Hey everyone, ready for round 2? As you’ll see below, most of the National League rosters feature the same distribution of player talent as their AL counterparts. In order to not post the exact same post as last time and also as a rebuttal to some comments made on my last post I will be looking at what year each player debuted for their current team and how that player got there. So after every player’s name we’ll see their WAR, what year they first played for their team and how they got there.
A quick refresher on my definitions for the player types:
Superstars – players with a track record of at least 3 years putting up 4+ WAR seasons, I tried to be entirely mathematical, but there is some fudging here and there because the word “superstar” also tends to be a lot of public perception and name recognition
Surprise Players – Players putting up a 4+ WAR season who either bounced back from age, injury, had a career year, or a breakout rookie season. Basically any player that outperformed anyone’s expectations going into the season would be included here.
Solid Players – Any player putting up a 2-3.9 WAR season
Replacement Players – Any player putting up a 0-1.9 WAR season
Crap Players – Any player with a negative WAR
Philadelphia Phillies – $166 million payroll, 102, 60 record
Chase Utley – 3.9, 2003, Farm
Roy Halladay – 8.2, 2010, Trade
Cliff Lee – 6.7, 2011, Free Agent
Cole Hamels – 4.9, 2006, Farm
Shane Victorino – 5.9, 2005, Rule 5
Jimmy Rollins – 3.8, 2000, Farm
Placido Polanco – 2.8, 2010, Free Agent
Carlos Ruiz – 2.8, 2006, Farm
Roy Oswalt – 2.5, 2010, Trade
Vance Worley – 2.5, 2010, Farm
Ryan Howard – 1.6, 2004, Farm
Wilson Valdez – 0.0, 2010, Free Agent
Raul Ibanez - -1.3, 2009, Free Agent
Bullpen – 1.7
The Phillies once again follow the same general build we’ve seen before, if we look at when and how players came to the team it becomes clear that the solid core of the team was brought up through the farm system throughout the mid 2000’s. Those players (Utley, Hamels, Victorino, Rollins, Ruiz, Howard) were able to grow for a few years in order to see who stuck and where the holes were, it’s then that we see big names come in via trades and free agents. This team was home grown and then the final pieces were bought at the end, which led them to the best record in baseball last season. It’s also interesting to see that since 2007 (when the team started its 5 year 1st place run) that the budget steadily grew every year from $89 million to $166 million. Sure in the last couple years they’ve given big money to Halladay and Lee, but most of the money has gone to retaining their core. With the exception of 3rd base the infield has been exactly the same since 2003.
Milwaukie Brewers – $83.6 million payroll, 96 – 66 record
Prince Fielder – 5.5, 2005, Farm
Ryan Braun – 7.8, 2007, Farm
Zack Greinke – 3.9, 2011, Trade
Corey Hart – 4.2, 2004, Farm
Nyjer Morgan 4.0, 2011, Trade
Rickie Weeks – 3.7, 2003, Farm
Yovani Gallardo – 3.1, 2007, Farm
Shaun Marcum – 2.7, 2011, Trade
Jonathan Lucroy – 1.9, 2010, Farm
Chris Narveson – 1.5, 2009, Free Agent
Randy Wolf – 1.4, 2010, Free Agent
Casey McGehee - .3, 2009, Waiver Claim
Yuniesky Betancourt - .5, 2011, Trade
Bullpen – 5.1
The Brewers actually had a fairly heavy amount of replacement players last year, but made up for it with just as many top tier players. Taking a look at how the players were acquired shows that every player that has been a Brewer for longer than 3 years was a product of the farm system. Once the team had Fielder, Braun, Hart, Weeks, and Gallardo in place they hit the trade market rather than the free agent market to bring in the pieces they needed to win (Grienke, Morgan, Marcum). Just like the Phillies we see the core built from the farm system before outside players are brought in.
