FanPost

Exploiting Your Assets, A's Style

So I was was reading the diary today about the Blanton/Milledge rumors and it got me thinking about the way the market in baseball has swung so that league average pitchers are receiving astronomical amounts of money. Pitching is now, more than ever, a highly valued, highly sought, and highly paid commodity. It's also interesting to me that Billy Beane has crafted the A's into a team that excels in pitching and defense. But how true is that? The discussion in the diary I was reading debated Joe Blanton's value with many saying that he was only league average. The topic centered on whether he should be traded for Lastings Milledge, a fantastic center field prospect for the Mets. The reason why the Mets might trade for a league average pitcher like Joe Blanton is because he posted decent numbers in the past couple years in the statistical categories that other teams tend to overvalue (e.g. ERA and wins; 3.53 in 2005 and 16 in 2006, respectively). Basically, the argument is that the Mets might trade a future superstar for Joe Blanton because the Mets overvalue him.

This leads me to my theory. I think Billy Beane is focused on defense not only because it is undervalued among other general managers in the major leagues, but also because it, combined with the spacious confines of the Oakland Coliseum that make it a pitcher's park, artificially inflates the value of the league average pitchers he employs. By having a good defense behind his pitchers to prevent runs from scoring, added to the fact that they already pitch half their games in a park that is more advantageous for them than other parks, the numbers for his pitchers make them look better than they really are. This then inflates even more the value of an already highly valued commodity, giving him chips to play with in the trade market, allowing the possibility of getting a player like Lastings Milledge. I'm not sure Beane thought this out and intended this outcome when he decided to focus on the undervalued commodity of defense (though I wouldn't put it past him), but I think this is the reality of what has happened and he's benefiting from it.

A condensed version of my theory: Beane's focus on defense, combined with playing in a pitcher's park, has artificially inflated the value of his pitchers. As a result, the perceived value of his pitchers is higher than their true value. This increases the odds of him making a trade that is in his favor. This kills two birds with one stone; he not only makes his team better, but he also increases the value of his pitchers.

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