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Do Rebuilds Ever Fail?


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I've been thinking about teams like the A's, Astros, Braves, Cubs, etc...and they've all experienced a great deal of success this year and they've all underwent a major tear-down and rebuilding phase before experiencing this breakout season.

The Orioles, D-Backs, Marlins, Royals, Rangers, and a few other teams are starting their own, and could be joined by the Giants and Mariners soon. 

The Padres and Phillies appear as if they're nearing the end of theirs and could be competing soon. 

And all of this got me thinking, do rebuild ever not work?    I know some take longer than others.  Some may only take 3-4 years, others take more like 7-8, but at least from what I can tell, the vast majority of them, if not all of them seem to work out.  And the proof is in the roster construction.  The Cubs have Javy Baez, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora and Willson Contreras from theirs, and the Astros have Altuve, Springer, Correa, Bregman, and White fromt their own. 

I suppose the second portion of this question would be to ask if partial rebuild work frequently, or if they send a team into a pattern of mediocrity.  It seems like the Rockies have pulled their partial rebuild off pretty well.  The Yanks and Red Sox are successful and I understand why.  Whatever they can't grow internally they can sign in free agency.  It seems as if the Angels partial rebuild hasn't been fruitful as of yet, though it's been going on for only three years.  But at this point, it looks like it'll be 5 years before they're fully competitive, in which case I'd wonder if a full rebuild back in 2016 would've been more productive. 

Though I suppose when you have Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton's contracts on the roster, there really wasn't any way for the Angels to rebuild, particularly if they were trying to convince Mike Trout to stay. 

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The Marlins haven't had a winning season since 2009 and San Diego hasn't had a winning season since 2010.  You seem to be using the rationale that once a team starts winning again the rebuild was a success.  Every situation is different, certain franchises have higher expectations and a rebuild doesn't happen over night but if it takes 8 or more years I don't consider that a success.  

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13 minutes ago, Scotty@AW said:

I've been thinking about teams like the A's, Astros, Braves, Cubs, etc...and they've all experienced a great deal of success this year and they've all underwent a major tear-down and rebuilding phase before experiencing this breakout season.

The Orioles, D-Backs, Marlins, Royals, Rangers, and a few other teams are starting their own, and could be joined by the Giants and Mariners soon. 

The Padres and Phillies appear as if they're nearing the end of theirs and could be competing soon. 

And all of this got me thinking, do rebuild ever not work?    I know some take longer than others.  Some may only take 3-4 years, others take more like 7-8, but at least from what I can tell, the vast majority of them, if not all of them seem to work out.  And the proof is in the roster construction.  The Cubs have Javy Baez, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora and Willson Contreras from theirs, and the Astros have Altuve, Springer, Correa, Bregman, and White fromt their own. 

I suppose the second portion of this question would be to ask if partial rebuild work frequently, or if they send a team into a pattern of mediocrity.  It seems like the Rockies have pulled their partial rebuild off pretty well.  The Yanks and Red Sox are successful and I understand why.  Whatever they can't grow internally they can sign in free agency.  It seems as if the Angels partial rebuild hasn't been fruitful as of yet, though it's been going on for only three years.  But at this point, it looks like it'll be 5 years before they're fully competitive, in which case I'd wonder if a full rebuild back in 2016 would've been more productive. 

Though I suppose when you have Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton's contracts on the roster, there really wasn't any way for the Angels to rebuild, particularly if they were trying to convince Mike Trout to stay. 

Tons of them fail... I've been advocating a rebuild, but it can be a total failure.

Sure the Padres current rebuild is looking like it's nearing completion, but this is like their 3rd or 4th attempt since trading Jake Peavy. Kansas City had several rebuild attempts starting in the mid 90's and didn't succeed for 20 years. The Marlins have failed with their rebuild after the MCab trade. 

Sure if you wait long enough no team will be bad forever, but all these teams have had several concerted efforts to rebuild with talent waves that have failed miserably and they started again. 

