Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Dugout Splinter - Don't Know Much Philosophy

The following is an excerpt from the Dugout Splinters from GameDay for the Oakland Series.

Don’t Know Much Philosophy
by Twins Geek

Stop me if you’ve heard this someplace before.

A small market team, looking for a new stadium, has a multi-year run where they’re competing with the big guys. They make three straight playoff appearances, but fail to make much noise. More recently they’ve failed to make the playoffs, mostly because their division is so loaded.

The organization is poised to compete again this year, primarily because of a strong (and young) pitching staff with plenty of additional pitching in the minors. However, there are questions about their offense. Sure, they made some moves in the offseason, but they failed to acquire the big bat they really need, so they’re hoping they’ll see improvement across the board in their young hitters.

With similar payroll limitations and similar success stories, the Twins and Athletics have become icons for opposing philosophies about baseball. The Athletics have been hailed as the progressive thinking organization, embracing the sabermetric community and a trend towards brash young executive outsiders. The Twins have been portrayed as the antithesis of this philosophy, emphasizing traditional scouting and a stable organization of baseball lifers. The two organizations have been endlessly compared and contrasted, but mostly contrasted.

So why are the end results so much alike?

8 comments:

MNPundit said...

Money I guess

frightwig said...

Are the results that much alike?

Oakland has put up a winning record each season since 1999, while playing in a tougher division nearly every year. The A's took a small step back last year after losing Hudson and Mulder (following the departures of Tejada and Giambi), but now they already look reloaded and ready to compete for another division title.

The Twins have put up winning records each season since 2001, taking a few division titles while the Central might have been the weakest in the majors. They took a harder fall backwards last season after losing Koskie (following the departures of some other key players), and the GM really hasn't done much to immediately reload for another title run. The team appears headed for another 3rd place finish (possibly 4th if the Tigers are for real), while management just waits for Mauer, Morneau, Liriano and Baker to mature.

John said...

FW,

There are going to be differences, but off the top of my head, I can't think of another franchise that is more similar to the Athletics in terms of results than the Twins.

cleveland? No way. They took years to reload, and their success is based on their hitting, not their pitching.

Maybe San Diego? They haven't had nearly the results the Twins and Athletics have had, and they're in a far worse division.

Florida isn't terribly far, but of course they just plain gave up when the tried to retain players and their payroll ballooned. Maybe we'll see their second wave now. In some ways, they remind me of Cleveland - a garage sale with a rebuilding period.

The more I think about it the more I wonder if it isn't less about philosophy and rather embracing some common methods, or organizational strengths.

Like shrewd trading for young players. Or drafting college pitchers. Or identifying market inefficiencies for free agenst, be it bad attitudes (Bradley) or injury concderns (Thomas, R White).

Certainly, the other franchises that have tried to copy the A's philsophies aren't a close match. Riccardi has had nowhere near the success in Toronto. Boston was hailed, but when you're spending $100+ million, you're a totally different animal. The Dodgers experiment ended early.

jianfu said...

I agree the A's and Twins are far more similar than pundits prefer to imagine (makes the story more messy). I also imagine Billy Beane and Terry Ryan would agree.

But one area where they're nothing alike is in their approach towards player retention. That is, the Twins would never, ever trade Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder when the A's did. (They traded Milton, but only after it was patently obvious he wasn't worth the money they were paying him.) And I have a hard time imagining the A's holding on to a guy like Jacque Jones as long as the Twins did (not to mention tendering a guy like Nick Punto).

Welcome to Jewscott's Head said...

John,

Here in lies the theorerical "tree in the forest" question. Can you ever really have the same philosophy as an organization that's philosophy is ever changing?

Yes, you're right. The A's have won with pitching and defense the last couple of years. They've also won under Beane with the Earl Weaver-esq strategy of the walk and the three-run homer. In fact, if the A's thought that their best chance of winning involved fielding a line-up of pygmies, Billy Beane would be on the first flight to Kinshasa.

If you summed up the Twins philsophy in a sentence, it would be that pitching and defense wins ball games. If you did the sane thing with the A's, it would be that there are lots of ways to win ball games, and one of them is pitching and defense. Is that really the same thing?

frightwig said...

John, do you think the Indians' rebuild was really so slow? They were bad for only a couple years (2002-3). But in 2004, they gave the Twins a little scare in August before fading down the stretch. Then last year they were back with 93 wins, better than some of their teams that won Central titles.

I hope the Twins can get back to winning 90+ games again in such short turnaround, but right now I'm feeling quite the pessimist. By the time Mauer & Morneau mature, will the club still have Santana and Radke--or equally capable replacements? Is Terry Ryan the kind of manager who can rebuild as quickly as Beane or even Shapiro have done? (I'm doubtful.)

Beane has been very good at retooling via the trade market; and, as Jianfu points out, he hasn't been afraid to trade key veterans or top prospects, either. Shapiro has done some bold wheeling n' dealing to help himself rebuild, as well: the Colon trade probably being his best high-profile deal.

Terry Ryan, on the other hand, doesn't trade anybody whose stock is riding high. Useful veterans stay until their contracts expire and become too expensive as free agents; he hangs onto just about everyone else until they seem no longer valuable to the club. (A.J. was an exception made because Mauer was pushing through the door.) And that's one big reason I feel pessimistic about the Twins' near future.

I think we have a 3rd/4th place team with some veteran parts who should be traded to accelerate the rebuilding. But if TR can bring himself to ship out players like Hunter, Silva, Stewart, Radke (yeah, I know he has a no-trade, but those can be broken) this summer to make the 2007-8 Mauer/Morneau Twins a real contender, let's just say it would seem very out of character.

SBG said...

I'm with fw on this one.

The A's cut guys and move on when they can no longer afford them. The Twins moan about losing Dougie Baseball and Corey Koskie, for Christsakes! The A's have lost two league MVPs and two of their three quality starters. And yet, here they are, after four playoff appearances in this decade, right there as the favorite in their division. They have developed a ton of talent and aren't afraid of turning over their roster.

If the West was a five team league with the four teams presently there and the Twins, I don't believe that the Twins would have made a single appearance in the post season in this decade. Not one.

dlarso01 said...

Doesn't that say a lot, that the AJ trade was one of the Twins' greatest trades, yet it's out of character for TR to make those kind of trades? Sad...

Much as I really like Torii, the Twins really can't afford $12M, and that's only for 1 more season. Gotta trade the guy.