Arizona Diamondbacks – $56.5 million payroll, 94 – 68 record
Justin Upton – 6.4, 2007, Farm
Ian Kennedy – 5.0, 2010, Trade
Daniel Hudson – 4.9, 2010, Trade
Chris Young – 4.6, 2006, Trade
Miguel Montero – 4.3, 2006, Farm
Ryan Roberts – 3.6, 2009, Free Agent
Gerardo Parra – 2.8, 2009, Farm
Josh Collmenter – 2.2, 2011, Farm
Stephen Drew – 1.9, 2006, Farm
Kelly Johnson - 1.4, 2010, Free Agent
Joe Saunders – 1.0, 2010, Trade
Zach Duke - .8, 2011, Trade
Willie Bloomquist - .3, 2011, Free Agent
Bullpen - 3.5
The Diamondbacks made it to the playoffs on the backs of a lot of young players having breakout years. It could be argued that Upton isn’t a fully fledged star yet and I’m still back and forth on where to put him, but really it doesn’t matter that much. With the Diamondbacks we’re seeing the beginnings of a core group of players, the core is being developed by the farm system and past trades that are seeing prospects begin to show promise. Arizona made it to the playoffs without a single big name free agent signing, except for J.J. Putz, but from what I’ve seen so far a good bullpen is nice, but not required. Still though, Putz was brought in last year after the young core was already in place.
St. Louis Cardinals – $109 million payroll, 90 – 72 record
Albert Pujols – 5.1, 2001, Farm
Matt Holliday – 5.0, 2009, Trade
Chris Carpenter – 5.0, 2004, Free Agent
Lance Berkman – 5.0, 2011, Free Agent
Yadier Molina – 4.1, 2004, Farm
Jaime Garcia – 3.6, 2008, Farm
Jon Jay – 2.8, 2010, Farm
David Freese – 2.7, 2009, Trade/Farm
Kyle Lohse – 2.5, 2008, Free Agent
Colby Rasmus – 1.3, 2009, Farm
Jake Westbrook – 1.1, 2010, Trade
Ryan Theriot - .7, 2011, Trade
Skip Schumaker - .6, 2005, Farm
Daniel Descalso - .5, 2010, Farm
Kyle McClellan - .3, 2008, Farm
Bullpen - .8
Once again most of the long term pieces on the team were brought up through the farm system (the exception being Carpenter). Freese was traded to the Cardinals, but he was still in A ball at the time so he could also be considered a product of the farm system. The recent additions to the team (Berkman, Westbrook, and Theriot) were added to fill the last remaining holes and help push the team into that final stage to contend. Pretty much everyone on the team performed to expectations and it could be argued that the only reason the Cardinals were able to make the post season was because of the lucky bounce back they got from Berkman.
My original hypothesis still appears to be true, with just the Diamondbacks succeeding more due to break out years than a few star players. Simply put, star power is good, but it doesn’t make or break a team. Winning is a team effort and needs solid performances from the top to the bottom of the roster. From looking at these 4 successful teams it also becomes apparent there is a trend in the order that players are acquired. There isn’t a single star player that was bought or traded for years before the team started contending. Chris Carpenter was brought in before the 2004 season, but he joined the team just before they started hitting the playoffs in ’04 - ’06, so he is more of a holdover from those days and it can’t be argued they bought him in order to build around him to contend in the 2010’s.
After looking at these sample cases, if I were to build a team I would use my farm system to develop as many successful players as possible, when my in house team is winning 80-85 games a season I would assess where my holes are and then use the free agent and trade markets to purchase one or two 5 WAR players to push my team up to the 90 win mark. I wouldn’t purchase an expensive star first baseman years before I’m ready to contend only to realize my farm system just supplied me with a league minimum 5 win first baseman. Sure I could trade that young player to fill a hole elsewhere, but it just seems like an irresponsible way to spend money. It may be a long process to rebuild a team, but when I’m celebrating my first World Series win I don’t really think I’ll care.
In conclusion I’d rather Zdriencik put together at LEAST a .500 team with cheap in house options before spending the big bucks on long contracts. If payroll is cheaper in the next few years I think I’ll be ok with that, it just means the team is committing to the young players and saving money to sign them to long term extensions if they prove they deserve it. Big extensions are the way the Phillies doubled their payroll and it seems to have worked out pretty well for them.
In the next couple days I’ll look at where the Mariners currently stand and see if past successful Mariners teams used the same model as these 8 playoff teams.