• Pitching and Playoffs: Farm, Free Agency, or Trades?

    How did the most successful teams of 2013 make it to the playoffs? Was it through the Farm System/Draft, Free Agency, or Trades? Any guesses which was the most expensive of the 3 areas? And which was the most successful (regardless of salary)?

    Below are the 2013 rotations which are ordered by post-season rotation order and then secondarily, for the #4 & #5 starters, by their contributions during the regular season.

    Boston Red Sox

    1. Jon Lester Farm system $11.625M 15-8 W-L 3.75 ERA 213.1 IP 177 SO
    2. John Lackey FA - $16.5M 10-13 W-L 3.52 ERA 189.1 IP 161 SO
    3. Clay Buchholz Farm system $5.5M 12-1 W-L 1.74 ERA 108.1 IP 96 SO
    4. Felix Doubront Farm system $519K 11-6 W-L 4.32 ERA 162.1 IP 139 SO
    5. Ryan Dempster FA $13.25M 8-9 W-L 4.57 ERA 171.1 IP 157 SO


    Detroit Tigers


    1. Justin Verlander Farm System - $20M 13-12 W-L 3.46 ERA 218.1 IP 217 SO
    2. Max Scherzer Trade - $6.7M 21-3 W-L 2.90 ERA 214.1 IP 240 SO
    3. Anibal Sanchez Trade - $8.8M 14-8 W-L 2.57 ERA 182 IP 202 SO
    4. Doug Fister Trade - $4M 14-9 W-L 3.67 ERA 208.2 IP 159 SO
    5. Rick Porcello Farm System - $5.1M 13-8 W-L 4.32 ERA 177 IP 142 SO


    Oakland Athletics


    1. Bartolo Colon FA - $3M 18-6 W-L 2.65 ERA 190.1 IP 117
    2. Sonny Gray Farm system - $490K 5-3 W-L 2.67 ERA 64 IP 67 SO
    3. Jarrod Parker Farm System (trade w/ ARZ as Class AA, #26 Overall Prospect) - $495K - 12-8 W-L 3.97 ERA 197 IP 134 SO
    4. AJ Griffin Farm System - $493K 14-10 W-L 3.83 ERA 200 IP 171 SO
    5. Dan Straily Farm System - $493K 10-8 W-L 3.96 ERA 152.1 IP 124 SO


    Tampa Bay Rays


    1. David Price Farm System $10.1m 10-8 W-L 3.33 ERA 186.2 IP 151 SO
    2. Matt Moore Farm System $1M 17-4 W-L 3.29 ERA 150.1 IP 143 SO
    3. Alex Cobb Farm System $502K 11-3 W-L 2.76 143.1 IP 134 SO
    4. Jeremy Hellickson Farm System $503K 12-10 W-L 5.17 ERA 174 IP 135 SO
    5. Chris Archer Farm System - $500K 9-7 W-L 3.22 ERA 128.2 IP 101 SO


    Atlanta Braves


    1. Kris Medlen Farm System - $505K 13-9 W-L 3.21 ERA 204.2 IP 181 SO
    2. Mike Minor Farm System - $2.6M 15-12 W-L 3.11 ERA 197 IP 157 SO
    3. Julio Teheran Farm System - $490K 14-8 W-L 3.20 ERA 185.2 IP 170 SO
    4. Paul Maholm Trade - $6.5M 10-11 W-L 4.41 ERA 153 IP 105 SO
    5. Tim Hudson Trade - $9M 8-7 W-L 3.97 ERA 131.1 IP 95 SO


    Los Angeles Dodgers


    1. Clayton Kershaw Farm System - $11M 16-9 W-L 1.83 ERA 236 IP 232 SO
    2. Zack Greinke FA - $19M 15-4 W-L 2.63 ERA 177.2 IP 148 SO
    3. Hyun-jin Ryu FA - $6M 14-8 W-L 3.00 ERA 192 IP 154 SO
    4. Ricky Nolasco Trade - $11.5M 13-11 W-L 3.70 ERA 199.1 IP 165 SO
    5. Chris Capuano FA - $6M 4-7 W-L 4.26 ERA 105.2 IP 81 SO


