The giants validate the author’s 10-year project on intangibles, chemistry


Standing on the pitch, addressing the crowd after the Giants won NL West, manager Gabe Kapler sought to explain how a team that planned to win 72-75 games won 107.

He mentioned his players, of course, and his technical staff. And then the man who was hired for his mastery in analytics revealed his appreciation for the unquantifiable value of clubhouse chemistry.

“At the start of the season,” he said, “going back to spring training and what the expectations were and what the industry thought of us as a club, what I realize is is that there are intangibles that these projections and perspectives have failed to take into account.

Joan Ryan was among those present last Sunday. Ryan wrote the book on intangibles and then watched the Giants prove his point.

“Intangibles – Unlocking the Science and Soul of Team Chemistry” was released in April, a 10-year draft that went into print just as the Giants began the season that would shock the baseball world.

“This is a lot of the culture that Gabe Kapler and his coaches created, a culture of trust,” Ryan said later. “Gabe can make any move he wants and this team will trust him 100% even if they don’t understand him. They have complete confidence that he is making the best decision for the team.

A former Bay Area sports columnist and author of four previous books, Ryan has been a media consultant for the Giants for 14 years. She had long been fascinated by the concept of chemistry and interpersonal relationships and how they contribute to success or failure in team sports.

Joan Ryan – Staff photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo Jose Carlos Fajardo / Bay Area News Group

The skeptics remain, and not just in baseball, which is increasingly data-driven in its thinking. In his book, Ryan searched for disbelievers as well as believers. She had her own doubts, but like the Giants, she eventually moved all in on the concept.

“As simplistic as it may sound, it’s really hard to have 25, 26 guys on the same page and really engaged and that says a lot about Kapler and his team – how they made everyone adheres so completely, ”Ryan said.

Giants analyst and former pitcher Mike Krukow was the first sounding board. The book was dedicated to him, although at one point he was unaware the project was underway as Ryan meticulously searched for sources of information to explain the inexplicable. The bibliography lists 63 separate sources, which do not include its own interviews with players, coaches and professionals in the fields of neuroscience, sociology and psychology.

“When she first told me she was doing this, I thought she would spit it out in a year,” Krukow said. “When she came to me and said, ‘I’m really about to be done,’ I had forgotten everything. When she finally broke it, I thought to myself, “No wonder it took so long.”

Giants ‘chemistry and players’ willingness to sacrifice themselves for the good of the team has been a theme throughout the year, cultivated by COO Farhan Zaidi, his front office and Kapler in terms of acquisition. of players.

“We take our clubhouse mix very seriously,” Kapler said.

Gabe Kapler. (Photo Anda Chu)

An environment has been created in which players who divide time based on left-handed matches shoot against each other, and relief pitchers whose roles are not always clearly defined have merged into an enclosure with a all-for-one mindset.

“Oh, it’s definitely unique,” ​​right-hander Tyler Rogers said. “How everyone gets along with everyone, a tight knit group, that’s not often the case. It is a testament to the camaraderie we have. We don’t care what round we throw and trust everyone to do every job and we honestly root for each other.

None of this would have happened, Ryan argues, without Kapler getting the full buy-in from veterans like Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Evan Longoria and Johnny Cueto. (Belt, in fact, suggested “Intangibles” as the title of the book.)

“If you don’t get them,” Ryan said, referring to veterans of the core, “you don’t get anybody.

“The other reason they’re all in there?” Because it’s fun to be all-in and start winning. There is nothing better than being part of a winning and engaged team. Most of us haven’t had this since we were kids, to be surrounded by people who are totally supportive of you. It’s like a singular pleasure that I don’t think we can live anywhere else.

When Zaidi and Kapler unveiled their 14-member coaching staff, many of whom had no major league experience, Krukow had doubts.

“For a very long time, players in the big leagues have had a huge prejudice in terms of listening to coaches who don’t have time to play in the big leagues,” Krukow said. “It’s a relationship that borders on rudeness. Many of these men and women were inexperienced in the big leagues. I wondered how it was all going to turn out.

What prompted the veteran Giants to sign? Krukow thinks the answer is simple: the new staff convinced them that they could be better players even at old age (in baseball terms).

“Everyone saw the working regiment, thought about it and thought, ‘You know what? I can improve at my age, ”Krukow said. “And it’s rare for a guy to do that, let alone five guys. It’s amazing. Absolutely remarkable.

Mike Krukow (left) and his broadcast partner Duane Kuiper before the NLDS opener. (photo by Karl Mondon)

Although reporters have not been allowed into the clubhouse since the pandemic, Ryan was told the players were spending more time than usual together, talking about baseball over a cold drink.

“A few players have told me this, after games it’s almost like the 1980s,” Ryan said. “The whole bullpen and position players are sitting down, grabbing a beer and talking with a ball. It didn’t create chemistry, it’s just proof of chemistry.

The seven archetypes

Whether it’s baseball, football, basketball or hockey, Ryan has observed patterns of behavior that she distilled to create seven archetypes that are present in the locker room and clubhouse and contribute to team building and success.

They are: The Sparkplug, The Sage, The Kid, The Enforcer, The Buddy, The Warrior and The Jester.

An athlete can encompass more than one archetype. For example, Ryan believes that Stephen Curry of the Warriors qualifies in all seven categories (he may be “The Kid” because of his youthful innocence and his joy of playing).

A look at which giants fall into which archetypes:

Candle-There isn’t your classic Hunter Pence type spark plug, but Belt qualifies because of its ability to shake things up. Wearing the captain’s C on his uniform in electrical tape is a prime example.

The wise man-Posey, Belt, Crawford and Longoria are considered savvy veterans who have seen it all and can give timely advice to young players in need of healing and counseling.

The child-The obvious choice is Game 1 starter Logan Webb, a 24-year-old right-hander with puppy greed that gives way to a bulldog mentality on the mound.

The performer-Posey is known for taking players apart in a pragmatic way and ensuring that the standards of team play are met.

The friend-Starting pitcher Kevin Gausman is a staple for pitchers, Webb in particular. Kris Bryant is even-tempered and inclusive.

The warrior–Posey produced for three World Series champions, Crawford two and Belt two. They are tested in the playoffs. Crawford, along with infielder Wilmer Flores, has a reputation for playing and producing due to injury and illness.

The fool-Kapler paused in mid-sentence this week to poke fun at Johnny Cueto having the time of his life training on the pitch. Belt, with his unflappable delivery, has kept his teammates (as well as the media) laughing for years.

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