clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Why Moneyball Doesn't Work: See the Anti-Moneyball San Francisco Giants

Where are the writers for Fire Joe Morgan? Seriously, for the love of baseball, where!? Would AN like to take a stab at what could possibly be wrong with this article, which you knew was coming, touting the Giants as Anti-A's, which means anti-Moneyball, and of course pro-country, puppies, and baby seals.

I have a gem for you. Seriously, a gem. As in, I couldn't wait to post it, because, um...what? It's Bruce Jenkins. It brings the crazy. It's literally a parody as if the now-defunct FJM had written an article about the craziest way you could separate the Giants from the A's, using all of the old hoary chestnuts; everything that Billy Beane hated about his Moneyball attention.

It's titled...wait for it...Giants GM relies on eyes, not statistics.

You know when you're watching Moneyball and the old scouts are all, "Wha...? Them new-fangled statistics are crazy-talk. We use our eyes, not them fancy computers!" and you're all, Wow, I really think that's overkill. I mean people don't REALLY go to such extremes, do they?

And then you read Bruce Jenkins.

The Giants' world championship is a victory for John Barr, Dick Tidrow, Bobby Evans, a cadre of sharp-eyed scouts and especially general manager Brian Sabean, who learned his trade in the Yankees' system and surrounds himself with people who don't merely know baseball, but feel it, deep inside. They all played the game, somewhere along the line, and if you throw a binder full of numbers on their desk, they don't quite get the point.

Oh, Bruce. We've been over this. I just can't take anyone seriously who uses the phrase, "He just looks like a ballplayer", hence your 'sharp-eyed' quip. You know who looked like a ballplayer? Let me give you a cute example. Bobby Crosby. Do we really need to explain to you that looking like a ballplayer has very little effect on if someone can, you know, actually play baseball at a professional level? There must be a better way to judge baseball talent. If only there were some numbers, or statistics, or something tangible we could measure. If only...oh wait. The Giants, as an organization, don't know what to do with a binder full of numbers. Got it.

Oh, you weren't done? You would like to insult people who use statistics? Of course you would.

The stat-crazed sabermetricians, as they are called, invent specific methods of evaluation without needing to witness the action in person. Numbers, they believe, tell the entire story - and their approach is worshiped by thousands of fans and bloggers who wouldn't last five minutes in a ball-talk conversation with Tim Flannery, Mark Gardner or Ron Wotus.

Bruce? Pumpkin? You DO realize how absolutely, utterly ridiculous, you sound, right? I mean, no one I know actually watches games. Hell, AN exists solely on the internet. No one every goes to games in person, or watches them on TV. Totally outdated. We run statistics and worship binders full of numbers, apparently. Have you met any baseball bloggers? Most baseball bloggers I know could hold their own in any baseball conversation you would like to have, about any facet of the game, and I guarantee you that they have more qualifications than "sharp eyes". I'm also quite sure that they often witness the action in person, and can still have an intelligent discussion about what makes a baseball player successful. And as for feeling the sport, maybe you missed Athletics Nation during the months of September and October? If that's not feeling a sport, I don't know what is. We felt it, believe me. Deep inside, even.

At least the sports world has Craig Calcaterra, though. He pretty much called you outright disillusion, which I can't say I disagree with. And also, just for fun, he points out how wrong you actually are. Bonus!

It’s bad enough on its own, but it’s much worse when one realizes that Jenkins simply has his facts wrong. Dreadfully wrong. Wrong to the point of basic journalistic malpractice. Why? Because he doesn’t once mention the name Yeshayah Goldfarb. Who is Yeshayah Goldfarb? Glad you asked!

Goldfarb’s title is long and clunky: He’s the Giants’ director of minor league operations/quantitative analysis.

What that means is that Goldfarb had a role in just about every player personnel decision the Giants’ baseball operations department made to shape this year’s team — from past amateur drafts to in-season trades to off-season free-agent signings.

“He’s one of our ‘Moneyball’ guys, if you will,” Giants president Larry Baer said last week, alluding to the process of finding valuable players that other teams might overlook. “He does a lot of our really important analysis on player acquisitions.”

So, basically, the Giants' have their own Moneyball guy, Bruce, and it's a great credit to him that the Giants have now won two World Series in three years.Using your own eyes, Bruce, do the Giants themselves look like a scout's dream? Really?

And of course, you must take one last parting shot, as if to remind us how superior the Giants' scouts' eyes are to the A's computers:

The San Francisco model is based on visual evidence, not statistics, and it clearly works - but it will fail, miserably, in the hands of organizations cutting their scouting staffs and stocking computers.

I mean, Bruce, are you really allowed to write stuff like this? In additional to it being not at all true, do you want to give the A's any credit? I'm not going to throw a binder full of numbers at you; I just need two.

2012 Giants' payroll: $117,620,683. This is what Brian Sabean and his so-called sharp eyes had to work with.
2012 A's payroll: $55,372,500. This is what Billy Beane and his computers had to work with.

With less than half of the Giants' payroll, the A's won exactly the same amount of regular season games. They both went to the playoffs, where the Giants won nine more games than the A's. Sharp eyes? More money? Or just plain better luck? It doesn't really matter, because the A's showed that they can compete with teams with which they have no business competing. But of course, you don't want to acknowledge the uneven playing field, do you?

Oh, and your dig about Sabean learning from the historic Yankees? I hope you can handle one more number. A payroll of $197,962,289 should be able to buy more wins than the A's payroll. What? One more win in the regular season, and one in the postseason? But...what about the sharp eyes? The historic lineage of baseball players? The feeling of the game deep inside?

In other words, Bruce, your shtick is growing old.