Giants’ model will be impossible to replicate
The San Francisco Giants are World Series Champs. Ask anyone how they did it and they’ll probably give you a similar answer: starting pitching, timely hitting and a great rookie catcher. This formula seems foolproof for playoff success, but any other club will have a difficult time recreating the same type of magic.
For starters (pun intended), elite pitching is incredibly difficult to come across at any cost. After the mid-90’s dominance of Atlanta, much was made of the Braves’ model and the incomparable strength of three Cy Young candidates in your staff. Teams such as the early 2000’s Cubs tried to build on that idea, only to see some of their big arms flame out.
The Giants were able to obtain their homegrown product by investing three first-round draft picks and developing a late-round pick into dominant starters. For the most part, this is extremely rare. A lot has to come together for any of these picks to become as dominant as the Giants’ four have become. Even if a pitcher merely becomes an average starter, injury is a constant reality in the life of a young arm.
Given the time, variability and risk in developing a pitching staff, a different approach has been to add top starters via free agency. The most recent example has been the Yankees, but they haven’t even had a season where four starters have put together great years. Even the World Series Champion Giants engaged in the free agent game by giving Barry Zito an albatross of a contract. It appears that even though free agency can grant a few good years out of a pitcher, building an entire rotation that way will ultimately lead to some bad investments.
The last time four starters of this caliber came together for a World Series win was back in 2005. The Chicago White Sox had a mix of homegrown and acquired talent featuring the fearsome foursome of Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland, Mark Buerhle and Jose Contreras. For a few of these pitchers, this was a year of career years. In the Giants case, their success almost seems guaranteed for a good part of this decade.
In terms of the Giants’ hitting, they will be almost as impossible to imitate. Catcher Buster Posey is another first-round pick who developed into a star. For the rest of the team, you have a bunch of seemingly stop-gap solutions and castoffs: Freddy Sanchez, Juan Uribe, Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell, Andres Torres and Cody Ross make up part of a long list of players who played at unexpected levels. Posey, the team’s only cornerstone, didn’t even join the club until a quarter of a way through the championship season.
The Giants’ hitters feature additional unproductive contracts: Aaron Rowand earning $13.6 million, Mark Derosa at $6.0 million and Edgar Renteria at $10 million. Any small or mid-market team looking to take this approach would go bankrupt before winning a World Series.
For the Giants to come together in 2010, it took a solid group of young players along with several bottles full of lightning while ignoring tens of millions of dollars in dead money. Any GM would be wise to look the other way as they enter the winter meetings.