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« Should Roman Polanski have been allowed to bring his libel suit? | Main | If I were to give ABC programming advice. . . . »

July 26, 2005




I read Moneyball a few years ago and enjoyed it quite a bit. However, until the A's win a playoff series, I can't say the system is a real winner. What bothers me is that the system is once again getting more credit that it deserves because the A's are on another hot streak. Show me some wins when it really counts. Until then, Moneyball is only an unproven theory.

Although I don't agree with Joe Morgan fully on this, he is closer to right than wrong here.

By the way, where is Jeremy Brown these days? And, Youkilis has been only OK.

Tung Yin

However, until the A's win a playoff series, I can't say the system is a real winner.

Hmm, I guess I disagree. Moneyball is a system for optimizing the results you get with the budget you are given. So the appropriate comparison is not between the A's and all other teams, but rather the A's and other teams with similar budgets who use the traditional scouting approach of looking at "tools."

Moreover, we don't have to look just at the A's. After all, the Red Sox won last year, and they were clearly using the Moneyball approach, albeit with a much healthier budget.


Regarding the Red Sox, I would disagree the Moneyball approach won them the World Series last year. I would call it more of a Steinbrennerian approach, tempered with a little Bean-ish number crunching. They threw a ton of money at players and bought a championship, just like Steinbrenner has been reviled for. Credit Theo for at least looking at the stats to see what he was getting, as opposed to George, who buys players on a personal whim. But still, it was less the Moneyball approach that won the World Series for the Sox and more the Steinbrenner approach.

Regarding Billy Bean, I'm not a big fan, despite the fact he's a former Twin and was on the 1987 World Series winning team (well, cup of coffee member, anyway). He appears to have no love for baseball whatsoever, he just likes working with numbers. He doesn't even watch the games for fear that looking at a player will poison his sacred love of statistics. I get the feeling he'd be happier as an accountant or writing software code than as a baseball executive (though he'd have a lot less personal income, I'm sure). Using his theories, baseball is about as much fun as balancing a checkbook. Anyway, he'll be speaking here at UI next April so be on the look out for that.

Regarding Joe Morgan, I can't stand how he pronounces "comfortble" as "conftabow."

Tung Yin

As I blogged here, I think there are two aspects to "Moneyball." One is the need to work within a budget, thereby finding undervalued players. I agree that Boston did not have to use that approach. But the other is the reliance upon quantifiable stats that in fact are causally related to winning ballgames, of which on base percentage is the most important (from the offensive standpoint). It's not the only thing that matters, but it is most important.

As I noted in that post, Boston is loaded with high OBP players, with the impressive result that it has scored more runs than 90% of the teams in our fantasy league despite being in a much deeper league.

"Traditional" teams probably would salivate over guys like Damon, Ramirez, and Ortiz, but the Red Sox saw value in guys like Millar, Bellhorn, and Mueller. I think that is a function of the "Moneyball" approach.

Tung Yin

By the way, regarding Jeremy Brown and Kevin Youkilis:

Brown is at Double-A Midland. I don't know if it's a hitter's league, but his stats look ok for a catcher: .261/.358/.452. The walk rate is especially impressive, with 35 walks (against 58 strikeouts) in 283 ABs. His OBP puts him about in the middle for his team.

He's going to be 26 later this year, so it's probably safe to say that he's not going to be a star in the majors. But catchers develop later, or so they say, and he still may have a chance to be productive.

Youkilis doesn't look bad, and he's a ton cheaper than other 3B who are no better than he is. Project his season to 600+ ABs and he'd score 100 runs and drive in 90, which is not bad at all.

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