Regarding the front office...
I think a lot of people still mix up the difference between sabermetrics and Moneyball. Sabermetrics is just a fancy name for advanced baseball statistics that try to better evaluate performance from the more traditional methods. While Bill James is the godfather of how we know sabermetrics today, the idea of advanced statistics goes back at least to Branch Rickey.
Moneyball, on the other hand, is more an economic philosophy. Basically, if you're a small market team, you can't compete with the larger market teams on money. If you do, you will get crushed, every time. Therefore, in order to compete with these teams, you must exploit market inefficiencies. During the late 1990s/early 2000s when Billy Beane put this into practice, the market inefficiencies at the time were OBP, SLG%, while the more traditional measures (BA, RBI, W/L) were overvalued. The league/market adjusted, and, today, you're now seeing things such as framing, spin rates, exit velocity, etc. It's an "arms" race for an intellectual edge.
Why do I bring any of this up? Because I think remembering this can lend a great insight into understanding this front office. And when I say understand, I don't necessarily mean agree, but at least "get them", for better or worse.
For Friedman and Zaidi, when constructing their old teams, they couldn't outspend bigger market teams. So they had to be very creative. They couldn't afford a big FA slugger; so, instead, maybe they have to sign two guys (each a LHP and RHP specialist) to platoon to make up the difference. They can't afford a big FA pitcher; so they have to look at guys who are talented, and certainly add value, but perhaps have some flaws, be it health or otherwise.
Now some might dismiss this as cheap, but that misses the point. If you're an A's or Ray's fan, these are great, great signings and good out of the box thinking. They can't afford the tier 1 players, but if this platoon can get 75% of the production, or if X starter can put up 80% of the production, while maybe making a couple of DL trips, it's a huge win. You can live with the flaws. And for teams like the A's or Rays, it's a necessity to survive.
But there are problems, namely that there's more variables, risks, and moving parts being introduced. So when one half of your platoon sucks, to quote the great Edie McClurg, you're fucked (as this team found out vs. LHP). When you stack a rotation of guys with sketchy medical records, and they, well, get hurt, once again, you're SOL. Now, when you're operating from a small payroll, you can accept these limitations because there's no alternative. When you're a big market team, with the highest payroll at your disposal, these limitations become harder to tolerate.
And after a couple of years at the helm, this is what I think is increasingly showing to be the front office's biggest flaw, which is, they haven't quite adjusted to a big market. And when I say "adjust to a big market", I don't mean throwing away money foolishly or trading the farm for rentals. Many of the principles that this FO brings, from financial discipline, to extracting maximum value, are great things, regardless of payroll, and they've done an amazing job in that regard. The depth they built this year was insane and this team doesn't touch the playoffs without it. Go look at the teams who had 20+ DL stints and see their records: they were almost always in last place, not in game 6 of the NLCS. Deals like the Trayce Thompson deal, their ability to game the system for extra draft picks, are them at their best. It's great to have that in the Dodgers' front office. I love how obsessed they are at building from the fringes, from the 25th man up.
But the problem is, you can't always, or just merely, build from the fringes. Theo Epstein is the best example of this. He grew the farm system, and built a strong core around those guys, but also knew when to bite the bullet and open up the wallet on FAs. I trust that Friedman and company can do the former, and they largely are, but I increasingly have doubts on whether they're willing to do the second. My hope is that they are, but my fear is that they're the type of people who will go to 5 different stores across 3 different cities, over the course of 2 hours, so they can say they saved $3 on their groceries. Which is nice. But when you can afford it, it's also unnecessary, and it's probably better to go across the street and pay a few bucks more, and be back in 15 minutes.
That's why I hated the trade deadline deals so much (although Hill was awesome, I'll give them that.). Sometimes it makes sense to pay a little more for a Mark Melancon, sometimes the simpler or slightly more expensive option is better, rather than try to construct a cutesy, 27 player, 5 team deal or bust. Financial discipline and frugality are great things to have, but in a large market, sometimes it can be a bad thing to be purely, or too, focused on it, because, like the people who go to tons of stores to save a nickel when they don't have to, there's still an opportunity cost to that which must be recognized, as well. Jerking off to some utopian future of the OKC Dodgers manning every position by 2018, as they lead us to the World Series, is nice, but hardly realistic. Especially as Clayton Kershaw gets another year older.
I think that's the biggest fear people should have with this FO. The very strengths that this FO brings will keep the Dodgers competitive for years to come, but I pray that the very strengths they have also don't become the very flaws that keep this team as the Clippers of MLB: a very good regular season team, but a perennial postseason choker. Yeah, the postseason is a crapshoot, I know, but not entirely.
So whenever I hear them being called geeks, or hear the pocket calculator references by people who are apparently posting on here from 1963, or members of Kraftwerk, it misses the point, and it's not what you should be concerned about. Taking a sabermetric approach is fairly standard in MLB at this point, and last I checked, the Dodgers have been eliminated by teams headed by Theo Epstein, and Sandy Alderson over the past two years.
Ultimately, I'll give the front office a C+, this year. They deserve credit for the depth, but they botched the deadline, when this team badly needed hitters vs. LHP. Hill was great, but Reddick wasn't the solution. The team needs a revamped offense (which I find myself saying every October, for some reason), with a big middle of the order bat. As I was saying last night, this team hasn't had any guys in the middle of the order that truly scare you, and I think it goes a ways towards explaining this team's streakiness, and troubles with RISP. Gonzalez isn't that anymore and to keep trotting him out there as a 4 hitter is a joke, at this point. For crying out loud, Carlos F'ing Ruiz was a clean up hitter in an NLCS game for this team. What more needs to be said? Once and for all, shore up the offense, eliminate the need for platoons at seemingly every freaking position, because it's getting really old to keep pointing to our troubles with RISP as a main reason for another playoff exit.
The rotation needs to obviously be shored up, and while I'm fine with signing pitchers with risks to compliment or finish off a rotation, they can't take 3/5 of your rotation. Especially, again, when you're in a financial position where you don't have to take so many of those risks.
In essence, I think what I'd love is somewhat of a blow up of this team. I have more thoughts on that, but I'll get to the more roster related stuff later…