    Pittsburgh Pirates


    1. Francisco Liriano FA - $1M 16-8 W-L 3.02 ERA 161 IP 163 SO
    2. AJ Burnett FA - $16.5M 10-11 W-L 3.30 ERA 191 IP 209 SO
    3. Gerrit Cole Farm System - $490K 10-7 W-L 3.22 ERA 117.1 IP 100 SO
    4. Jeff Locke Farm System (Trade w/ Braves when in Class A) - $498K 10-7 W-L 3.52 ERA 166.1 IP 125 SO
    5. Charlie Morton Trade - $2M 7-4 W-L 3.26 ERA 116 IP 85 SO


    St. Louis Cardinals


    1. Adam Wainwright Farm System (trade w/ Braves as Class AA, #18 Overall Prospect) - $12M - 19-9 W-L 2.94 ERA 241.2 IP 219 SO
    2. Shelby Miller Farm System - $490K 15-9 W-L 3.06 ERA 173.1 IP 169 SO
    3. Michael Wacha Farm System - $490K 4-1 W-L 2.78 ERA 64.2 IP 65 SO
    4. Joe Kelly Farm System $493K 10-5 W-L 2.69 ERA 124 IP 79 SO
    5. Lance Lynn Farm System - $513K 15-10 W-L 3.97 ERA 201.2 IP 198 SO


    So if you were tallying, you would get this breakdown of the rotations by team:


    All but two had their ace come through their farm system. Bartolo Colon and Francisco Liarino have proved to be one-year wonders. And at $3M and $1M respectively, they were steals, but hardly predictable contributors.

    Apart from those two free agent finds, six free agents combined for a 61-52 W-L record, while having a combined price tag of $77.25M. Add Liriano and Colon back to the mix and it's 95-66.

    Here's a look over the past 4 years of FA starting pitcher to back up the post-season numbers from this year.

    One could run a little optimization application to figure out the optimal price to pay for Free Agent Pitching. (I'll run this later)

    Lesson: Don't overpay for Free Agents. Only in 2011 did the highest paid free agent starting pitcher, Cliff Lee, have the most wins.

    So what's the best method for teams, including the Twins, in 2014 (and beyond) to develop a pitching staff?
    • Farm System
    • Cheap FA flyers
    • Continue to add more power arms via 2014 MLB Draft
    • Trades that yield prospects


    Maybe, just maybe, Terry Ryan doesn't sound like such a stooge anymore.
    This article was originally published in blog: Pitching and Playoffs: Through the Farm System, Free Agency, or Trades? started by twinsfan34
    Comments 49 Comments
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      This is an interesting study, but I'd argue that the conclusion overreaches somewhat. What it shows is this: the good teams this year have been very good at developing their own playoff-caliber starting pitching. Which is a great thing to keep in mind.

      Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of evidence that the Twins have done that. So then the question becomes - what other options do the Twins have? Or another question might be this: until the Twins have a playoff-caliber rotation, should they settle for one of the worst rotations in MLB, or should be feel obligated to try and overspend (which is what free agency does, no question) to field a somewhat competitive team?

      I don't think Terry Ryan is a stooge (or a scrooge). Ultimately, I believe in his philosophy of building up the minor league assets until a team can breakthrough. What I question is what the team should do until that happens. I don't believe the answer to that is "Pocket cash."

      However, it IS a very interesting study. It really drives home how important it is for an organization to develop it's own starting pitching. Thanks very much for putting this together.
    1. jharaldson's Avatar
      jharaldson -
      Teams that follow your lessons tend to have low payrolls because of a reliance on players in team control and trades of veterans for prospects. Here is a chart showing playoff performance over the past 5 years.

      Year Team Playoffs Champion
      2011 Rays 42
      2008 Rays 43
      2011 Diamondbacks 53
      2012 A's 55
      2010 Rangers 55
      2009 Twins 65
      2010 Rays 72
      2010 Reds 72
      2009 Rockies 75
      2012 Orioles 81
      2012 Nationals 81
      2008 Brewers 81
      2012 Reds 82
      2010 Braves 84
      2011 Brewers 86
      2009 Cardinals 88
      2011 Rangers 92
      2010 Twins 98
      2010 Giants 98
      2008 Phillies 98
      2009 Dodgers 100
      2011 Cardinals 105
      2011 Tigers 106
      2012 Cardinals 110
      2009 Phillies 113
      2009 Angels 114
      2012 Giants 118
      2008 Cubs 118
      2008 Dodgers 118
      2008 Angels 119
      2008 White Sox 121
      2009 Red Sox 123
      2012 Tigers 132
      2008 Red Sox 133
      2010 Phillies 142
      2011 Phillies 173
      2012 Yankees 198
      2009 Yankees 201
      2011 Yankees 202
      2010 Yankees 206
      103.8 124

