Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dayton Moore Building From Within: A Follow-Up

The anonymous commenter from yesterday's post brings up a valid point:
My point wasn't that the Baseball America claims should be dismissed outright, just that it would be an extremely tough claim to substantiate and that from what I have seen, they made no attempt to do so. Now, if they have reams of data in their super secret basement complex that prove this, then I'd be more than happy to see the results of their analysis and change my mind. Until then, I believe that the saying goes "In God we trust, all others must bring data.". A simple example would be a statistic measuring how many of the pitching prospects drafted by the Braves during that timeframe were traded to bolster the major league team. During most of the period in question, the major league rotation was pretty set at the top 3 which could have affected everything from the level of risk taken during the draft (taking more high risk guys who were less likely to pan out) to when pitching was drafted (i.e. they may have drafted pitching later in the draft because of this which could have led to the low success rate). Basically, all that I am saying is that to make a claim like that, there should be extensive analysis behind it and I would like for them to "show their work" so to speak.
Now, I had begun to respond within the comments section when I realized that the response was getting pretty lengthy. Hence, post.

I agree to an extent about the showing their work. We are talking about almost 15 years in which Dayton Moore was heavily involved in player development. Since we know what has happened since Moore got to Kansas City, it is best to look at what went on while he was in Atlanta.

Going into the players that were signed out of Latin America is simply going to be too difficult for little old me to cull together. I can say that Neftali Feliz looks to be the real deal, and I'd imagine Moore was somewhat involved in his initial signing out of Latin America, but he was traded to the Rangers at the age of 19. He's still not a starter, although one would imagine he will be in the near future. Moore was hired by the Royals in the summer of 2006. Feliz was still in Rookie ball when the Braves traded him the next year. I think his development can safely be attributed to the Rangers.

Of draftees while Moore was still in Atlanta, 2005 is the last draft of theirs we can look at that Dayton Moore was involved with. Then-spelled Tommie Hanson was taken in the 22nd round of that draft. When Moore left for Kansas City, Hanson was sitting in Rookie Ball.

Their first round pick that year was Joey Devine, taken out of NC State, and was in the Majors for a drink of water by the end of that season. He spent the two seasons that followed pitching mostly in Triple-A, with short stints with the club in Atlanta before being shipped off to Oakland. At all stops, he has been a reliever. His stop in Oakland in 2008 was the first time in which Devine was given a chance to play a majority of the season in the Majors, and he pitched quite well, for what it's worth.

Understandably, these are the only two from the 2005 draft who have substantial experience at the Major League level.

From the 2004 draft, there have been no players who have made an impact at the Major League level. It should be noted that they did draft a first baseman named Joey Lieberman.

Matt Harrison--drafted in 2003--was sent off to Texas in the Teixeira deal as well, but does he qualify as a quality ML starter? At the time of the trade, Harrison sat in Double-A. The other pitchers to have made it to the show from that draft were Jo-Jo Reyes and Sean White, neither of whom left their mark at the highest level.

Chuck James and Dan Meyer were both drafted in 2002, but neither qualify could reasonably qualify as quality Major League starters.

Macay McBride, Anthony Lerew, Kyle Davies, and Kevin Barry are the only products of their 2001 draft with any ML experience. We're not still basking in the glow of Kyle Davies's sterling September of 2008, are we?

From their 2000 draft, Adam Wainwright advanced through their system to AA before being traded to the Cardinals. Here we've got our first argument for the Braves system potentially putting out a prospect, but he did end up going to St. Louis, where Dave Duncan is a god. At most, the Braves can be partially credited for his development. After all, he was the 29th pick of the draft that year, so he already had some skills when he entered the organization.

Other drafted pitchers from the 2000 draft who have made it to the Majors? Blaine Boyer, Zach Miner, Trey Hodges, and Kelly Johnson. Well, Johnson made it to the show but as an outfielder/second baseman.

In 1999, the Braves had Andrew Brown, Ben Kozlowski, and John Foster who made it to the Majors and were drafted as pitchers. I'd imagine that the rest of you are as surprised as I am that these three players were Major Leaguers.

