Fangraphs began releasing its annual organizational rankings yesterday, and since they're starting from the bottom it didn't take long to get to the Buccos at 28th. Their methodology is strongly biased towards present talent and past performance, which, much like the NL Central, we've got little chance of competing in this year. There's seemingly no place for projection here and little consideration paid to the franchise's outlook beyond Opening Day. This is especially evident today, when the site lists the Royals as having the top farm system in baseball and then calling them the 25th best organization a mere three stories later. They've chosen 4 categories for evaluation and here's how they've weighted them:
Present Talent – 30 percent
Financial Resources – 30 percent
Baseball Operations – 25 percent
Future Talent – 15 percent
With a weighting like that, where 60% goes towards the franchise's present talent and financial resources, it's no wonder we rank so low. Future talent, the area where the Pirates have made the greatest strides in the last few years, is almost not worth mentioning. It's been dismissed as essentially class participation points or correctly spelling your name on the SATs.
Here's our categorical breakdown:
Major League Talent: 67.50 (t-27th)
Minor League Talent: 85.00 (t-5th)
Financial: 70.38 (27th)
Baseball Operations: 75.00 (t-25th)
Overall Rating – 72.87 (28th)
The 5th place ranking in minor league talent may be a bit misleading. Instead of using their well published and dissected organizational prospect rankings, they only consulted two of their staff writers to provide values for the organization's future talent. This created a ten-way tie for 5th place, meaning our 5th isn't much different than 15th. Without this... interesting statistical contribution it's entirely possible that we could have ranked lower on the overall list.
As far as their allocations go, I'm disappointed that the major league talent portion only put us at 27th but based on the 2011 projected standings, it's hard to quibble with that. The financial ranking of course is not news to any of us and just underscores exactly what the franchise is up against. It's unlikely in the current state of baseball that we could advance much in that category.
The only area I could really take issue with is baseball operations, and even then it only goes so far. We're only ranked 25th, in a dead heat with Arizona, which recently fired its GM and made a series of highly questionable moves in between stealing Dan Hudson and hiring Kevin Towers And then there's Cleveland, which hasn't exactly set the world on fire in recent memory with it's big major league deals (Hey how's that CC Sabathia trade working out? What about Cliff Lee? Boy that Travis Hafner extension is sure paying off!) outside of stealing Carlos Santana but if fleecing Ned Colletti is what it takes to place your management team 13th, then our GM has a serious case to make.
As I said earlier, these rankings are heavily weighted based on past performance and the author falls into the common category of criticizing management for not getting value out of Jason Bay and Nate McLouth, a horse that any Smizik blog reader has already beat to death, brought back to life, and then beat to death again with its own leg, without considering the value of the two players at the time of the deal. Docking our staff for failing to get a big return on those two players while failing to cite Cleveland's management for not getting more on the deals for Sabathia and Lee, two players of an unarguably higher caliber, or even mentioning Arizona's Mark Reynolds deal is unfair and inconsistent.
In the end though, the ranking is probably about right - based on the criteria they've laid out. If I were just eyeballing it, it sounds about right. At most I could see us moving up a few spots with a correction to the management score, but it's likely that would be offset by a reduction in the ranking of our farm system and thus we'd likely not move out of the mid-to-high 20s. The relative usefulness of Fangraph's rankings from last season has been discussed in detail so I won't go around badmouthing something that's taken that much flack since they've redesigned it for this year, but as much I hate so say it, they've got it pretty much right.