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Why are we so bad at developing pitchers?


After being swept at home by the Cardinals, I started to think about the young arms they have on the way, and the young arms we have on the way. Now, don't get me wrong, I think Wily Peralta is going to be a pretty good pitcher. He needs to develop some consistency, but he's got the stuff to be a very solid Major League starter. He's going to pitch a lot of innings, and could be a nice 2 or 3. I also think some of the guys we still have in the minors have promise: Tyler Thornburg, Taylor Jungmann, and Jed Lowrie should end up being productive for us. How good they'll be remains to be seen. I think Johnny Helweg has closer potential. He certainly has the body type, and raw stuff to overpower hitters. But we can't claim drafting him if he turns out to be a good pitcher.

 

Since Doug Melvin arrived in Milwaukee, Yovani Gallardo is really the only pitcher we've developed that has had success in the Majors. I think Jake Odorizzi has a chance to be the second (as Tampa certainly know how to develop pitching). Unfortunately, he's not here.

 

So, I ask. Where are we falling short? It's hard to really know what Mark Rogers might have been if not for his injuries. I still think he is going to make an impact for the Brewers, but that remains to be seen as well. But for a team that has until recently not had postseason appearances, we've had the opportunity to draft high upside pitchers. We've done pretty well with hitters, but pitching remains a black hole of sorts.

 

Is it our scouts letting us down? Is it Doug Melvin being a poor judge of pitching talent? He's been here since 2002. Or do our pitching coaches just do a poor job of developing our arms? Or, is it a combination of all of the above?

 

Look at the Cardinals. Right now they have four starters in the top 100 prospects: Shelby Miller (who has given up one run to us in 13 innings), Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, and Michael Wacha. Then, take a look at the pitchers they have drafted, and developed. Adam Wainright is an ace, winning 39 games the last two seasons and finishing second and third in the Cy Young. Jamie Garcia is looking great, as is Lance Lynn, who was 18-7 last year, and is 5-0 this season. Then, look at the pitchers they traded for, or signed, and turned into stars. Chris Carpenter was a career .500 pitcher with a near 5.00 ERA in 6 years in Toronto. A year after coming to St. Louis, he's a Cy Young winner. He goes from 49-50 with a 4.83 ERA and a 1.510 career line in Toronto to a 95-44 (.683) win-loss record, with a 3.07 ERA and 1.125 WHIP in 9 seasons with the Cards. They turned Kyle Lohse around, too.

 

We wouldn't have to trade away our top prospects to rent C.C. Sabathia, or sign Zack Greinke for a few years if we could develop pitchers ourselves.

 

What are the Brewers not doing?

There are three things America will be known for 2000 years from now when they study this civilization: the Constitution, jazz music and baseball. They're the three most beautifully designed things this culture has ever produced. Gerald Early
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There are two big flaws before you even talk about the pitchers themselves, we pitch in a hitters park and we for most of the Melvin years we have put bad defenses on the field. We took a hitting first drafting philosophy while rebuilding the team and Jack Z was awful at drafting pitching in general. We'll have to see how this next wave does before I can judge the more recent drafts but we drafted pretty pitcher heavy so I'd hope 2 or 3 of them make the rotation.
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I also think some of the guys we still have in the minors have promise: Tyler Thornburg, Taylor Jungmann, and Jed Lowrie should end up being productive for us. How good they'll be remains to be seen. I think Johnny Helweg has closer potential.

 

Did you mean Jed Bradley? Also, it's "Hellweg"

 

Sorry to nitpick but spelling a new player's name wrong drives me nuts for some reason, like how people spell Rogers as Rodgers, even though I know why they do it.

 

I don't think there's a simple answer to that question, it's a lot of things. I would think the most basic is simply they haven't hired and/or developed scouts that are good at identifying pitchers. They've made some efforts, like closing the Latin Academy to be able to spend more money on Latin kids but Peralta is the only pitcher to make it to MLB from that effort. The Brewers minimal presence in Latin America has largely been a failure with just Peralta and Escobar having made any MLB impact at all.