1998's draft produced the following Major League pitchers: Matt Belisle, Scott Sobkowiak, John Ennis, Tim Spooneybarger, Mike Perez, and Brad Voyles. Not impressive.

In 1997, the list of draftees logging Major League time who were drafted as pitchers are Joey Nation and Horacio Ramirez. I think I speak for all of us when I say that I'd like to never see the name Horacio Ramirez in print again.

From 1996's draft saw Atlanta draft Jason Marquis, Joe Nelson, and Aaron Taylor as its only draftees that reached the Majors as pitchers.

(All of the above info was culled thanks to the links to the Baseball Cube Braves draft results listed on the Braves Draft History sidebar listed over at the old blogspot location for the Baby Braves blog that at one point moved to MVN but now appears to be defunct.)

Insofar as how many pitchers were drafted in those drafts and the importance the organization put on pitching versus other positions, it is probably easiest to look at how many of their top 10 picks were pitchers in each of those years. It's not a complete picture, but it certainly informs one as to what sort of importance they placed on pitching each year.
  • 1996 - 11 picks in the first 10 rounds - pitchers were taken in the sandwich portion of the first round, fourth, sixth, ninth, and tenth rounds
  • 1997 - 10 picks - second, fifth, ninth, and tenth rounds (the ninth and tenth round picks did not sign)
  • 1998 - 9 picks, no first round pick - second, fourth, seventh, eighth, ninth (eighth rounder not signed)
  • 1999 - 9 picks, no first rounder - second, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and tenth round (eighth rounder not signed)
  • 2000 - 15 picks, four picks in the first, two in the second, two in the fourth - this year, it's easier to say when pitchers weren't taken, two of their first rounders were position players, and their eighth and ninth rounders weren't pitchers, Kelly Johnson was one of the first rounders drafted as a pitcher and converted later on, again Wainwright was their first pick
  • 2001 - 13 picks, three first rounders and two second rounders - their first pick in the first round was a pitcher, J.P. Howell was drafted with their first pick in the second round but was not signed, Davies was taken in the fourth, and then they took inconsequential pitchers in the seventh, ninth and tenth rounds
  • 2002 - 12 picks, extra supplemental picks in each of the first two rounds - their supplemental first round pick was Dan Meyer, followed by pitchers in the third, fourth, seventh, and ninth rounds
  • 2003 - 13 picks, one extra supplemental pick in each of the first three rounds - again, this year, it is easier to look at when they didn't take pitchers: Saltalamacchia was their supplemental first round pick and first baseman Jamie Romak was taken in the fourth round
  • 2004 - 9 picks, no first rounder - fourth, seventh, ninth, tenth
  • 2005 - 12 picks, one extra supplemental pick in the first two rounds - both first rounders, the last second round pick, and the fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, and tenth rounders were pitchers
Judging by this data, it seems as though pitching at the very least wasn't wholly ignored. If I am reading the drafting correctly, the italicized names on those lists were non-signed players. It should then be noted that there seemed to be an organizational shift in drafting philosophy.

Up until 2001, the Braves had a large chunk of unsigned draftees. After that point, nearly all of their drafted players were signed, indicating to me at least that the Braves shifted their focus to signable players, taking the cheaper, lower-risk route--one that we can all agree is less likely to be getting later top-notch talent than say signing players with signability concerns to contracts grossly out of line with recommended slotting, which is largely why Moore has been able to accumulate the bevy of arms currently populating the lower levels of the Royals minor league system.

Of the players drafted and successfully signed from 1996 until 2005--Moore's last official draft with the Braves--the only legitimate impact arms produced by the Braves were Adam Wainwright and Tommy Hanson. Jason Marquis has been intermittently effective as a starter at the Major League level. Hanson's development took place mostly outside of the purview of Dayton Moore. Wainwright was successful in the Braves minor league system but wasn't a successful pro starter until pitching under the eye and tutelage of Dave Duncan, perhaps the best pitching coach in the Majors.