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It seems like a lot of these perpetually bad teams have a hard time keeping a front office/leadership in place long enough to actually execute a rebuilding effort, as you can't really layout a rebuilding timeline that will 'absolutely;' work in 3-5 years. 

It really exposes teams' development weaknesses as well.

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7 minutes ago, mtangelsfan said:

Are the Royals a success story?  Honest question, seems like after their WS victory they have gone back to sucking again.

yes, they won the World Series. Small market teams have windows to compete, the fact they were able to win the world series speaks about what a great job they did. Hell, take a look at Cleveland whose window appears to be closing soon...I bet they'd gladly trade a few years of suckitude to win it all. Hell, I know I had little issues when the Halos won...they could have gone back to sucking (see 2003) and it didn't matter at all.

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I think we have to look at this in terms of the 'post-steroid' era. Small and mid market teams were constantly rebuilding and failing in the past because of the ease of buying wins on the free agent market. It has become very difficult to buy wins on the FA market these days. The result is that a team's success is based around the quality of their rebuild, and the teams financial ability to retain their players and expand their window.

The Angels should've gone into a rebuild in 2010 but instead they started down a path of consistently doubling down on the present, which ultimately lead to an expensive, underachieving team with the worst farms system in the history of the game circa 2015.

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1 hour ago, Scotty@AW said:

I've been thinking about teams like the A's, Astros, Braves, Cubs, etc...and they've all experienced a great deal of success this year and they've all underwent a major tear-down and rebuilding phase before experiencing this breakout season.

The Orioles, D-Backs, Marlins, Royals, Rangers, and a few other teams are starting their own, and could be joined by the Giants and Mariners soon. 

The Padres and Phillies appear as if they're nearing the end of theirs and could be competing soon. 

And all of this got me thinking, do rebuild ever not work?    I know some take longer than others.  Some may only take 3-4 years, others take more like 7-8, but at least from what I can tell, the vast majority of them, if not all of them seem to work out.  And the proof is in the roster construction.  The Cubs have Javy Baez, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora and Willson Contreras from theirs, and the Astros have Altuve, Springer, Correa, Bregman, and White fromt their own. 

I suppose the second portion of this question would be to ask if partial rebuild work frequently, or if they send a team into a pattern of mediocrity.  It seems like the Rockies have pulled their partial rebuild off pretty well.  The Yanks and Red Sox are successful and I understand why.  Whatever they can't grow internally they can sign in free agency.  It seems as if the Angels partial rebuild hasn't been fruitful as of yet, though it's been going on for only three years.  But at this point, it looks like it'll be 5 years before they're fully competitive, in which case I'd wonder if a full rebuild back in 2016 would've been more productive. 

Though I suppose when you have Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton's contracts on the roster, there really wasn't any way for the Angels to rebuild, particularly if they were trying to convince Mike Trout to stay. 

The rebuild should have been 2010

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Lots of good thoughts already. The teams you mentioned, the Cubs and Astros, got a lot of really good draft picks that worked out due to really sucking ass for awhile (remember how excited we were that the "Lastros" were joining the AL West?).

There's also the path that happened to the Athletics back in the early 00s: they were similar to an Astros/Cubs team with lots of homegrown talent, but they couldn't afford to keep it all. So in addition to rebuilding, a team has to either continue to churn out good young talent,--which is hard to do, year after year, because even in the bette orgs talent tends to come in waves--and also make savvy choices as to who to keep and who to trade or let go of. Money gives a greater margin for error, but it also makes a team more prone to make stupid decisions (e.g. Pujols, Hamilton, Wells).

But yeah, in hindsight the Angels should have rebuild in 2011 after their 2010 "retool" flopped. But hindsight is 20-20. They went a different route and while the last 9 years have pretty much sucked (except for Trout), I like where the org is at right now and I really like what I see in Eppler. People have commented that the manager role is overrated and it doesn't really matter - not so much the GM, as we've found. 

