Two Ways Of Building An Elite Rotation

The Giants wouldn't have won last year's World Series without their formidable rotation, but manager Bruce Bochy said last month that Philadelphia – the team San Francisco defeated in the 2010 NLCS – has "the best staff in baseball." Whether you believe the best starting staff in the game belongs to the Phillies, the Giants or someone else, this much is certain: the last two NL Championship teams have built their rotations in noticeably different ways.

Giants GM Brian Sabean has relied primarily on the draft to build his rotation. He spent big ($126MM over seven years) on Barry Zito, but the rest of the team’s rotation is homegrown. About six months before Sabean signed Zito, he drafted Tim Lincecum tenth overall in the 2006 draft. The next year, the Giants made Madison Bumgarner their first round selection (tenth overall). Lincecum, Bumgarner and Zito join two other Giants draftees, Matt Cain (first round, 2002) and Jonathan Sanchez (27th round, 2004) in Bochy's rotation.

Bochy's counterpart, Charlie Manuel, will trot out an equally impressive rotation in 2011, but his starters arrived in Philadelphia because of GM Ruben Amaro Jr.'s knack for acquiring big-name starters in trades. Pat Gillick traded for Joe Blanton in 2008, before Amaro took over the Phillies and the new GM has picked up where his predecessor left off, acquiring Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt in a series of blockbusters.

The Phillies had to bid for Lee on the open market to lure him back to Philadelphia, but the initial swap was crucial for the Phillies, who signed Lee for less than the Yankees or Rangers were offering. Amaro isn't all about trades, though – Cole Hamels fills out the team's rotation and Kyle Kendrick, another Philadelphia draft pick, provides the club with depth. 

I am not suggesting that the Phillies are all about trading or that the Giants are all about drafting. The Phillies used nine of their first 12 draft picks on pitchers last year, so they clearly see the value in drafting arms, even if they often seem to trade them away before long (they have dealt J.A. Happ, Gavin Floyd, Kyle Drabek and others for more established pitchers in recent years). Similarly, the Giants would no doubt consider acquiring starting pitching through trades or free agency. But for one year at least, baseball's two most impressive rotations have wildly different origins.

49 Responses to Two Ways Of Building An Elite Rotation Leave a Reply

  1. Wilsonl 4 years ago

    Giants pitchers are natural grown!

  2. comegys 4 years ago

    Bumgarner was the 10th pick of the 2007 draft

  3. KD4315 4 years ago

    Brian Sabean didn’t sign Zito. He didn’t want him. The owner at the time made that move.

    • Jay Patel 4 years ago

      With Jason Schmidt leaving us for the rival Dodgers we were more desperate in obtaining an “ACE” like starter

  4. I think most teams are going to take the Giant’s approach… look at the Yankees: The Killer B’s, Phillies: Colvin, Cosart, May, Biddle, Braves: Teheran, Delgado, Minor, Hanson as just a few examples. Also, I think in the next 3 years it’s going to become a pitching/defense/speed kind of game vs. sheer power… if it hasn’t already.

    • The_Silver_Stacker 4 years ago

      Not to discount your post which you made a very good point, but I think you have to credit the Rays instead of the Giants approach to developing prospects in general, they set an example back in 08 and obviously this past season the Giants further cemented that is the way to go.

  5. Also known as.. Don’t Become a Pirate

    • Jay Patel 4 years ago

      Pirates are just unlucky. Look at the draftees they missed out on

      • The_Silver_Stacker 4 years ago

        That is true, but at the same time for YEARS they were being cheap and passed on some really fine players.

      • YanksFanSince78 4 years ago

        Unlucky or really bad talent evaluators (up untilmaybe the last 3 or 4 drafts or so)

      • i wouldnt call pirates drafts unlucky.. being inept is not a sign of unluckiness

  6. dgrfns 4 years ago

    Blanton may be a BIG pitcher but he is hardly a big-name pitcher.

  7. East Coast Bias 4 years ago

    Anyone take a look at the starting pitching free agents for 2012? That group is bleak! The only name worth mentioning is CC, and he may not even be a free agent. I honestly think Edwin Jackson is the best from that group, based primarily on his age (28).

    I think teams may want to look for starters through trade, or preferably honing their own arms in the farm. Free agency does not look good next year.

    • Lunchbox45 4 years ago

      Free Agency is brutal

      Almost every player who makes it to free agency gets over paid in $ and years. The new trend is to draft well, stock up and when a pitcher shows potential in its first few years to sign them to decent contract.. Jon Lester is a prime example, Ricky Romero could be one too.

      Point being, the emphasis has been put back on scouting, drafting and player development. .. and I like it

      • The_Silver_Stacker 4 years ago

        It’s such a simple idea even the Yankees can do it

      • East Coast Bias 4 years ago

        I’m not gonna sit here and say that I don’t like free agency, but the small market approach of building your own guys through the farm does have an added bonus when they succeed. There’s more of an attachment from a fan’s perspective.

    • Commander_Nate 4 years ago

      Mark Buerhle and Joel Pineiro will both be FAs next winter. Scott Kazmir and Yu Darvish might be as well. Still, you’re right – Jackson is probably the best of that group unless Darvish is as awesome as advertised, which he just might be.

      • East Coast Bias 4 years ago

        Oh snap, I forgot about Darvish! He will totally be the prize of next year if he comes over. I need to make some Japanese friends. I’m trying to buy a Darvish jersey but can’t understand the language on websites. The furthest I got was putting into the shopping cart, after that, no idea how to pay and input address.

        • YanksFanSince78 4 years ago

          Go lo a language translation site. Can’ thelp you with the address input thing though.

  8. The_Silver_Stacker 4 years ago

    Bumgarner is going to have a breakout year and think the Giants will have a fine season. Curious to see how the pitching staff reacts from the additional innings brought on from last postseason.