Again, this research is bound to be incomplete without access to international signings who were then traded, but Neftali Feliz is the only traded international player that springs to mind as a standout pitcher who was traded out of the system, but he's not quite an established starter.

Where does this leave us?

Well, speaking for myself, I'm worried.


Anonymous said...

I commend you on the effort you put into compiling the data you presented. However, I think the post actually illustrates my point (that a massive amount of data would need to be compiled to make any sort of statement on this topic) better than it does yours. The data that you have pulled together doesn't really tell us anything about the quality of the development system under Moore. Looking at your data it appears that the Braves lacked high draft picks (due to the performance of the major league team). Given that, it would be very enlightening to compare the performance of their draft picks to the historical performance of pitchers taken at similar points in the draft (i.e. it may seem like a failure if the Braves picks only developed into major league journeyman, but if pitchers taken at the same point in the draft fail to make it to the major leagues 95% of the time then it could be viewed as a huge success for the Braves player development). Also, for the traded players, wouldn't it be more enlightening to examine what they were traded for and how that turned out for the Braves as it is immaterial to the Braves (or the future Royals) whether the receiving team turned the player into anything or not? If Moore was successful in trading guys that never amounted to anything after they were traded into useful major league players, or prospects who later developed, wouldn't that go down as a positive for him rather than a negative? Another interesting thing to examine would be whether Moore was able to consistently trade high on his prospects or if he tended to trade low and the players later developed into better commodities. These are just some of the variations and permutations of the issue that make it impossible to perform a simple "this guy was drafted and did or did not become a majore league average player" type of analysis for this question. Keep up the good work, I find your posts to be very interesting and thought provoking.

Old Man Duggan said...

My primary concern in these two entries was in exploring whether or not Dayton Moore's perception as being strong in the areas of player development and scouting held water, specifically as it related to pitchers, the issue that arose as a result of John Manuel's rant in the Baseball America podcast. After all, Dayton Moore has said from the beginning of his stint in Kansas City that pitching is currency.

Now, insofar as what the traded prospects netted the Braves in return, that is far more indicative of the General Manager's abilities. As Moore was never responsible for trading players until he came to Kansas City, any such analysis would largely be immaterial to the matters at hand.

The analysis you are asking for is only applicable to the trades he pulled off as General Manager of the Kansas City Royals. His role in player development/scouting in Atlanta over the course of ten years churned out very little in the way of any Major League pitching talent. Ten years of drafts produced one quality pitcher (Adam Wainwright), and then a handful of mediocre-at-best pitchers.

Furthermore, if you're talking about the lack of first round draft picks in some of the early drafts, those are resultant of the team having signed Type-A Free Agents and isn't necessarily tied to the team's performance. Furthermore, I think you'll find that with the massive amount of sandwich picks they amassed once AOL Time Warner took over, they had a bunch of high picks in the draft.

The point made in the BA podcast was that the Braves simply did not produce any pitching talent between when Jason Schmidt and Kevin Millwood came up and this past season with Tommy Hanson. John Manuel's claim seems to hold water, as they didn't produce any quality arms for a staggeringly long period of time. For nearly all of that time, Dayton Moore was in a prominent role in the player development area of the organization. For what it's worth, his work yielded very little in the way of homegrown pitching talent in Atlanta.

Despite the sketchy track record, he has managed to alienate yet another top pitching prospect this offseason. With the results at the very least being worrisome, we've got acrimony growing between yet another highly touted pitching prospect and the front office for a third time in the past year.

Gutierrez drew their ire for working out in the offseason with Team Boras, and if there were anyone I'd think about trusting to have the player's best interest in mind, it would be someone who won't get paid unless the player stays healthy. Moreover, I trust Team Boras to produce high-end pitching talent from a top prospect than I do the Moore-led Royals.

Regardless, I think given the information at hand, incomplete as it may be, there is certainly enough to cast at least a little doubt as to whether we can blindly accept Dayton Moore as the man who knows best insofar as player development is concerned.

Anonymous said...

