I haven't posted on Camden Chat in a while. A new baby (to go along with the 2 year old) will do that to you - I've spent the majority of the last three months too tired to type anything longer than 140 characters. I was reading an article last week though and it depressed the hell out of me. Here's the URL:
So first off, I don't really like Grantland. The articles seem to be about the authors more than they are about sports, so I'm not terribly interested in participating in gratuitous stroking of the ego. Still, when I have a second and the article is about baseball, I'll take a peek.
Second, it was written a week ago, so my apologies if it has already been discussed on this site. Anyway, you should check this article out in its entirety because it's pretty interesting. It's about the Brewers and the strategy they've pursued this year - buy some bats, buy some arms, plunder the farm system, completely neglect defense.
And as I read it, I started to think about how sensible it is - not to copy this exact strategy, but to utilize ANY strategy. To make a conscious decision to purchase one attribute at the expense of another. Load up on offense and ignore defense - there must be a cumulative, greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts impact to having a loaded lineup. Go with solid pitching that can go deep into games and a strong defense and hope you can get good at winning 3-2 - maybe if your bullpen is well rested then they should be even more effective and help you hold leads late. Even if your strategy is simply to go after balance, to only take guys who are equally good on both sides of the ball, that's something. And the depressing part of reading the article was this - I can't figure out what the Orioles strategy is.
Can anyone tell me? What is it that this team is trying to be good at? It can't be defense. You don't sign Mark Reynolds and shove Luke Scott back into left field if defense is your objective. (It should not surprise anyone watching the games that the Orioles are, by far, the worst in the league in UZR.)
And, of course, we can't be trying to secure a dominant offense either. Everyone knew that the Vlad and Lee signings weren't going to make this team score a ton of runs. They were PR plays at best, desperation at worst. We haven't had a really good offense in years - two over the hill players weren't going to change that... and our team offense has proven to be middle of the road.
So of course everyone must assume that we're trying to build the team through pitching... you know, the whole "grow the arms and buy the bats" thing. Except I'm not so sure that's it either. In 2007, 3 of our top 5 draft picks were position players. In 2008 it was 5 of 7. In 2009 it was 3 of 6. In 2010 it was 3 of 6.
I'm just not sure that I understand. If you want to grow the arms, you'd better take a lot more pitchers with high picks. And you'd better invest in some D. If you're going to commit to team defense, then you can't sign bat-only players at multiple positions. If you want to win with offense, you need to spend bigger - not waste $8M on Vlad - but actually put a realistic, market value bid out there for a Teixeira or Carl Crawford or whoever the big free agent is.
If you say we can't afford the big free agents, then we'd better play where we can find prospects for cheap - the draft and in international markets. But we give up draft picks to sign middle relievers and ignore international scouting. Or we could always trade for a big name - it's not like Milwaukee is some wealthy market and they were able to pick up Greinke. But instead we re-sign guys like Brian Roberts and JJ Hardy at their very peak value.
I've always generally liked MacPhail, but I'm becoming more and more skeptical by the day. Does he know how to build a team around a particular strategy? Does he believe that playing a "type" of baseball is important, or at least more valuable than having everyone do their own thing? Does he think we should be a defensive team or a slugging team or an OBP factory or a team of great starting pitching? Or does he simply go out and acquire mid-level, past its prime, overpriced talent in a vacuum, which has generally led us to nothing but failure?
Maybe I'm wrong, maybe a team doesn't need to focus on something. It's certainly possible that you can employ a butcher at third base that hits for a low average (but some pop!), an overrated defensive center fielder that refuses to take a walk, a defensive star at first base that is well past his prime at the plate... and I guess, in theory, you can win with that. It sure seems to me that it's easier to be decent if you narrow your focus a little bit, create and cultivate a team strategy, and sign players who fit into it.
Am I wrong here? Do we need a team strategy? Or is it enough to just look for guys that don't suck?