 

Part of it is the players the Brewers have targeted in the draft, usually opting for a signability guy rather than the best talent available, like when they drafted Mark Rogers with other more polished high ceiling arms on the board. I liked the Rogers pick and still do because I like the idea of drafting multi-sport athletes, as a HS coach for many years I despise specialization for many reasons which I won't go into in this thread. However from the perspective of what's best for the organization Rogers probably wasn't the best choice given the players still available at the time.

 

Recent drafts have focused more on college pitching, but the players targeted like Arnett, Heckathorn, Jungmann, Nelson, Jungmann, and Bradley haven't moved any faster than HS kids would have, but they are 3 years older. Jungmann is in AA and Bradley is repeating A+. There doesn't seem to be much quality coaching of pitchers in college either, the most successful players are basically just naturals. For example Jungmann pitched for one of the most storied programs in college baseball and they allowed him to pitch with a very short stride for his entire career... why? That's something which should be very easy to correct through years of college ball.

 

The Brewers are doing some good things with pitching such as the tandems in A ball, I like the idea that anyone with legitimate relief potential to work as a starter as long possible. It gives them more opportunity to work on their craft during games and more bullpen sessions to work on their mechanics/pitches between outings.

 

In regards to pitching the Brewers haven't drafted well, haven't signed good international players, haven't developed pitching well, and until Hellweg/Pena Melvin hadn't looked to acquire a young arm with impact potential since JDLR in the Sexson trade. Milwaukee isn't a progressive organization at all, the Brewers are slow to implement change, they've always waited for other organizations to prove concepts before they adopt them, and maybe that's the biggest problem of all. We're always about 3-4 years behind the cutting edge of player development because the Brewers steal their ideas from everyone else. The best organizations in baseball just continually beat the Brewers to the punch so we've never had enough young impact pitching in the minors at one time. I just don't think Melvin was a good GM choice given the Brewer's organizational needs on the pitching front, young pitching has never been in his wheelhouse as a GM going back to Texas.

 

We don't really have any RHP or LHP that would profile as a #1 best case, but most organizations have 2-3 of those guys spread through their minor league system. When I say a #1 I mean that in the scouting sense, I'm talking about guy who works 95+ FB with at least 1 plus secondary offering and an improving league average 3rd pitch. There aren't many true #1's pitching in MLB for a variety of reasons and while Gallardo has been top 30 pitcher statistically and would be a #1 from a sabermetric standpoint, he's not a #1 from the scouting perspective, he is/was a #2.

 

To put it simply the Brewers don't scout pitching well, don't sign young pitching well, haven't drafted pitched well, and haven't done a good job developing pitching. In simple terms we've just never had enough numbers from an impact pitching standpoint to cover injuries and the players like Manny Parra who just don't seem to be able to make the most of their skills at the MLB level. The idea should be to have as many as many impact prospects (hitting and pitching) as possible to cover those issues and historically the Brewers haven't been in that position, when Melvin started trading for proven MLB pitching with prospects it just wasn't going to be possible to have any legitimate depth of talent.

"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."

- Plato

"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something."

- Plato

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I can't stress enough that the early drafts were all about hitting. It was about rebuilding the fanbase which was awful at the time and the fastest and easiest way to do that is to draft hitting. We did it at the expense of pitching and the expense of defense. We then pushed up said hitters at least half a season if not a full season too fast which hurt the long term value of them. Maybe not the wisest on the field baseball decision but it was a pretty important financial decision for a team that wanted a new stadium and a new owner.
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I disagree that the Brewers haven't tried drafting/acquiring high school impact arms - I think their efforts have been disastrous the times they've tried it, and now they are leery of going after high school arms high in the draft. Nobody had a better arm than Jeffress, and he basically threw away any chance he had at developing into a starter because of minor league drug suspensions. Dylan Covey was a well regarded high school arm the Brewers drafted, then couldn't sign him after the diabetes/health issues popped up. Those are two top 15-top 20 draft picks that were a waste without giving their organization any chance to develop them. Rogers arm issues have been well documented and unfortunate, also. When the Brewers have swung for the fences and picked a high school arm with upside, they've gone down in flames without fail.