I think we can continue to make argument and counter-argument regarding this topic nearly forever. I concede that their lack of high draft picks may have been offset by a later swell in sandwhich picks, but I still feel that the only real way to quantify the performance of the player development staff is to compare apples to apples (i.e. they took x number of pitchers in the 1st round, historically first round picks reach the majors at a rate of y and the Braves reached the majors at a rate of z, so on and so forth for each round). Only when the data is analyzed at that level can we get some idea of their performance. We also need to narrow the dataset as most of the players that were in the pipeline during the first few years of this period would not have been drafted while Moore was prominently involved with player development, I would shave off say 3 years to allow for his picks to get to the AA/AAA level and we have to do the same at the end of the period as most of those picks did not advance far enough in the minors to be judged while Moore was around. So, taking the core years of the period and comparing the performance of each draft class to historical performances would be slightly more enlightening. We also have to think about how we judge these players. Horacio Ramirez for example, he made it to the majors and has managed to kick around there for years despite having little or no discernible skill, is that a failure or a success of player development? Wouldn't turning a vanilla left-hander with no plus tools into a major leaguer be a success? The other part I find interesting is that you are of the opinion that the failure/success of pitching prospects to reach the majors falls on the player development staff in Atlanta, of which Moore was a large part, and the success/failure of trades falls on the GM, however, now that Moore is with the Royals as the GM the failure/success of player development falls on the GM (i.e Moore) rather than the player development staff (Piccolo? etc.). I don't think you can have it both ways. If it was Moore's fault in Atlanta it can't be his fault in KC. You could make the argument that the GM sets the tone for the organization and that everyone below him is just following his plan (or "process") but then by that argument the failings in Atlanta belong to Shuerholtz not Moore.

Old Man Duggan said...

For looking at the draft classes, I left out the first two years of Dayton's presence in Atlanta. He was hired on as a scout in 1994. I didn't look on at a draft class until 1996, which should be enough time to fairly look at Dayton Moore as an influence on player development.

Now insofar as responsibilities are concerned, I think the GM is responsible for the overall direction of the franchise. Ultimately, everything falls on his shoulders. In Atlanta, Moore's reputation was made in the player development arena, as that's where his responsibilities lied. Given that his reputation was built largely upon this perception as a player development man and that the issue that John Manuel had taken in regards to the Braves system not producing pitchers was then being applied to Moore, I simply wanted to take a look at what exactly the Braves had done in the way of developing pitchers over the course of Moore's tenure in Atlanta.

I will surely grant you the point that this was by no means a conclusive study. I have jobs (plural), and as such, I simply do not have the time to devote to an in-depth comparative study as to how successful the Braves' stretch from 1996-2005 in drafting pitchers. A cursory look, however, does show that they were draft pitchers early and often in the draft, yet had next-to-nothing to show for it for a ten-year span. Manuel's charge was that they developed no quality Major League pitchers between Millwood/Jason Schmidt and Hanson/Medlen (and even Medlen is potentially). To that end, the charge is valid. Whether that charge is fairly made against Moore is debatable to be sure, but I don't think I ever stated that any points were definitive.

I think it is more than fair to question the perception upon hiring of Moore as a top-notch player development guy. We're coming up on our fourth Dayton Moore draft, we've already watched two first rounders encounter huge struggles, while more seasoned players like Matt Wieters or Justin Smoak or Buster Posey were still on the board upon the selections of Moustakas or Hosmer. We've had pitchers bristle at the workout regimens the club would prefer them to do, and seemingly not from a laziness standpoint.

As for the trades point, I was simply stating that those sort of factors tend to fall outside of the realm of player development. As such, trades on the Major League level would have less to do with what Moore's responsibilities were in Atlanta. He surely had some input, especially as he rose in the organization, but I was trying to limit the scope of what we were looking at for many reasons, all of which seem perfectly rational to me (time, efficiency, time).

If we want to look at trading insofar as Moore is concerned, we need to look little further than what he has done in Kansas City. I would say his resume in that regard is poor to say the least.

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