Saturday Rockpile: Baseball is insanity

Doug Pensinger

Another NL West team signed a free agent starter, and once again, it wasn't the Rockies

While no new stories emerged from the Rockies camp over the Thanksgiving holiday, the radio silence does give us an opportunity to dive into the dealings of our division rials, particularly the one by the bay.

Yesterday, news broke that San Francisco signed Ryan Volgelsong to a one year $5 million deal with incentives that could push it beyond the $6.5 million number the Giants decided to pass on when they declined his 2014 option earlier this Fall. In other words, it's as if the Giants actually picked up that option, only they'll save a million and change if he's as terrible as he was in 2013 again (fingers crossed).

This is interesting for a few reasons. First, we can start to size up the competition here. The Volgelsong signing puts him at the back of a Giants a rotation that already includes Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Tim Hudson; and with the San Francisco payroll already approaching the $150 million mark, what you see is likely what you're going to get when April rolls around.

It's not just the rotation though, it's the vast majority of the team, which brings us to a very compelling and ultimately comforting realization.

If you've read Purple Row for more than a year (specifically the comments section), then you're well aware that for a long while, there was a group of posters who were quick and constant in pointing out how unusual and unlikely San Francisco's path to the 2012 World Series was in just about every possible way. Without mincing words, the general feeling from this group was that the 2012 Giants won the World Series because they were luckier than a guy married to a supermodel who found two winning power-ball tickets in his gutter.

"The team was a fraud" they cried.

"A paper tiger!"

More importantly though, this group felt that the Giants wouldn't be able to repeat their 2012 success once the magic voodoo pixie dust ran out and the golden horseshoe finally fell out of their rear end. Well, here we are a year later, and not only is it starting to look like this group may have been on the money, but it's also starting to look like the Giants are willing to double down on this bet.

For more detail on what I'm talking about, here's the Giants 2012 World Series roster.

Rotation (Assuming it was the regular season as all of these pitchers obviously did not start in the series)

Madison Bumgarner

Matt Cain

Tim Lincecum

Ryan Vogelsong

Barry Zito

Bullpen

Jeremy Affeldt

Santiago Casilla

George Kontos

Javier Lopez

Jose Mijares

Guillermo Mota

Sergio Romo

Catchers

Buster Posey

Hector Sanchez

Infielders

Joaquin Arias

Brandon Belt

Brandon Crawford

Aubrey Huff

Pablo Sandoval

Marco Scutaro

Ryan Theriot

Outfielders

Gregor Blanco

Xavier Nady

Angel Pagan

Hunter Pence

* * * * * *

Okay, now I'm going to list the 22 players who I currently think are extremely likely to be on the San Francisco roster come opening day. (The players who were NOT on the 2012 World Series roster will be listed in bold.)

Rotation

Madison Bumgarner

Matt Cain

Tim Hudson

Tim Lincecum

Ryan Vogelsong

Bullpen

Jeremy Affeldt

Santiago Casilla

George Kontos

Javier Lopez

Jean Machi (Pitched for the team in September 2012, but was not on the World Series roster)

Yusmeiro Petit (Pitched for the team in September 2012, but was not on the World Series roster)

Sergio Romo

Catchers

Buster Posey

Hector Sanchez

Infielders

Joaquin Arias

Brandon Belt

Brandon Crawford

Pablo Sandoval

Marco Scutaro

Outfielders

Gregor Blanco

Angel Pagan

Hunter Pence


The roster isn't quite complete yet. This team still needs a left fielder, and they might add another bullpen piece, but for November 30th, this is about as clear of a picture as you're going to get, and with the amount of cash this team already has committed to its core, a major shakeup here between now and April is highly unlikely.

So with that, the Giants plan is obvious; they're trying to recreate 2012. Unlike the majority of Purple Row, they believe they won the World Series that year because their roster was actually one that should win over 90 games most seasons, and now they are doing everything they can to keep that group of players together. In other words, they believe that 2013 was the anomaly, not 2012.