      A couple of things I note:

      1. No team with a payroll under $95 million has won the World Series.
      2. Only 1 team with a payroll over $120 million has won the World Series.

      My conclusion is that the best teams don't rely on just one way to build a team (Farm vs. Free Agent) but they do both.
    1. IdahoPilgrim's Avatar
      IdahoPilgrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by jharaldson View Post
      A couple of things I note:

      1. No team with a payroll under $95 million has won the World Series.
      2. Only 1 team with a payroll over $120 million has won the World Series.

      My conclusion is that the best teams don't rely on just one way to build a team (Farm vs. Free Agent) but they do both.
      I don't think this necessarily follows - it assumes that teams with high payrolls primarily are built from free agency and teams with low payrolls are primarily built from the farm system, but it needs to be shown that that is a valid correlation.

      Higher payroll can also sometimes come from re-signing your own players before they get to free agency (Mauer, Morneau, etc) but that still counts as being built by the farm system, and the OP pointed out two examples of FA signings that actually came very cheaply.
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      One note I picked up. Most of the teams in the Twins payroll mode have at least 3 pitchers that are from the farm system. Only Pittsburg does not have 3 and one of there pitchers came in a trade when they had little or no time in the majors.(Morton) Gist is that pitching still wins and the Twins need to get it to compete.
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      Great article took a lot of work. Interesting to note the amount of pitchers coming up thru the farm system for playoff teams. I have never been a proponent of buying lots of free agent pitchers because the good teams will resign their own top pitchers almost all the time. Pitchers in their 30s tend to be on a down trend.

      So yes, I agree with Terry Ryan approach. The problem seems to be that the Twins (until recently) haven't been drafting good pitchers and not developing them.

      So the answer to me is first fire Rick Anderson; second wait for the current crop of good pitchers in the low minors (Stewart, Gonalves, Lee, Berrios, Duffey, etc.); third keep drafting pitching; fourth trade some of the top prospects (Hicks, Arcia, Rosario) for pitching.
    1. blindeke's Avatar
      blindeke -
      that said, we could buy one or two.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      This is a great study. It's informative. I like John's comment though. A lot of successful teams ARE buying at least one top notch or second notch pitcher.
    1. OldManWinter's Avatar
      OldManWinter -
      "Developing" pitchers SB done way before Rick Anderson ever sees them. He may be in a position to tweak skills but the majority of "developing" cannot be accomplished at the MLB level.
    1. Sconnie's Avatar
      Sconnie -
      Quote Originally Posted by jharaldson View Post
      Teams that follow your lessons tend to have low payrolls because of a reliance on players in team control and trades of veterans for prospects. Here is a chart showing playoff performance over the past 5 years.

      A couple of things I note:

      1. No team with a payroll under $95 million has won the World Series.
      2. Only 1 team with a payroll over $120 million has won the World Series.

      My conclusion is that the best teams don't rely on just one way to build a team (Farm vs. Free Agent) but they do both.
      3. More teams over 95 mil have been to the playoffs than under
      4. It appears that the payroll trend is up for playoff teams
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Great study and a good reference. Though this shows how the good teams are currently assembled, would it look much different than the bad teams?

