DLD Aug 18 2006: Remembrance of Things Moneyball

Moneyball was responsible for taking my casual interest in the A's to a whole new level of fandom. Googling Beane lead to AN, which led to a lot of time down the drain. So in honor of that book I present a few articles looking back.

Today Jeff Passan wrote a thoughtful article revisiting Moneyball and some of the draft highlights (including Swish, Cupcakes, and Teahen).

Michael Lewis himself wrote a fascinating follow-up article in the NYT following Stanley and Teahen and pondering the influence of steroids. Note the elegant photography from Tabitha Soren who is not only an MTV VJ (the way you stay "Senator" for life), but also Michael Lewis's wife.

A gorgeously detailed look at the draft by Gleeman at THT whose only fault is that it's from 2004.

Finally, another interesting retrospective by Jim Ryan.

In case you, like Joe Morgan, have never read the book, here is Apricot's brutally concise summary of the book.

  • The A's spend a LOT less money than most other baseball teams, yet they are very successful.
  • When you are "poor", you need to look for bargains and not take big risks.
  • Often tracking things with numbers tells you things your eyes can't, because your eyes and guts can be fooled by great aesthetic appearance, small sample sizes, emotional attachment or buying into dominant or traditional ideas that have been accepted but never well tested.
  • At the time, OBP and not striking out was undervalued. Since the main difference between OBP and the well-known AVG is walks, and walks were uncool and undervalued, the A's looked for players who walked a lot.
  • The A's had a lot of early picks in the 2002 draft, but couldn't afford to sign all the top well-known players they could pick. So they picked Swisher and Blanton, and then picked players who most people hadn't considered. They were trying something different, figuring it couldn't be worse than the traditional way.
  • High schoolers are riskier and relatively expensive (not WORSE), so they drafted college players.
  • Scott Hatteberg makes great contact with the ball, but only the A's cared.
  • Jeremy Brown had great stats, but no one else cared because he was "fat".
  • Bradford had great numbers, but no one else cared because he was a crazy submariner.
  • Beane played poorly but got a lot of chances because he was hot.
  • As a GM, Beane threw a chair through a wall once.
  • Youklis was the God of Walks (though apparently a jerk according to On The DL).
  • Milo was crazy, and now is the God of Psychos.
  • Notice the book does NOT say:
  • scouts are always wrong
  • numbers are always right
  • Enron was good
  • the A's way is the only way to win
  • the 2002 draft is the best draft in history
  • OBP will always be the best bargain
  • defense is stupid
  • the A's are the best team and will win the WS
  • And I add my own very very brief retrospective:
  • Beane's move to defense, starting pitcher depth, and "trouble" players shows that it really is about finding the undervalued and not some worship of walks. And the drafting of HS pitchers recently again shows that it's not a simple "never draft HS players" formula.
  • The Red Sox won their WS using an utterly classic 2002-era Moneyball team (OBP, SLG, no smallball and pitch count). So Moneyball can win.
  • The 2002 draft beyond Swish and Blanton seems pretty so-so. Everyone agreed on Swish and to a lesser extent on Blanton.
  • Free market theory suggests that as information spreads, the inefficiencies that Beane exploits will disappear. That means that in a rational market, over time teams will mostly play as well as their payrolls. This is bad for the A's. Their window is closing now that the big boys (BoSox and Yanks) are using sabermetrics and Moneyball ideas. Luckily, the Angels are one of the more anti-Moneyball teams out there and the playoffs are still a crapshoot so if we can keep sneaking in we have a shot at making noise. I just hope the A's are still in the Bay Area if they win it all.
  • That's all I've got right now.  Feel free to add links about anything, not just Moneyball.
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