What’s the Rush? General Managers Should Consider ‘Need’ vs. ‘Want’ When Trading for Pitchers!
Now that the second half of the 2015 MLB season is already under way the hunt for October is heating up.
That heat seems to burn just a bit hotter these days as teams at the bottom are more eager to depart with their all-stars in return for a promising future. Those at the top are always looking for an edge for the playoffs, and they want that edge pronto.
More often than not that edge for the playoffs comes from the man on the mound, the pitcher. Over recent years the sports world has seen managers work their magic to bring out their inner Billy Bean and create the perfect team with the perfect pitcher.
It may just be my inner rebel speaking out here, but is finding a dynamic ace late in the season for a playoff run really that effective?
While conventional thinking may give rise to a "yes" answer, deeper thinking on the other hand may give rise to a completely different answer. Before fans and GM’s rush to believe that the hottest ace out there will be their savior for the post season they should slow down their thinking.
Many GM’s are too quick to pull the trigger and impatiently yearning for that “new pitcher” smell. GM’s need to be careful not to mistake a need for a want, as such a mistake could be very costly.
Just ask Billy Bean and the Oakland Athletics.
You can almost hear their cries of pain as Oakland watched their season go into free fall after the Jeff Samardzija and John Lester trades. Who knows what went through Billy Bean’s head when he made those moves, maybe it was a fluke or maybe he tried to live up to his Hollywood movie status from the movie Money Ball. Either way, Billy Bean took a team that was well on its way to playoff success and by changing up the chemistry and structure of the team he sent them team downhill.
Believe it or not the formula for playoff success rarely calls for second half trades and before you go calling for my head let me share what’s going on inside this head of mine.
Since the year 1995 there have been 22 trades for aces made by 21 teams in the months of June and/or July, all of which were contending teams. Every single one of them with big heads and blank checks.
While some teams faired better than others, since 1995 no ace has brought home hardware for their new team.
That’s not saying that those new additions didn’t help. Within the 1995-2014 time frame 17 teams who brought in new aces made the playoffs and 15 of those went on to their respective league division series.
The fun stops their however, as only six teams made their league championship series and out of those six only two actually made the World Series and leaving a big fat goose egg of teams who’ve won the World Series with their shiny new aces.
Of course one can argue the fact that eventual World Series winners made mid-season trades, but those pitchers couldn’t be categorized as aces.
Yes, the San Francisco Giants made a mid-season trade for Jake Peavy last season, but on that pitching staff with Madison Bumgarner you can hardly call Peavy the ace. When it was all said and done even Peavy’s numbers showed he was no ace ending with a 3.73 ERA which seems very generous compared to actual performance with a FIP over 4.00.
It’s all about gelling with the new teammates. This isn’t the fantasy world of video games where you can just plop a pitcher with a new team and it’s off to the races. It takes time to develop true team chemistry, just ask the vast majority of World Series winners.
Aces can carry their teams to victory as shown by Madison Bumgarner, but only after they’ve developed chemistry. The Tigers couldn’t even muster a single win in their opening playoff series after trading for David Price.
If that doesn’t win you over go further back to the Angels as they couldn’t even make the post season after picking up Zack Greinke. The most intriguing case to me is Cliff Lee when he joined two playoff bound teams in two years only to fall short of the big prize.
It may look like I’m a stout traditionalist who hates the thought of players playing for multiple teams. Let me tell you that is not the case.
I think of myself as a realist who’s presented hard facts and you know what they say, facts never lie. Plus, it’s hard to have a favorite player when you hardly know what team he’s on from one year to the next.
All kidding aside, I’d love to see players succeed with new teams, it makes the game more exciting. When GM’s look to make a playoff push, they should take a look at histories playbook and look for talent within before anything else.