      Because while we would all love to have a farm raised stable of lights out starters, the Twins have proven to be very poor at developing the kind of starters who can impact a playoff game. So if you are deficient in one area, don't you then need to redouble your efforts in another, even if it is not ideal?
    1. terencemann's Avatar
      terencemann -
      I would point out that a lot of those teams, even the ones who have been relevant for a while like the Braves, Cards, and Rays, keep the farm system pumping and don't cling to players after their useful value to the team has expired (at least not by too much). The Braves, Cards and Pirates use free agency and trades to acquire talented players but it's the flexibility their farm systems give them that allows them to do that.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      The Twins could be the same in 4-5 years. Gibson, Meyer, May, Berrios, Stewart, and a couple more. Nice if you can supplement with an occasional free agent. Part of it is trading vets for pieces that are on the horizon (like they did with Meyer and May (and Worley). Maybe we all need to just stop thinking of money. Yes, the Twins will spend 50%+ of revenue, supposedly. But are they required to do so...I fear not. Maybe if they said "Spend the money or we are giving it back to the fans" I would be happier. But spending is like giving it back to the fans, in a ways.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      It's so tiring to hear the point-of-view that argues against spending, as if those who argue for it think it's possible to build a rotation only through spending and that we could care less about the farm system.

      That just isn't the case, as others have mentioned, the Twins have left themselves little choice at this point. We'd all love if the Twins had shown themselves capable of drafting and developing a full rotation. Right now, the only capable pitcher -- brought through the Twins system -- anywhere near the bigs looks like Gibson and he's hasn't pitched like a top 1 or 2 (or even 3 or 4 so far).
    1. jtkoupal's Avatar
      jtkoupal -
      There is a lot that can be speculated, and the numbers showed certainly don't lie. However, I believe that the answer for the Twins lies with all three. There is so much work that needs to be done to get this team on the right track, and in my opinion, it starts with the offense. The offense was a bigger problem than our pitching this past year, getting shut down by nobody pitchers night after night. But the rotation is in desperate need of some help as well.

      What we need is something along the lines of this:

      FA acquisition
      FA acquisition/trade acquisition
      Correia
      Diamond
      Gibson

      If I'm the Twins, I'm looking at a top line pitcher. We only have about $60M in commitments this coming year, and that could drop if Willingham and/or Doumit get traded. The bottom line, we have money, the money needs to be spent on pitching that won't knock us out in the 2nd inning constantly.

      I'd be looking at:

      Rickey Nolasco
      Ervin Santana
      Matt Garza
      Masahiro Tanaka
      Tim Lincecum (barring qualifying offer)
      Scott Feldman
      Ubaldo Jimenez
      Josh Johnson
      Phil Hughes
      Wandy Rodriguez

      The Twins are not big spenders usually, but I think one or two of these players need to be signed if we are going anywhere. I'd personally like to see Nolasco and Johnson, they pitched together in Miami, are veterans, and are better than what we have, but they will come at a price. A price that needs to be paid.

      Go Twins
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      Great study and a good reference. Though this shows how the good teams are currently assembled, would it look much different than the bad teams?

      Because while we would all love to have a farm raised stable of lights out starters, the Twins have proven to be very poor at developing the kind of starters who can impact a playoff game. So if you are deficient in one area, don't you then need to redouble your efforts in another, even if it is not ideal?

      In a word, no. When there is a model that is clearly the most effective, and your organization has not performed in said function, you need to "redouble" your efforts to improve in the area that is the most effective, not increase you efforts in a less effective model.
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      I am not hoping the Twins spend money on pitching so they can get to the playoffs - butt it would be nice. I would like the Twins to spend money on pitching so they can become an average professional baseball team.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      Great study and a good reference. Though this shows how the good teams are currently assembled, would it look much different than the bad teams?

      Because while we would all love to have a farm raised stable of lights out starters, the Twins have proven to be very poor at developing the kind of starters who can impact a playoff game. So if you are deficient in one area, don't you then need to redouble your efforts in another, even if it is not ideal?
      Great Question Nickssaviking,

      I ran a quick run through of teams starting from the bottom, the Houston Astros. It's quite different from the successful teams - the 'farm' still wins, but only by 1 player out of the bottom 11 teams. If you pull the Mets from there (a healthy David Wright, et al) you would find the main method of putting together a starting rotation by the worst teams in MLB is by Free Agency (reaching perhaps?).

      Attachment 5834

      I have a question: Is it possible that Free Agency Starting Pitching is the Running Backs of the NFL. That is, find someone young, when he's getting expensive, and arguably not as good or likely to be successful, get trade him or let him walk for a 1st RD compensatory pick (a second 1st RD pick from the signing team if not a bottom 10 team and you offered him top 125 player money).

