October 11, 2007

WHO'S THIS WE, KEMOSABE?:

Turning October logic on its head (Jayson Stark, 10/11/07, ESPN.com)

Think about the three fundamental rules of October as we used to know them:

* The team with the most postseason experience usually wins.
* The manager with the most postseason experience usually wins.
* The team with the biggest payroll usually wins.

That's what we always told ourselves, right? Well, if all of that was etched in the October law book, then the Rockies and Diamondbacks are under arrest. They've broken every rule in that book. [...]

Five years ago, Bud Selig and his favorite labor negotiators practically had us brainwashed to believe that size of payroll determined the outcome of every postseason series.

He can thank the Oakland A's for finding a thousand different ways to lose a series, just to make that premise possible. But if it worked then, it's safe to say it doesn't work anymore.

The Diamondbacks have a $52 million payroll. They just beat a Cubs team with a $99.9 million payroll.

The Rockies have a $54 million payroll. They just knocked off a Phillies team with a $90 million payroll.

And over in the AL, the Indians have a $62 million payroll. That's about $160 million lower than the payroll of that Yankees team they just wiped out.

So money still talks in baseball. But three of the eight lowest-salaried teams in baseball weren't listening last week. And it isn't the first time, either. Over the last six postseasons, the team with the higher budget club has won only nine of 24 Division Series. So if that's a trend, it's the best news to hit this sport in years.

"In this postseason, payroll hasn't been a big factor," O'Dowd said. "But to sustain that success, it will always be a factor."

Balancing payroll and winning is, clearly, the flip side to this tale. To keep winning teams together, it takes more than talent. It also requires lots of check-writing. So clubs with $50 million payrolls one year often turn into teams with $70 million payrolls the next.

But that doesn't mean this October was a fluke, either. It reflects a momentous new trend in the industry:

Don't buy your own. Grow your own.


Did anyone who follows baseball ever believe his three rules? There's just one rule we're aware of: the hottest pitching staff generally wins.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 11, 2007 10:52 AM
Comments

In my view, there was a severe talent drought in baseball in the 1990s, and recently a much stronger group of young players has come up. This is especially notable among pitchers -- there are older star pitchers like Schilling or Clemens and younger stars, but few 32 year old star pitchers right now. But it's true of position players too.

Since young players are cost-controlled (~500k their first three years, arbitration-level the next three), low-budget teams have a lot of youngsters, whereas high-budget teams generally have a lot of over-30 stars picked up in free agency.

We're seeing the talent wave play itself out in the success of low-budget teams who perforce had to rely on youngsters. However, this too will pass. In ten years, the high-budget teams will have the advantage again. Already, they're investing a lot more in bonuses in the draft, and draftees are upping their bonus demands and waiting to be taken in late rounds by the Yankees and Red Sox.

Posted by: pj at October 11, 2007 11:58 AM

Balancing payroll and winning is, clearly, the flip side to this tale. To keep winning teams together, it takes more than talent. It also requires lots of check-writing. So clubs with $50 million payrolls one year often turn into teams with $70 million payrolls the next.

This is the key to why money matters. It's not that you can't win for one season with a low payroll, you can. It's that you can't sustain that performance over several years. And the fact that the A's do well every other year is an exception that doesn't disprove the rule.

If you have good players, eventually the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets and Dodgers will bid them away from you. The fact that the Mets and Dodgers will also overpay to take your lousy players as well, doesn't erase that fact.

Posted by: Brandon at October 11, 2007 12:10 PM

It is indeed the rule. Develop your own players and then get rid of them when they make max money. Just because the A's and Twins and others are good at it and your team is bad at it doesn't make it rocket science. Bad teams overpay stiffs because they have to please fans who think like you.

Posted by: oj at October 11, 2007 2:23 PM

Bad teams overpay stiffs because they have to please fans who think like your typical Yankees or Sawx season ticket holder.

(If only I had the power to edit previous comments...)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 11, 2007 3:09 PM

Develop your own players and then get rid of them when they make max money.