 

That said, Jake O is looking like a good pick, and he was the centerpiece that helped get the Brewers Greinke (and eventually Segura, Hellweg, and Pena) for 1.5 years and a playoff birth. That's pretty good value for a sandwich pick.

 

I completely agree that the organization needs to take a long look at the scouting and development staff they have on the pitching side and make some changes (although some of that may have already started happening in the past 1-2 seasons)

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I agree with the initial philosophy of drafting hitting to make a quicker impact to get more fans in the seats but disagree with the direction over the last few years.

Fan is short for fanatic.

I blame Wang.

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We have swung and missed multiple times in drafting pitching, or passing on great pitchers to take other players. This goes way back into the 90's including passing on Adam Wainwright and Roy Halladay in drafts

 

In 2004 we picked Mark Rogers when Jered Weaver was available. D'oh!!!

 

In 2005 we picked Ryan Braun

 

In 2006 we picked Jeremy Jeffress over Ian Kennedy, Daniel Bard, Bryan Morris

 

In 2007 we picked Matt LaPorta over Madison Bumgarner

 

In 2008 we picked Brett Lawrie. There would've been no need to trade Lawrie had we properly drafted pitching previous to that pick!

 

In 2010 we drafted Dylan Covey over Zach Lee, Jesse Biddle

The David Stearns era: Controllable Young Talent. Watch the Jedi work his magic!
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How many teams are good at developing pitchers? Two? Three?

 

I think it's a crap shoot.

"Dustin Pedroia doesn't have the strength or bat speed to hit major-league pitching consistently, and he has no power......He probably has a future as a backup infielder if he can stop rolling over to third base and shortstop." Keith Law, 2006
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We have swung and missed multiple times in drafting pitching, or passing on great pitchers to take other players. This goes way back into the 90's including passing on Adam Wainwright and Roy Halladay in drafts

 

In 2004 we picked Mark Rogers when Jered Weaver was available. D'oh!!!

 

In 2005 we picked Ryan Braun

 

In 2006 we picked Jeremy Jeffress over Ian Kennedy, Daniel Bard, Bryan Morris

 

In 2007 we picked Matt LaPorta over Madison Bumgarner

 

In 2008 we picked Brett Lawrie. There would've been no need to trade Lawrie had we properly drafted pitching previous to that pick!

 

In 2010 we drafted Dylan Covey over Zach Lee, Jesse Biddle

 

Can we avoid this "What if" draft? We just had an entire thread about it, like two weeks ago. Every single team is like that, every single team has what if's and bad draft picks every season.

 

What bothers me about the Brewers is that they can't even seem to develop bullpen guys reliably so they are forced to spend money on mediocre bullpen guys. Their pitching development in the Minors must be simply atrocious, otherwise they'd have found at least one or two guys before this year.

"I wasted so much time in my life hating Juventus or A.C. Milan that I should have spent hating the Cardinals." ~kalle8

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What bothers me about the Brewers is that they can't even seem to develop bullpen guys reliably so they are forced to spend money on mediocre bullpen guys. Their pitching development in the Minors must be simply atrocious, otherwise they'd have found at least one or two guys before this year.

 

Most of your relievers are failed starting pitchers who's stuff plays up in the bullpen, if you aren't developing starting pitching, you aren't developing relievers either.

 

How many teams are good at developing pitchers? Two? Three?

More than that, off the top of my head in the last 10 years or so...

 

Atlanta, Oakland, San Francisco, Cincy, St. Louis, and Tampa Bay have historically done very well with differing styles. For example in recent times TB has gotten there mostly through volume, scattering projectable HS pitchers throughout the first ten rounds of the draft where as San Fran takes the opposite approach keying in on a specific player and they rarely seem to miss on HS kids which is impressive given how difficult it is to project players so young. Some of those teams have done it through the draft, some through international signings, some a mix of everything. I'm more of an everything guy looking to acquire as much talent as possible from as many different avenues as possible so the Brewers relative lack of activity in Latin America has gotten under my skin.

