Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Was Moneyball Planned?

Gotta love getting home after a long day at work only to find out that there's no baseball on...oh well...taking a break from the Ricciardi project for tonight, update will be tomorrow. Got some thoughts on Billy Beane...
I know, I know you’re reading the title thinking, “of course it was planned, it’s a freaking book, how could it not be planned?” My question goes more towards whether or not Billy Beane used the Moneyball book as a strategy towards future transactions. What do I mean? Moneyball discussed how Billy Beane used unorthodox methods to beat the bigger market teams by employing players who had flaws but had certain qualities that made them attractive to the Athletics. These players were mostly high OBP machines who struck out a lot and couldn’t field worth a lick. Beane used the easiest thing to measure in baseball, the percentage of how many times a guy could reach first base and built a team that was effective at doing this. Unlike pitching statistics that are influenced by the defensive players and defensive statistics, which are hard to measure, OBP is almost fully attributable to the hitter. The toughness of pitching will even itself out through the season and every player will have hits taken away from him as he will have bloop singles that should have never been hits.

So Beane had it all figured out, beat the bigger markets by signing cheap hitters who could get on base a lot but had flaws in their games. He also had three great starters that helped the Athletics stay in many games while waiting for the runs to come. So he had a system and what did he do? He announced it to the world!!! He told everyone: this is how I’m beating you. Quickly franchises were moving to copy his style; ex-assistants Ricciardi and Deposteta were hired as general manager, the Red Sox hired sabrmetrician Bill James and Theo Epstein. Other teams now coveted the type of players who used to be coveted by only Oakland: Frank Catalonatto, David Ortiz, Gabe Kapler and Bill Mueller to name just a few. So Beane had divulged his secrets and everyone could just copy his style and make it less effective, right?

Wrong! Sensing that he could not hold onto them, Billy Beane traded two of the three aces before they became free agents. He drafted closer Huston Street in the first round, something unheard of for closers. And then he went about his new plan of action. No longer would this team sit around waiting for the big hit and striking out a lot. No longer would the defense be sub-par. Beane brought in defensive player after defensive player to give the team above-average fielding at most positions. His highest paid player is Jason Kendall, a slappy hitter who controls his pitchers very well. Mark Kotsay was signed to a big extension to bring his great defensive play to the outfield, Chavez was kept for his gold glove caliber defense at third base. And Beane built his rotation around a new big three of Zito, Haren and Harden. What Beane did was confront the brutal facts (pick up the book Good to Great if you don’t understand the meaning of that statement); knowing that other general managers would someday understand what worked so well for the A’s, he outted his strategy and quickly changed his style. He was still acquiring undervalued players but now they were of the defensive variety, a long under-evaluated part of baseball. He also took chances with hitters, bringing in problem child Milton Bradley and oft-injured Frank Thomas with two risks that have worked out for the franchise. On the verge of losing Barry Zito, Beane may face his gravest challenge yet…but can we really doubt him anymore?

On the new CBA...Buster Olney has some great thoughts! Not good news for the Jays and Vernon Wells but apparently the signing of BJ Ryan looks even better.
And Keith Law's take

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