Get rid of them to whom? I just told you - Red Sox, Yankees, Met, Dodgers. And who makes "max money" - GOOD PLAYERS.

Posted by: Brandon at October 11, 2007 3:33 PM

The last key to the Red Sox puzzle is to get a few Bashers ready to fill-in for Big Papi and Manny, when they are ultimately ready to be replaced.

Has anyone even heard, but a peep, about the Bosox having a desire to sign a free-agent this upcoming off-season? Does anyone care to sign any of the free agents? The Bosox have done a superior job of turning over their roster during the last four years, so now they have reached a point where even the fanatic fan base is on to their superior team-building methods.

We know we can trade Coco for something extremely useful, and bring in a superior player in Ellsbury. We are hoping, true, we can squeeze one more year out of Manny while we groom Anderson, Kalish and Reddick. And we can even afford to lose Wake and Schilling, and replace the both with Clay and, possibly, bold move, Masterson.

I disagree with Orin's fandom with the Twins and A's, because although they are good at finding the diamonds in the rough and drafting well, other teams are onto them. Except for the Red Sox, all three playoff teams this years are modeled after the Billy Beane moneyball/draft method.

But, the real trick is, as Brandon points out, to have the ability to turnover that team and keep the wheels spinning. The A's and Twins have run their course. There only way out is to spend their way out. Bosox has learned to utilize small money methods, while maintaining a few high priced talents that they can hold onto through their high-worth years, as no one can turnover year after year without it finally deteriorating the base. The advantage the Bosox have now is that they will be able to leverage 2 things in trades or free-agency, a willingness of a player to take a discount to play in Boston, because they will win, and, two, other teams are noticing that every player the Sox trade away turns into a better player with the new team. Both of these factors will be arbitraged by the Sox until other teams balance it out, at which point the Sox will turn another trick.

Even the Yankees started going from within. The biggest advantage, money-wise that the high-spending teams have now is their ability to spend big on the talent in the farm system level. That is the new free-agency.

This year is the weakest group of free-agents yet, because only the low first tier (at or past prime years) and 2nd tier made it to free agency this year.

Prediction, the sox don't even make a play for a high priced free agent, and hardly make a play for Santana or Willis. They might try and swindle Harden, or get a young basher for Manny. But they'll say no to Schilling, unless he just blows it out over the next month.

MDC will be the set-up man next year.

Posted by: neil at October 11, 2007 4:13 PM

Neil, I think things will go slower than you expect. Masterson isn't ready yet, Bowden is 2 years away at least, they can use Schilling next year more than Wakefield, and both would be good insurance in case Lester or Buchholze can't go the full year. They will sign at last one free agent starter in 2008/9 out of the Santana et al. class.

Posted by: pj at October 11, 2007 4:18 PM

Eric Wedge was interviewed on WEEI this morning and the question was posed to him as to the reason why the Indians played so many rookies and young players in playoff-prone situations, and his reason was because they had to. The Bosox realized last year that they were being too conservative with their young players when they saw how easily Hanley broke it all out. True, pitchers are to be "babied" but you'll see some mashers come through the system alot quicker then I think we normally are accustomed. The Marlins won a few years ago, against the Yanks with a staff of young young studs. They just couldn't hold onto them. The Red Sox can.

Thoughts on whether the Sox even make a genuine play for Arod? And Santana, why go for him at 18mm, when they possibly have the same guy in either Clay or Bucholz, or even Lester. Lester is a young Pettite. He will break it wide open next year, may even be better than Clay.

Posted by: neil at October 11, 2007 4:25 PM

Look for the Sox to take a run at Miguel Cabrera, who the Marlins are tired of.

Posted by: oj at October 11, 2007 6:49 PM

The Yankees and Red Sox overpay good players.

Posted by: oj at October 11, 2007 6:51 PM

Nothing from Jim in Chicago?

Posted by: ratbert at October 12, 2007 11:08 AM
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