Some of us having been following the San Francisco Giants for more than two weeks - we remember four straight losing seasons (2005-2008), brutal free agent contracts, plenty of awful trades, and Brian Sabean's ill-fated assertion that first round draft picks were so worthless, he was better off giving them away. So how unlikely is it that the San Francisco Giants now find themselves in the World Series?
- Their two highest-paid players, Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand, who combined for over 30% of their payroll, are non-factors.
- Their star catcher, Buster Posey, was intentionally left off the roster to start the season in favor of Bengie Molina, who was ultimately dumped for nothing.
- Their best hitter, Pablo Sandoval, had an atrocious year, and their best free agent pickup, Mark DeRosa, missed most of the season with a wrist injury.
- Their post-season hero, Cody Ross, was on the bench down the stretch so that Jose Guillen (Jose Guillen!) could play.
- Even Tim Lincecum, perhaps the best pitcher in the majors, performed well below expectations this season.
The Giants made the playoffs this season thanks to the collapse of the San Diego Padres, and thanks to contributions from complete scrap heap players: Aubrey Huff, Andres Torres and Pat Burrell. According to Fangraphs, these three players brought the Giants $57M in value this year with their contributions on the field. Their price tag? $3.7M. If you include Juan Uribe in the mix, that's $70M in value for $7M in salary. Normally the only way to get so many wins for so little money is to develop young players and have them turn into superstars before they need to be paid free agent salaries. The odds of signing four free agents to one-year contracts (or less) and having them turn out these kinds of numbers...Well, they're astronomically low. And yet, today, the Giants have no worse than a 45% chance of winning the World Series.
I'm not going to deny that I'm unimpressed by the construction of this team. If we look at Nate Silver's PECOTA projections, there was no established chance that Torres and Huff, at ages 32 and 33, respectively, would turn in performances that placed them in the top 20 in the league. The Giants opening day outfield - Rowand, DeRosa and John Bowker - wouldn't have won them anything. The next iteration - Torres, Nate Schierholtz and Eugenio Velez - reflected desperation more than anything else. You'd have to twist yourself in some serious knots to think that Brian Sabean had any idea a playoff team lurked beneath the surface of this roster.
The Yankees, Tampa, Boston - these are teams with a well-thought-out plan and a chance to win every year (even if things don't necessarily go their way.) Does anyone honestly feel that way about the Giants? Brian Sabean got seriously lucky at the roulette wheel, but don't take it as an indication of future success.