Here's a list of their most significant transactions over the last 13 months as it relates to how we got to their current roster.

November 14, 2012

Signed Jeremy Affeldt back as a free agent for $18 million over three years.

December 6, 2012

Signed Marco Scutaro back as a free agent for $20 million over three years.

December 7, 2012

Signed Angel Pagan back as a free agent for $40 million over four years.

March 29, 2013

Extended Buster Posey for $167 million over eight additional years.

September 28, 2013

Extended Hunter Pence (as he was on the verge of free agency) to a $90 million deal over five years.

October 23, 2013

Signed Tim Lincecum to a $35 million deal over two years.

November 18, 2013

Signed Tim Hudson as a free agent for $23 million over two years.

November 26, 2013

Signed Javier Lopez for $13 million over three years.

Now

Signed Ryan Vogelsong back as a free agent for a one year, $5 million deal with incentives that could push it higher.

* * * * * *

If you're looking for trades, the only one this team has made since October of 2012 was last February when they sent Conor Gillaspie to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for minor leaguer Jeff Soptic. Does that even count?

Other than the Tim Hudson signing to replace and upgrade Barry Zito's spot on the roster, this is essentially still the same team that won the World Series.

This fact has been largely ignored by most of the national media however, because pointing it out requires some work in explaining how a team with essentially the same roster can win 94 games and a World Series one year and then then turn around and win just 76 games the next. There's several little reasons for this, but the biggest one that encompasses them all is a baseball truth that directly opposes a lazy narrative many fans like to dabble in.

Albert Einstein once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Well, I'm not one to argue with Mr. Einstein, so I'll just say that baseball must equal insanity, because the truth is that in baseball you can bring back the same roster over and over again and get a different result. The Giants just proved it.

It's the same group of guys, but maybe this time there's more injuries, maybe a couple of guys came down off career years, maybe a couple of guys are starting to get too old and regressed, maybe a couple of pitchers lost a little velocity on their fastball, and maybe you just didn't have the ball bounce your way as much late in close games. Or better yet, maybe your MVP catcher from the previous season closes out the final 56 games hitting just one home run while batting .238 with a .618 OPS for no explicable reason other than the fact that yeah, baseball is insanity.

Funny thing about this insanity though, it goes both ways. Just as I didn't think the Giants were anywhere near as good as their 2012 season indicated, I don't think their as bad as their 2013 indicated either. Random circumstance plays a much bigger role in each baseball season than most fans would like to admit, and that's why we sometimes see these dramatic shifts in records from one season to another and always should be somewhat optimistic about an upcoming season. Well, unless you're an Astros fan, then you can be optimistic about the second half of the decade.

You can choose to apply these factors to each team in the division however you want (we'll play this game with the Rockies here all winter), but the fact is they are almost impossible to accurately predict, and they are part of what makes baseball fun - There's always elements that play huge rolls in the season nobody sees coming.

The trick is knowing how to bet on them in large sample size to cover up for the negatives you didn't see coming. Unfortunately for the Giants, I'm not sure they are making a a wise bet when they think 2012 as a whole is repeatable for their team. They seem to be pretty confident though, and  with all those contracts they've handed out to keep that roster together, they are putting an enormous wager down against the group here at Purple Row who doesn't think that team was anywhere near as good as its successes indicated.

Round one went to the Giants, round two went to the Purple Row community, 2014 should determine who was right once and for all.

Links

Baseball America released their list of top Rockies prospects this week. Be sure to also check out their list of top players 25 and under as Colorado has an unusually large number of these players already at the major league level who can still get better. (Speaking of bringing the same roster back the following season and getting a different result)

Mike Axisa of CBS Sports makes a very good argument about why Michael Cuddyer and not Justin Morneau is the former Twin the Rockies should be looking at to play first base next season.

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