  9. Bye Bye Baby Bonanza 4 years ago

    Go Giants!!!

  10. Guest 4 years ago

    Step 1. Produce a terrible baseball team. Example 2005 Dodgers and Giants
    Step 2. Have stupid teams not draft the guy you want. Example – The Giants and Dodgers both got the best pitchers after 5-6 pitchers already came off the board.. Uhh whoops?
    Step 3. well I haven’t gotten there yet.

  11. strikethree 4 years ago

    I’m not really sure how much a GM contributes to a draft. Yes, the guy is the final decision but isn’t it the scouting director that handles the picks? (and what about the scouts?) Yet, in the end, it’s always the GM that gets all the credit.

    It’s kind of like giving the manager all the credit for a win/loss.

    GM’s play crucial roles in trades but it helps if they have a good farm system to begin with. (Which again, comes from scouting, minor league facilities and coaching)

  12. notsureifsrs 4 years ago

    i see your point, but it’s not really like giving the manager the credit for a win. the manager doesn’t assemble a roster. a GM generally speaking does assemble and oversee the scouting department

  13. GaryLe 4 years ago

    Well the GM and assistant GM negotiate the contracts for draft picks and sets the budgets for the minors and scouting. A lot of teams are handed good draft picks and then botch the contract negotiation.

  14. I see your point about what the GM contributes to the draft, but remember then that Sabean was in charge of the Yankees drafting and player personnel when they picked up Jeter, Posada, Riviera, Williams, among others.

    In addition, Tidrow and other scouts often talk about having Sabean in to see one prospect or another, and once told him NOT to show up, in order to not tip off the other team of their interest in the player (can’t remember who that was, some top pick; but it wasn’t Wheeler, story is he humped up to 98 MPH when he learned Sabean was in the crowd). My understanding is that it is collaborative, with inputs coming from multiple sources and right now, to your point, I think it is John Barr who calls the shots.

    But I would imagine that if Sabean really wanted someone…

  15. northsfbay 4 years ago

    Things are looking up for the Giants. Before Sabean was the worst GM in baseball history, now he is just bad. It is so terrible being a Giant fan and being World Champions.

  16. YanksFanSince78 4 years ago

    I always believe that if you can place blame for failure then you can should do the same for success. A GM will get smashed for a poor draft or farm system and they should get credit for a good one.

    From a NY perspective, the farm has been more productive since Cashman was given 100% control. Who % of credit he shares with Damon Oppenheimer (VP of Scouting) is open to discussion but you would assume that Cashman has to lay down the orginaztional draft philosophy and then allows Opp to do his thing.

  17. Blanton said only if CC and Joba are in too.

  18. strikethree 4 years ago

    Then, I suppose Scott Boras would make an excellent GM.

    I don’t know… how many negotiations are botched these days? Usually it’s more because the player wants too much, isn’t it?

    Actually signing these guys is important but it just seems like all the credit (when fans or the media talk about draft picks) goes solely to the GM.

    For instance, a lot of people criticize Sabean for his FA negotiations but praise his drafts. It could just be that the guy is a terrible GM but has a good scouting department.

  19. wickedkevin 4 years ago

    hahaha I am creeped out.

  20. MaineSox 4 years ago

    Look, just because he has a big windowless van with “Free Kandy” painted on the side DOES NOT mean he is a creeper.

  21. strikethree 4 years ago

    But, besides the large market teams, most teams rely mainly on the drafts.

    That’s my main point: do GMs deserve so much credit for those?

    Is Sabean a bad negotiator but still a decent GM because of “his” drafts? Or is it that he is a terrible GM that just happens to have a good scouting department? (Therefore, he shouldn’t be in his position)

  22. notsureifsrs 4 years ago

    one thing i’d imagine you’d want to evaluate in a GM is the people he surrounds himself with – including a scouting department

    if he’s inherited a scouting department, not much credit there certainly. but if he’s put it together himself and/or is actively involved in it, yeah i’d give him his due. he’s the final decision maker and he’s on the hook potentially if drafts under his regime are poor

  23. strikethree 4 years ago

    Yeah, I’m not too knowledgeable on Sabean’s history but why did he offer these absurd contracts to mediocre players if he has such a good eye for talent?

    That’s what goes through my mind… although I realize a lot of other externalities play huge roles in player performances.

    It also doesn’t help that baseball can be very unpredictable at times and “luck” can be a huge factor. Some guys just perform poorly after a contract year or what not.

    Still, that contract to Zito is still mind boggling to me.

  24. Carlos Silva needs to get in on this too.

  25. strikethree 4 years ago

    Yes, I agree.

    It’s just interesting because of Sabean’s case: the guy has good draft picks but signs mediocre talent to bad contracts. (which wouldn’t make sense if he had such a good eye for talent)

    It’s even harder to evaluate since we don’t really know who did what, but it’s definitely interesting. (especially since they won a WS so I’d imagine them giving Sabean even more benefit of the doubt)

  26. Grab some pine, meat. 4 years ago

    Having the guts to take a small fry like lincecum means you sometimes swing and miss with people like rowand/zito

  27. strikethree 4 years ago

    There is a difference between winning because of him and winning despite him.

  28. BaseballYakker 4 years ago

    Some writers have totally missed the point. Other writers understand this.

    The point is Lee left $20-40 million on the table to not join the Yankees. This alone may not seem incredible, but considering how many players in the past have signed on with New York for even a few extra dollars, Lee’s deal is pretty significant.

    Of course, money aside, Lee’s deal really is a sacrifice. All winter, the deal was that Lee wanted years –not money. So the fact that he took a 5-year deal instead of a 7-year deal from New York is very notable fact.

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