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1 hour ago, AngelsFaninGA said:

I would say plenty of teams have failed to rebuild successfully. Reds, Padres, Marlins, A's, Royals, Pirates, O's, Mets, etc. I don't consider flatlining once you get to .500 (Pirates) or falling apart after one deep playoff run (Royals) to be a successful rebuild. 

One deep playoff run?

The Royals were in the World Series for two consecutive years.

And the Pirates didn't flatline once they got to .500. Three consecutive years (2013-2015) had them winning 94-88-98 games. 

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Good discussion.  

by and large, the success of a baseball team centers around that team's ability to sign, draft, and develop talent through minor league system.  Baseball has done a solid job through recent CBA's of creating equality in terms of what talent is available to develop.   Before, not only did big market teams have the advantage with free agents, but also in the draft where they weren't restricted as to what they could pay a player regardless of slot or on he international side where they could pay ungodly amounts for unproven talent.  The draft was fixed but only in the last couple of years did the international pool get fixed which is where certain teams were able to take significant advantage.  

big market teams still have an advantage on the FA side and in the ability to keep their own players, but the true emphasis is on the farm and all teams now essentially have equal opportunity.  So now the in vogue thing is tanking and for a couple of reasons.  One, getting to choose one of the top 3-5 players in the draft is huge.  Generally, those spots come with much greater odds of success than even a few slots down.  Two, the second wild card has created additional avenues for teams that are out of the running to sell off their players.  What is going to be interesting is whether tanking will continue to play out.  As an example, the Rangers had 95 losses and will end up with the 8 pick overall.  That's not a ton of draft stock relative to how bad that team is so ultimately, teams will have to ask themselves whether it's worth tanking if only to get the 8th pick.  

So the next question becomes, if you're gonna end up in the 8-20 range in terms of picks (which generally have similar odds of success) why not try to win more games and get fans in the seats to generate at least a little interest and some dough.  Where if things go right, you might be able to grab that second wild card while 'rebuilding'.  

So what is a failure in terms of a rebuild?  Because not all rebuilds are created equal.   To rebuild, you stockpile prospects/talent and wait for a window to make your move.  The CWS are a good example of a failed rebuild.  The talent they accumulated, which was supposed to be substantial, hasn't worked out and they just had one of their worst seasons in franchise history.   

What many seem to be asking, is should the Angels have gone into full tank mode after 2010?  The answer is absolutely not.  They hadn't even made the lion's share of their horrible decisions that were to come.  They still had a good team with a decent farm system with Trout on his way.  What happened was that Dipoto took over and the team went away from the hallmark of creating successful teams which is the farm.  Now with Eppler, we are back to that, but people are getting impatient because they think we're in limbo.  We're not.  This was on purpose.  Not the three losing seasons in a row, but the stealthy rebuild.  

If you're a baseball owner, and you could put a decent product on the field so 3 million fans show up while you are trying to rebuild your farm, why wouldn't you do that instead of throwing in the towel and telling the fans you're not trying to win so that 2mil show up?  How much money is that out of your pocket when you still have commitments to Albert and Trout you're going to have to pay anyway?  Maybe doing it the way they are cost them a year or so, but think about how much more money has come in and what they means in terms of signing and developing players.  Think about the additional behind the scenes resources created with that revenue.  

I'd rather be exactly where we are than coming off consecutive 95 loss seasons.  We are on a proper trajectory whereas many of the other teams we've seen go into a rebuild still haven't come close to finding their way.  

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1 hour ago, Dochalo said:

What many seem to be asking, is should the Angels have gone into full tank mode after 2010?  The answer is absolutely not.  They hadn't even made the lion's share of their horrible decisions that were to come.  They still had a good team with a decent farm system with Trout on his way.  What happened was that Dipoto took over and the team went away from the hallmark of creating successful teams which is the farm. 

There is a bit of revisionist history here, and the key is exactly what you said - they hadn't even made the lions share of their horrible decisions.