 

I'd still rather drop 2-3 million per year on prospects out of LA than spend that money recycling aging pitchers, starters or relievers... spend more upfront and save significant costs on the backend. The problem with LA is that the system is so corrupt, but I don't think that's a legitimate excuse to ignore the talent base.

"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."

- Plato

"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something."

- Plato

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It's easy to be critical following a series like we just witnessed. But it's early May and we are only 30 games in. Lets see how that young Cardinal pitching does later. The Brewers made a lot better contact off of Miller the other night than they did the first time. Well hit balls were dying on the track. I'm not convinced he won't struggle at some point. same too for some of their other guys.

 

Meanwhile Peralta has thrown the ball well, and could have some very good stretches this year before long. Burgos has a whip under 1 through 3 starts. Nelson is throwing the ball very well and appears close to major league ready. These are all products of the farm system.

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Let's take a look at the Cardinals have built their team:

 

Jason Motte (2003, 19th round, Iona College - drafted as a catcher)

Jaime Garcia (2005, 22nd round - says high school but was drafted in 2004 by the Orioles in the 30th round but didn't sign)

Mitchell Boggs (2005, 6th round, University of Georgia)

Mark Rzepczynski (acquired as part of Colby Rasmus trade, was 5th round pick in 2007 from UC-Riverside)

Allen Craig (2006, 8th round, UC-Berkeley)

John Jay (2006, 2nd round, University of Miami)

Daniel Descalso (2007, 3rd round, UC-Davis)

Matt Holliday (traded for Clayton Mortensen - 2007, 1st round, Gonzaga University - and Brett Wallace - 2008, 1st round, Arizona State)

Pete Kozma (2007, 1st round, HS)

Lance Lynn (2008, 1st round supplementary, University of Mississippi)

Shelby Miller (2009, 1st round, HS)

Joe Kelly (2009, 3rd round, UC-Riverside)

Matt Carpenter (2009, 13th round, TCU)

Trevor Rosenthal (2009, 21st round, community college)

Matt Adams (2009, 23rd round, Slippery Rock)

Carlos Martinez (2009 amateur free agent - prior signing by Red Sox voided)

Adam Wainwright (part of trade for J.D. Drew, 2005 1st round, Florida State)

 

You know what I see? Not many HS players. Lots of college players drafted after the 1st round. To me that says coaching and player development more so than player identification. One thing is for sure - the Cardinals have not focused their drafts on high school pitching.

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How many teams are good at developing pitchers? Two? Three?

 

I think it's a crap shoot.

 

I agree with this totally. There really are only a handful of teams that consistently develop pitching. The problem is the Brewers have developed two serviceable pitchers in the last 15 years in Gallardo and Sheets.

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Can we avoid this "What if" draft? We just had an entire thread about it, like two weeks ago. Every single team is like that, every single team has what if's and bad draft picks every season.

 

I get that, to a degree, sure.

 

But we've been drafting pitchers over many years who never even make it to the MLB level. Take a look at the 2006 draft: are the Mariners kicking themselves for passing over Clayton Kershaw & Tim Lincecum for Brandon Morrow? Sure, but at least they got MLB innings and a few good years out of Morrow.

 

An MLB team cannot afford to swing and completely miss on pitching as much as the Brewers have

The David Stearns era: Controllable Young Talent. Watch the Jedi work his magic!
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Let's take a look at the Cardinals have built their team:

 

You know what I see? Not many HS players. Lots of college players drafted after the 1st round. To me that says coaching and player development more so than player identification. One thing is for sure - the Cardinals have not focused their drafts on high school pitching.

 

I can see where you inferred that implication from the examples I used, but I was just choosing 2 organizations that worked on different sides of the same coin. I was trying to illustrate that there was more than one approach to the same type of player and apparently failed miserably.

 

The Reds have Leake and Cingrani in their rotation who were college draftees, traded for Latos and Arroyo, Bailey who was a HS kid, Cueto who was international FA, and signed Chapman as an International FA but then stopped his development to make him the closer. They've done a little bit of everything, as have the Cards and Braves.

