This past weekend I had the opportunity to interview Geoff Young, a writer for Baseball Prospectus (the website) who focuses on the NL and AL Western divisions and a contributor to Baseball Prospectus 2013 (the book), the premier guide to the 2013 MLB season. Geoff is the founder of Duck Snorts, a prominent Padres blog, and he's the writer of the Rockies, Padres, and Reds chapters in the book. In this portion of the interview, we discuss the offseasons and outlooks of the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Jeff Aberle: Alright, so let's move onto the World Series Champion Giants, much as it pains me to say it. I don't know how they do it - they did it a different way, as the book (Baseball Prospectus 2013) says, than they did it when they won in 2010. They did it a lot more with their hitting than with their pitching, as much as the narrative might have stated otherwise. What do you think of their chances to repeat?
Geoff Young: I don't think that you can ever really count out a defending World Champion - well, unless they're the Marlins. They're a hard team for me to gauge, because I really didn't think that they looked very good coming into last season. I thought that they were going to be...I forget my exact prediction, but if I recall correctly, I had the Diamondbacks winning the division and the Giants coming in 2nd or 3rd, so for one thing, don't take any stock tips from me.
I look at them on paper and I still don't think that they're an awesome team - but...paper's great, but they won a World Series last year with that team, who's to say that they can't get deep into the playoffs with that team again this year? I think that you have to take them very seriously, simply by the virtue that they've already done it.
JA: The health of their starting rotation has been exemplary, I think that's really helped. I think that they've gotten, for lack of a better word, pretty darn lucky with some of their moves. It makes me angry that Marco Scutaro was terrible for us and turned into a MVP for them.
GY: That was unbelievable.
JA: Yeah, it was ridiculous. The only thing that's good about it is that it forced them to overpay for him over the next few years, which will be nice, but they've got that World Series bump in revenue, so they can afford it. Not that I'm bitter or anything...so what do you think about the situation with the A's - the A's wanting to move to San Jose and the Giants not letting them?
GY: Personally, I really wish that they would let the A's go. I think it would be better for baseball. It's easy for me to say, I'm not a resident of the Bay Area, but it seems to me that it would be a really good thing. I mean, the Giants just won 2 of the last 3 World Series, are they really going to lose a lot of fans if the A's move to San Jose? To me that seems a little overprotective.
JA: I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the A's, so it pains me to see them in the situation that they're in. They've got the Moneyball smarts and the cachet that comes with that, but they're stuck in a terrible venue - I know, I've been there - and they just have a terrible situation in terms of attendance, in terms of revenue. San Jose's a better situation for them, so it's tough for me to see that happen just because the Giants are being a little greedy.
GY: I completely agree - I'd love to see them just let that go or for MLB to step in...
JA: Well (MLB Commissioner Bud) Selig has done nothing. He's just strung them along, saying "Well maybe, I don't know, maybe you could do that, but I'm not going to tell them to let you have the territory" - it's just maddening to me...that's the Giants.
So that brings us to the Evil Empire, Western Edition of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Obviously it seems like the rest of the NL West missed their opportunity when the McCourts had the Dodgers...and now they're going to be stuck against Gigantor for the next few years - that's what it looks like to me. What are your thoughts on the free agent...spending spree is probably a tame word?
GY: First of all, I don't think that the team as it stands right now is that great. I think they're good. I know at Prospectus we've got them at 80% chance to make the playoffs, 62% chance to win the division, checking in at around 89 wins. I personally don't think that they will be as good in reality as they look on paper. I may come back to eat my words on that, but right now I don't think that they're the class of the division. That said, with the resources available at their disposal...
JA: They could plug holes pretty easily.
GY: Yeah, it's like the Yankees years ago, where it's "Oh, our guy went down...let's just go absorb Bobby Abreu's contract". I can definitely see the Dodgers becoming that team - I mean, they kind of tried it last year when they brought in basically everyone that Boston didn't want to pay anymore. Of course, it didn't get them anywhere, but it did show the fans that they had a lot of money and weren't afraid to spend it.
There's a lot to be said for that, because if you show your fans that you're willing to commit, then they're much more likely to commit back to you. They're saying "wow, we brought all these guys in, we're really doing something here". It's not like signing Michael Cuddyer, not to open an old wound, but it's not window dressing. These are legit guys, so I think long-term, the Dodgers are going to be a real problem for the rest of the NL West. I know that I'm not real comfortable.
JA: I think they've got maybe 9 or 10 legitimate starting pitchers - they have players the Rockies would really like to have in their starting rotation just hanging around the fringes in LA being paid like $8 million per year to do it. I mean, Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano are their fringe starters.
They paid $61 million (six years) to the South Korean pitcher, Hyun-Jin Ryu, they got the Cuban outfielder, Yasiel Puig for $42 million (7 years) - they've got a glut of outfielders, a glut of starting pitchers, they're paying $22.5 million to Brandon League (3 years) to be a set-up guy. That's not even mentioning Zack Greinke...it's insane, we've never seen this before.
GY: If not this year, they're definitely going to be a problem in the future...and it might be this year. I don't think that any fans of any of the other teams in this division should feel safe for the foreseeable future. Our only hope is that they do stupid things with their money, and even that might not be enough.
JA: I think that they've already done a number of stupid things with their money, but I don't think that it really matters to them at this point. They're getting what, $6 billion on their next TV contract?
GY: You can definitely outspend your mistakes at that level of revenue.
JA: Life isn't fair.
Tune back tomorrow for the thrilling conclusion of this interview series, which will discuss the future for Rockies fans.