In 2010 we were just coming off of the great 2009 draft (but who knew what Trout would become?) and a team that was maybe the best in franchise history. Sure no one could predict the damage that Dipoto did later, but we are forgetting the destruction that Reagins would oversee through to 2011. We had lost Lackey, KRod, GA, Figgins, Shields and Vlad Guerrero, not to mention Nick Adenhart. Morales breaks his leg mid season 2010 as well. 

They had a choice, rebuild or 'retool' and what followed was an attempt to replace those guys via trade and expensive FA contracts all of which cost us future draft picks. Its was understandable... no one really wants to rebuild when you can still be competitive, but what has resulted has been essentially a consistent .500 team.

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I think the better question is.  Is 3 or 4 years of being good worth the 10+ years of rebuild that these teams do.  Like, ask Pirates fans.  They were decent, made a couple of playoffs appearances.  It took them like 25 years to manage that.  Obviously it worked out better for the Royals.  But they were mostly awful for what feels like almost 2 decades also. 

There’s really only a handful of clubs that I think have proven themselves adept at “rebuilding” in a reasonable time window.  The A’s and to a lesser extent Tampa Bay.  I guess the Diamondbacks , Brewers (obviously look great now) and Rockies aren’t total disasters either.  But man, teams like the Pirates, Royals, Reds.  Pretty fu*cking ugly.  I’m sure their fans don’t really want to hear about how great rebuilds are. 

Edited by UndertheHalo
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5 hours ago, Scotty@AW said:

I've been thinking about teams like the A's, Astros, Braves, Cubs, etc...and they've all experienced a great deal of success this year and they've all underwent a major tear-down and rebuilding phase before experiencing this breakout season.

The Royals were terrible for decades before winning the WS. They were competitive for only 3 years. The Cubs were terrible for even longer before winning the WS and they missed the playoffs this year. The Astros were losers of 100+ games for 3 years in a row, 418 total games between 2011 and 2014. The A's take a few years to compete and then they they trade away their stars once they reach arbitration. I guess I'm just saying a total rebuild takes years of being really bad to get the higher draft picks and more years to develop the draftees before the team can compete a high level.

It works but at a cost.

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@Dochalo's dissertation got me thinking: how important are first round picks? There are numerous ways to look at it, but I did a quick accounting of the top 20 position players and top 20 pitchers (so 40 players in all) via fWAR, and how they came up. Here are the results:

40 Players

18 1st round picks (only 1 being #1 overall)

7 2nd or compensation round

11 3rd round or later

4 international

 

Of course this is a very small sample size, and very superficial analysis. To get really good data we'd have to look at multiple years (then we could see trends) and also go deeper than top 20. 

But one thing we can get from the above is that talent comes every where, but most the first couple rounds of the amateur draft: 25 of 40 players are from rounds 1-2, and almost half just the 1st round. But it is also important to note that of those 18 1st rounders, 12 were picks 1-8, and only a third were picks 9 or later. This supports Doc's view that picks 8-20 are similar (or picks 9-30, in my analysis).

I was surprised at how few were international signings, only one of which was a hitter (Carlos Ramirez). So as important as international scouting is, domestic is more important--at least from this very flawed analysis.

Maybe at some point I'll go deeper with this, look at multiple years, even total WAR counts of the different categories. Could be interesting.

 

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I don't think this analysis is worth going deeper because nearly all of this FA class was drafted/signed under the old CBA. The new CBA has made first round picks even more important. While those middling first round picks may all be similar from a talent perspective, they aren't the same from a slot money perspective. Getting those early pick slot dollars is huge for building a draft class and keeping your first and even second round pick is nearly essential.

I think we'll see a flattening out of talent between the first few rounds. More of the talent will fall to the second and third rounds as teams try to get guys who will sign for under slot in round one and then use that money for more relatively expensive talent in rounds 2-5. There will still be some correlation between talent and draft spot, but I think it will be weakened. 

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