 

There are many different ways to build a rotation internally and no team has had the late round success that the Cards have had. What they've done past the 10th round is pretty amazing.

 

Mostly I don't think it matters where you find your pitching, you just have to be able to target and develop the correct players, ideally arriving at 3 pitchers of the 1/2 variety in the rotation at any one time. My point on the college pitchers was supposed to be that they aren't necessary more advanced than HS pitchers given the lack of pitching development happening in many college programs. I don't get too worked about where a guy was drafted if he performs, however drafting in the middle to end of the 1st round it is historically difficult to find impact college pitching in those positions, which is why I've argued against drafting higher floor college players in those draft slots like Jungmann in the past. I honestly don't mind swinging and missing on a Jeffress or Rogers, I'd much rather take a chance on a player with upside than play it safe and build to be mediocre.

 

We desperately need to infuse some impact pitching potential in the lower minors and an impact LHP of any kind anywhere. Jorge Lopez did have his best appearance since the AZ rookie league yesterday so there's still hope for him. Unfortunately the bottom line is that the Brewers haven't done well in any respect... HS, college, FA, or younger international free agents (Latin America) so it's not just the type of the player which is the problem, the issues run deeper than that.

"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."

- Plato

"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something."

- Plato

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Somebody brought up "signability", and I have to say, passing on guys for "signability" issues drives me nuts.

 

You'll invest $42M in a mediocre starting pitcher, but you're going to pass on 6 years of a potentially elite player over a difference of a million bucks?

 

You want to improve your farm system, take the best available player every time. If you have to increase your draft budget by $3-$4M at the expense of your MLB budget, so be it. It'll pay off in the long run.

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Somebody brought up "signability", and I have to say, passing on guys for "signability" issues drives me nuts.

 

You'll invest $42M in a mediocre starting pitcher, but you're going to pass on 6 years of a potentially elite player over a difference of a million bucks?

 

You want to improve your farm system, take the best available player every time. If you have to increase your draft budget by $3-$4M at the expense of your MLB budget, so be it. It'll pay off in the long run.

 

I don't think "signability" is as big a deal as it used to be. There is a draft pool of money you can use. So the kid can't just say I am going to college unless I get $X, knowing that the Yankees will give him that at the end of the first round despite where he was drafted. Now if they do that, they risk not having money to sign anyone else.

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To be fair here most of the Cardinals pitching thing is new. Most of their teams in recent memory have been built off of pitchers picked up via FA or trade not drafted and developed themselves. The A's pitching thing is largely the park and division. The Rays seem to be the one team that really really stands out at drafting and developing pitching. But even in their case you can point to the park and valuing defense over offense.
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The Brewers should just somewhat give up on drafting pitching and go with position players and then trade those players for young pitching. The Brewers have been rather good at developing position players why not take your strength and use that to fill your weakness?
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You'll invest $42M in a mediocre starting pitcher, but you're going to pass on 6 years of a potentially elite player over a difference of a million bucks?

 

The only problem with that is you may end up paying for someone who is a complete bust. It's hard enough to project minor league talent let alone amateur talent.

There needs to be a King Thames version of the bible.
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The Brewers should just somewhat give up on drafting pitching and go with position players and then trade those players for young pitching. The Brewers have been rather good at developing position players why not take your strength and use that to fill your weakness?

 

The problem I think has been that young pitching has been so overvalued of late that you have to give up a ton to get any in return. At least that seems to have been the case.

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You'll invest $42M in a mediocre starting pitcher, but you're going to pass on 6 years of a potentially elite player over a difference of a million bucks?

 

The only problem with that is you may end up paying for someone who is a complete bust. It's hard enough to project minor league talent let alone amateur talent.

 

I'll waste a $10 million on a complete bust if I can get an elite talent along with him. Better than spending at least $30 million on mediocre pitching at best.

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You'll invest $42M in a mediocre starting pitcher, but you're going to pass on 6 years of a potentially elite player over a difference of a million bucks?

