Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Moneyball Post-Mortem

Inspired by the recent retirement of Jeremy Brown, the B-cupped A's farmhand and star of Michael Lewis' hit Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, New York Times journo Murray Chass had taken a retrospective look back at Billy Beane's draft strategy and, more specifically, the 2002 draft that's at the heart of the book. Six years is a reasonable time frame for a draft evaluation and this is a great idea for a piece, but I found it far too brief. Still worth a look, though.

For cave-dwelling Taliban who've never heard of Brown, he was a catcher who absolutely raked and had great OBP skills in college ball at Mississippi but didn't draw any real draft interest outside the A's organization because of his chunky physique. An oft-repeated maxim from Beane when scouts pointed out that an amateur player didn't have a "good body" was "we're not selling jeans." Well, if there was a Jeremy Brown brand of jeans they'd only be available at Walmart (because people who buy clothes there tend to be on the large side...) Nevertheless, the A's took Brown 35th overall in the 2002 entry draft. Granted, they did have 7 of the first 39 picks, but taking Brown so highly (the Bosox selected him 573rd overall only a year earlier) was either laughable or baffling to most of the baseball world.

Brown never really panned out. He stalled at AA for three years and had a pedestrian AAA campaign in his age 26 season. Last year at 27 he seemingly put it together in Sacremento to the tune of a .833 OPS, but mysteriously called it quits at the end of the season. Stat-haters and the anti-Beane set will feel vindicated by his failure, but really, where does this relate to some greater Moneyball themes?

Back in 2002, Beane's first 7 picks yielded Nick Swisher, Joe Blanton, Mark Teahen, Brown, John McCurdy, Ben Fritz, and Stephen Obenchain.

Swish and Blanton and bona fides; perhaps not stars (though I'm expecting big things from Swish in Chicago this year), they're solid upper tier players at their respective positions. Teahen is a solid little ballplayer who can play 3rd, 1st and the OF, but I think the jury's still out on whether he's really more than a utilityman plus (and I don't mean that derisively). Brown had a brief cup of coffee and has retired from the game. McCurdy, Fritz and Obenchain look like no-hopers. All were college players.

Chass notes:

Four of the seven players picked by Oakland (57 percent) among the first 39 picks in that draft have played in the majors, including Brown. Of the other 32 picks, 20 have played in the majors (62.5 percent).

The difference is in the number of high school players in those groups. Oakland drafted none while other teams selected 18, and 11 have played in the majors, including Prince Fielder, B. J. Upton, Cole Hamels, Scott Kazmir, James Loney, Jeff Francoeur, Matt Cain and Adam Loewen.

From Beane’s perspective, college position players are the safest selections while high school pitchers are the riskiest. Yet Hamels, Kazmir, Cain and Loewen are pitchers drafted out of high school.

It's at this point that a JP-hater would start on a familiar diatribe against exclusively drafting college players. In fairness, this was one draft we're talking about and perhaps, over the span of a decade, those "success %" would skew more towards the college players. Someone else can look it up. Everyone has put their two cents in on the topic over the past 5 years, but it bears repeating that the point of Moneyball wasn't "this is how you find the Absolute Truth through stats", but rather "this is how poor teams make the most of the limited resources at their disposal." We were a similiarly poor team up until 2005/2006, so forgive JP for trying to apply some of the lessons he thought he'd learned from his mentor. In any event, it's worth having a look at the article in full.


I hate to beat on a dead horse, but I've never really liked V-Dub for a variety of reasons. I think he's too aggressive at the dish, over-rated defensively, more than a bit immature, and disgustingly overpaid. If the Jays can't re-sign Rios long-term because of the $126 million albatross contract they gave V-Dub last offseason, I'm just going to shit.

Anyhoo, Bob Elliot reveals that V-Dub is a Sensitive, Caring Man who cries when he's not playing well, or when he's watching chick flicks like The Notebook. But the best part:

"We believe in Christ, Charlene [his high school sweetheart and wife] is my rock. Charlene told me I should 'continue to do what I'm doing, keep working hard,' " Wells said. "Charlene said 'you have to put God first. No matter how good things are, no matter how bad, God has to come first.' "

Some comments:

It's ok for a man to cry if he's in extreme physical pain or absolutely legless after a night on the piss, but not under any other circumstances, period. And I just hate the God shit from pro athletes. If you pray, pray; just keep it a private affair, m'kay? Lenny Dykstra sold his soul to Satan, but it least he didn't have to go around telling people about it.

Those of you who are reading this are most likely addicts of a sort (the drug being baseball), just like me. But when our thirst for Jays news leads to revelations of such an intensely personal nature I can't help but feeling a bit ashamed of myself...

I'm sure I'll get over it, though.

-- Johnny Was

1 comment:

The Southpaw said...

Meh, I don't mind the religious angle when it's a part of saying, in whatever words "keep things in perspective"...I do resent it (particularly as a believer myself) when someone credits some particular specific achievement or success to the Almighty as if the Lord takes sides in sporting events.

I mean, being All-Knowing, I'm sure he hates the Yankees as much as the rest of us do and yet they keep winning, so what does that tell you? ;)