      Here's a breakdown of the pitching staffs:

      Houston Astros (51-111)

      1. Dallas Keuchel - $503K Farm
      2. Lucas Harrell $501K Waivers
      3. Erik Bedard $1.15M - Free Agent
      4. Jordan Lyles - $500K Farm
      5. Brad Peacock - $490K Trade

      Miami Marlins 62-100

      1. Jose Fernandez Farm
      2. Tom Koehler Farm
      3. Jacob Turner Trade
      4. Nathan Eovaldi Trade
      5. Henderson Alvarez - Trade

      Chicago White Sox (63-99)

      1. Chris Sale - $850K - Farm
      2. Jose Quintana - $505K Minor League FA
      3. Hector Santiago - $505K - Farm
      4. John Danks - $14.25M Trade
      5. Dylan Axelrod - $493K - Farm

      Chicago Cubs (66-96)

      1. Jeff Samardzija Farm
      2. Travis Wood - $528K Trade
      3. Edwin Jackson - $13M Free Agent
      4. Scott Feldman - $7M Free Agent
      5. Carlos Villanueva - $5M Free Agent

      Minnesota Twins (66-96)

      1. Kevin Correia Free Agent
      2. Mike Pelfrey Free Agent
      3. Scott Diamond Farm (Rule 5, AAA, 1.5 yr in system)
      4. Sam Deduno Free Agent
      5. Vance Worley Free Agent

      Seattle Mariners (71-91)

      1. Felix Hernandez Farm
      2. Hisashi Iwakuma Free Agent
      3. Joe Saunders Free Agent
      4. Aaron Harang Trade
      5. Brandon Maurer - Farm

      Philadelphia Phillies (73-89)

      1. Cliff Lee Free Agent
      2. Cole Hamels Farm
      3. Kyle Hendrick Farm
      4. Roy Halladay Free Agent
      5. John Lannan Free Agent

      Blue Jays (74-88)

      1. R.A. Dickey - Trade
      2. Mark Buehrle Trade
      3. J.A. Happ Trade
      4. Josh Johnson Trade
      5. Esmil Rogers Trade

      New York Mets (74-88)

      1. Matt Harvey - Farm
      2. Dillon Gee - Farm
      3. Jonathan Niese - Farm
      4. Shawn Marcum Free Agent
      5. Zack Wheeler Trade (but AA prospect, 2 yrs in Mets system)

      Milwaukee Brewers (74-88)

      1. Kyle Lohse Free Agent
      2. Wily Peralta - Farm
      3. Yovani Gallardo - Farm
      4. Marco Estrada - Waivers
      5. Tom Gorzelanny Free Agent

      San Diego Padres (76-86)

      1. Eric Stultz Waivers
      2. Andrew Cashner Trade
      3. Edinson Volquez Trade
      4. Jason Marquis Free Agent
      5. Tyson Ross Trade
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      For some reason the chart wasn't coming through in the other comment...

      Maybe this will work:
      Attachment 5835
    1. Trevor0333's Avatar
      Trevor0333 -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      This is an interesting study, but I'd argue that the conclusion overreaches somewhat. What it shows is this: the good teams this year have been very good at developing their own playoff-caliber starting pitching. Which is a great thing to keep in mind.

      Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of evidence that the Twins have done that. So then the question becomes - what other options do the Twins have? Or another question might be this: until the Twins have a playoff-caliber rotation, should they settle for one of the worst rotations in MLB, or should be feel obligated to try and overspend (which is what free agency does, no question) to field a somewhat competitive team?

      I don't think Terry Ryan is a stooge (or a scrooge). Ultimately, I believe in his philosophy of building up the minor league assets until a team can breakthrough. What I question is what the team should do until that happens. I don't believe the answer to that is "Pocket cash."

      However, it IS a very interesting study. It really drives home how important it is for an organization to develop it's own starting pitching. Thanks very much for putting this together.
      I do agree with Ryan's philosophy however, when your team has serious holes at a particular position you have to augment your roster with a signing here & there. Simply holding onto the unspent payroll for no other reason than they can't get the players on team friendly deals is rediculous. He needs to move off his stance from 97% against signing high profile FA to more like 80-85% against it if that makes sense.
    1. iastfan112's Avatar
      iastfan112 -
      Worley was acquired via trade fyi.
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