies who got lucky and will regress (and here I’m looking at you, Austin Jackson), as well as 2008 and 2009 veterans who got unlucky and were forced to retire . There are also a hefty number of players who could have put up more WAR if they had been allowed to play more. Still, I think it should work as a rough map of the proportion of players available at each talent level.
The main thing that I want you to take away from this graph is how incredibly hard it is to play baseball well enough to average more than one WAR over a three year period. Only about one quarter of the players in this graph managed it, and some of them are only pulling it off by having one year of playing time. You have to be talented, people have to give you a shot and you have to stay healthy. One WAR is not really what you even think of as a remarkable player. We’re talking about middle relievers, decent utility players and bad or unhealthy starting position players. Michael Cuddyer, Jeff Baker, David Eckstein, Brian Barton and (yes!) Edgar Renteria all averaged one WAR over 2008 through 2010.
But to truly understand why the Giants are having a dull offseason, let’s remove that first column, the one with all the guys who couldn’t on average accumulate a whole win.
So, there are about 200 guys who averaged between one two wins per season, but there are less than half of that who averaged between two and three wins. Less than half of that number averaged between three and four wins. There are only 27 players who have averaged over five WAR over 2008-2010 and two of them just signed seven year contracts. Only twelve averaged above six. (Can you guess who they are?)
What does this all mean? Well, it means that Brian Sabean’s job has gotten that much harder. After resigning beloved slugger/whackadoo Aubrey Huff, the Giants had at least a 1-2 win player penciled into just about every position but shortstop. After Sabean added Miguel Tejada, there really aren’t any easy upgrades to be had. Replacing a 2-3 win player is twice as hard as replacing a 1-2 win player, which is in turn much, much harder than replacing a less than one win player.
So there’s not much to do. The Giants need some AAA pitching depth and an actual player capable of playing SS in case Miguel Tejada evaporates into a gritty mist of former MVP particles. Yes, there are possible upgrades to the roster, but unless they’re named J.J. Hardy, those upgrades are likely to be expensive in terms of either talent given up through trade or dollars on the FA market.
So, strap in and feel the BOREDOM. It’s the consequence of having a pretty good team.