Long decried by the sabermetric community for his lack of public appreciation for modern statistics, San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean is proving that the principles of Moneyball and The Extra 2% are not lost on him.
Michael Lewis' famous book on the success of the low-budget Oakland A's, and Jonah Keri's fantastic, though less scrutinized, book on the success of the equally impoverished Tampa Bay Rays nearly a decade later, highlighted those organizations' use of advanced statistical analysis.
However, the central theme of both books was actually the importance of finding undervalued assets through any means necessary. While the Giants are less public about their use of statistical analysis than other organizations, digging beneath the surface reveals that the team isn't the crusty old organization they are sometimes made out to be.
According to a 2010 article on J Weekly, led by the director of minor league operations/quantitative analysis Yeshayah Goldfarb, the Giants use statistical analysis as part of their evaluation process. From the article, current Giants CEO Larry Baer is quoted as saying, "He’s [Goldfarb] one of our ‘Moneyball’ guys, if you will. He does a lot of our really important analysis on player acquisitions."
However, finding undervalued assets is about more than just crunching numbers. It doesn't take a genius to realize that Buster Posey's .407 on-base percentage, .953 OPS and 22 home runs from the catcher position make him exceptionally valuable.
However, determining that Posey was the right choice in the 2008 draft was a much harder calculation to make, particularly after seeing other highly touted picks from that draft like Gordon Beckham, Tim Beckham, Justin Smoak, Brian Matusz and Brett Wallace struggle to adapt to professional baseball.
Posey's college statistics were excellent, but amateur statistics are very difficult to evaluate. When it comes to the draft, scouting reports trump the numbers, and draft day is where the Giants have flourished in the last decade.
Scouting is a much more nuanced and challenging aspect of player evaluation than statistical analysis. While many teams have become more reliant on the numbers, the Giants have become perennial contenders on the strength of their ability to scout the draft and under-appreciated major league free agents and trade candidates.
This season, Posey leads the Giants with 6.3 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). However, five unheralded moves by Sabean this year have combined to give the Giants an additional 12.6 WAR. Posey should be the MVP in the National League, but Sabean has a legitimate case to win his second career executive of the year award as well.