 

The only problem with that is you may end up paying for someone who is a complete bust. It's hard enough to project minor league talent let alone amateur talent.

 

Yes but is it better to waste 3 million total on 4-5 players in a single year or repeatedly waste 9 million every year on worthless MLB talent?

 

The better organizations in baseball load up with talent on the front end and if they have pay someone on the back end they do. Milwaukee has never operated in said fashion, I don't think we've ever eclipsed 2 mil in Latin American bonuses for a single year. Would Rondon have been worth the extra 500K it would have taken to pry him away from his college commitment? Absolutely. Did they know that then? Of course not, but again what's a better risk, Rondon's 500K or 8+ mil per year of Randy Wolf? A young and inexpensive LHP with the potential to be a #1 or an aging/declining LHP #3? That's a pretty easy question to answer my from my perspective.

 

At some point the philosophy has to change from "what's best for this season" to "what's best for the organization" because if it doesn't and our draft picks don't pan out, then nothing changes and we'll always be pitching deficient. The worst part is that the Brewers have gotten horrible value out of the starting pitchers they've signed in FA, the strategy hasn't been working at all yet for some reason there is still optimism that the next player we sign is going to work out wonderfully. Even if he does, that doesn't make the theory sound, it just means we finally had a break go our way. I've said it before but would you have rather the Brewers spent 30+ million on 3 years of Wolf or 36 million for at least 6 years of Chapman? Who's the better value even with Chapman being wasted as a closer?

 

I understand that many posters just don't like unproven talent of any kind but what I struggle with is the willingness to carry so much dead money every year on the MLB roster? There's no value in that and it makes no sense from any reasonable business standpoint, it is simply money that's being wasted. Nor do I understand the circular justification which is continually used... the "well he was good for 2 years so that last year is a wash" argument. How can you really ever justify that much dead money? I'd rather make mistakes on high upside youngsters that cost me less than 1.5 million total than continually waste 6+ mil per year paying underperforming aging veteran players for the starting rotation or bullpen. Surely not every one of those young players will fail and if they do is the theory is still sound, it's the people that are identifying the talent which are the problem. If the young pitchers fail as starters most of them if healthy would still be legitimate bullpen options and provide cost savings there as well.

 

I would much rather be trying to feed the MLB team with a larger talent pool than have to rely on being perfect with every signed draft pick to replenish the MLB roster because that method hasn't worked for us at all. I literally wanted to punch Melvin when he kept using the injuries to Jones and Rogers as an excuse for the organization's pitching issues in 2009 and '10... of course a large percentange of young pitchers are going to get hurt, and they were injured years before, that's not an excuse to sit around and do nothing about the situation. Melvin's MLB roster building technique hasn't ever worked, we had 2 good years trading a ton of assets for about 2.5 top notch seasons from 3 different pitchers. The same pitching problems continually keep coming back around, I would much rather go in a different direction and acquire pieces with longevity, players with at least 3 seasons team control remaining if we're going to trade our prospects rather than have 1 year in the sun and back to the status quo. I want to permanently solve the problem, not continually patch it year to year because pitching is king in baseball and without it we're never going to win a World Series.

"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."

- Plato

"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something."

- Plato

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I'll waste a $10 million on a complete bust if I can get an elite talent along with him. Better than spending at least $30 million on mediocre pitching at best.

 

Rationalizing risky spending one way because we wasted money on risky spending another way isn't really a good answer.

There needs to be a King Thames version of the bible.
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I'll waste a $10 million on a complete bust if I can get an elite talent along with him. Better than spending at least $30 million on mediocre pitching at best.

 

Rationalizing risky spending one way because we wasted money on risky spending another way isn't really a good answer.

 

Sure it is. Everyone knows you won't hit with every prospect. But if just one of four 10 million dollar investments turn into an elite talent, that's a lot better investment of 40 million for 6 years of that player than 4 years of a veteran #3 starter. 10 million is an extreme example anyway. Even just a couple million more invested in the farm system and scouting every year would likely make a big difference.

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