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Emulation: Part I

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Two seasons ago, the Rockies lost 95 games. They had:

  • A lineup filled with mid-20s non-prospects like Aaron Miles and Clint Barmes.
  • A starting pitching staff with scattered talent, but only one blue-chip young pitcher (Jeff Francis). None of the top five starters (based on number of appearances) had an average ERA, even after you adjusted for Coors Field. And other than Francis, the pitchers were starting to get a little too old to be called prospects.
  • A bullpen filled with warm bodies, but little talent.
  • A first baseman who was producing like an All-Star, but who also had a huge contract and was entering his 30s.
  • A 25-year-old non-prospect who suddenly performed as if he were one of the top young outfielders in the game. His minor league OPS was .772, but he surpassed that performance in the major leagues. That's hardly a safe player to build around.
  • The sixth-best organizational talent ranking in baseball according to Baseball America.
Their current 90-win playoff team has:
  • A lineup that features a ton of homegrown talent, such as Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe, Troy Tulowitski, and that 25-year-old non-prospect who was mentioned above, Matt Holliday. It's worth noting that the sixth-best ranking from Baseball America had a lot to do with Chin-Hui Tsao, Jayson Nix, Ian Stewart, Rene Reyes, and Ching-Lung Lo. Only Francis, Atkins, and Ubaldo Jimenez were projected in 2005 to be major contributors in the future. Hawpe and Holliday surprised the prospect-watching world, and Tulowitski was a high first-round pick that shot through the system in less than a year.
  • A rotation that has a former hotshot prospect coming into his own (Jeff Francis), a couple of current prospects (Ubaldo Jimenez and Jason Hirsh) holding their own, and a pile of average.
  • A bullpen that was outstanding during the regular season, even if most of the individual peripheral statistics weren't that impressive.
  • The same expensive first baseman, who certainly did decline. However, he declined from a incredibly high peak value, so he was still a good player after the decline.
  • A fantastic defense, especially up the middle.
  • Purple as one of their team colors. There's just no ignoring that, but the Rockies were able to persevere and make the playoffs anyways.
I'm trying to apply this to the Giants, of course. The Giants are in better shape with the pitching staff than the Rockies were two years ago, but they certainly don't have the offensive depth the Rockies had. Or do they? What the Giants need to emulate the quick turnaround of the Rockies:
  • The continued health and development of their young pitchers. (I know, I know; I'm a genius for thinking of it first....)
  • A couple of the less-heralded young players to transcend their modest minor league past. Fred Lewis and Rajai Davis come to mind, though some folks think Dan Ortmeier could be that kind of surprise.
  • The #5 pick in the 2008 draft to be a part of the 2009 offense.
  • A good old-fashioned grifting or two of another team, such as the Jason Jennings for Hirsh/Wily Taveres deal.
  • A good bullpen made from found arms.
  • To not rule out paying big money for an elite player, even if he wouldn't immediately be surrounded by a contending team. The key is "elite". This does not mean Torii Hunter.
My point: It can be done. Another, less heartening point: The Rockies needed a bit of luck to go along with their eye for talent. The Giants can't just assume that Lewis and Ortmeier will be their Hawpe and Holliday, and they can't just assume that the player picked with the #5 pick will be a Ryan Braun or Troy Tulowitzki.

But it can be done within two years. That's why I prefer to ignore the "Giants are doomed for the next ten years"-crowd to hang out with the "Giants are going to be unbelievably bad next season"-crowd.