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Saturday, October 08, 2011

Hirsch: ‘Moneyball’ is Entertaining, and Not Accurate

Hirsch: Without a Clue.

All told, there is zero evidence to support one of Moneyball’s pillars: Beane’s unique ability to identify and draft undervalued prospective stars. Indeed, Beane’s weak track record drafting players clearly contributed to the team’s disastrous performance in 2011. Many low-budget teams fared better – not just this year but over the past several years.

In Lewis’s telling, the A’s use of advanced statistics also produced superior game management. The team adhered to a key tenet of the advanced statistics crowd: outs are too precious to give up with sacrifice bunts or to risk with aggressive base-running. There are various problems with this overly tidy analysis, and both pre- and post-Moneyball many teams thrived by ignoring the admonition against risky base-running. Beane himself came to see the light – his A’s have become an aggressive base-running team.

Asked about the change in tactics, Beane cites the intangible effects that mathematical formulae cannot capture. His teams take chances on the bases because of the cascading benefits of what Beane calls the “mentality of aggressiveness.” Beane deserves credit for changing course, but that doesn’t change the fact that another key insight attributed to him by Moneyball did not stand the test of time.

Repoz Posted: October 08, 2011 at 10:57 AM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: athletics, books, media, reviews, sabermetrics

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   1. adenzeno Posted: October 08, 2011 at 12:27 PM (#3956790)
When runs are cheap and the team has HR power, then the SB is not as important as when you have less power and runs are more rare. THAT is the SB aspect of Moneyball. Not that SB are not good, but that it makes little sense to make outs on the bases when a HR is looming. Earl Weaver knew this as did the post Babe Ruth managers-as HR went up, the SB attempts went down. Of course some(much?) of that can be attributed to the fact that guys who HIT HR are often not able to steal bases....
   2. DA Baracus is a "bloodthirsty fan of Atlanta." Posted: October 08, 2011 at 01:23 PM (#3956821)
I give Hirsch credit for going three paragraphs without shilling his book.
   3. Dale Sams Posted: October 08, 2011 at 02:08 PM (#3956856)
bases because of the cascading benefits of what Beane calls the “mentality of aggressiveness.


Shhh..no such thing as momentum.
   4. bigglou115 Posted: October 08, 2011 at 02:29 PM (#3956880)
I think the idea of painting Billy Beane as the golden idol of sabermetrics at this point is kind of intellectually dishonest. Besides, he's basically saying congrats on changing course, and btw your team has gotten worse over the last several years.
   5. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: October 08, 2011 at 04:50 PM (#3956958)
Home runs are never looming, they are rare. If your strategy involves waiting for the next guy to hit a homer, you will be doing a lot of waiting.

'Mentality of Aggresiveness' is of course code for 'whatever it is that the Angels are doing to be better than they should be every year'.
   6. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: October 08, 2011 at 04:56 PM (#3956961)
Home runs are never looming, they are rare. If your strategy involves waiting for the next guy to hit a homer, you will be doing a lot of waiting.


Earl Weaver would disagree.
   7. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: October 08, 2011 at 05:58 PM (#3956988)
I have to chime in to contest the claim of this writer that Beane "saw the light" on baserunning.

Scoring runs in baseball is not at all like baking a cake where you have a recipie and you precisely measure your ingredients and follow the same recipie every time. The point of moneyball was to say that your ability to score runs in baseball year to year is very dynamic. It is constantly changing. What works one year may not work the next. This is true of all complex systems, weather, macro economy, they are all very dynamic.

The movie was good and it delivered the main point successfully. Much better than expected.
   8. McCoy Posted: October 08, 2011 at 06:05 PM (#3956991)
The weirdest thing about Moneyball is that you can't find a torrent of it. I don't think I have ever encountered that before.
   9. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: October 08, 2011 at 06:08 PM (#3956992)
The point of moneyball was to say that your ability to score runs in baseball year to year is very dynamic. It is constantly changing. What works one year may not work the next

Ok, and how is that a new idea? We've seem teams of bombers and we've seen Whiteyball and everything in between. For a century teams have tailored their base running approach to their roster.

Moneyball is everything and it's nothing. Whenever someone says 'this is a Moneyball concept' someone will chime in with 'no it's not, Moneyball is just doing what's undervalued', which of course has been the tenant of every good general manager in any sport who ever lived. As always with any discussion of Moneyball, there is no 'there' there.
   10. McCoy Posted: October 08, 2011 at 06:21 PM (#3957002)
Moneyball is just doing what's undervalued', which of course has been the tenant of every good general manager in any sport who ever lived

Well, isn't that the point? A good GM does it because all the rest are not. Then the rest do it and a good GM comes along and does it again and again the rest follow. Moneyball wasn't revolutionary in that it wasn't like Beane started having his team play football or lacrosse out there. Moneyball was about a GM who was one of the first to understand the new era and design a team to take advantage of the environment while also having a limited budget.

If we're going to knock Moneyball then we basically have to knock almost every business and economic biography or book out there. The Steve Jobs thread runs pretty much the same way a moneyball thread does. Yes Beane was part of a long line of GMs who did good things. I'm not sure why this has to be ignored or somehow diminished.
   11. boteman digs the circuit clout Posted: October 08, 2011 at 06:50 PM (#3957020)
There's an undercurrent of criticism that Beane changed his mind given the evidence at hand. I consider that a strength, not a weakness.
   12. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: October 08, 2011 at 08:24 PM (#3957053)
Whenever someone says 'this is a Moneyball concept' someone will chime in with 'no it's not, Moneyball is just doing what's undervalued', which of course has been the tenant of every good general manager in any sport who ever lived.


Until about 1975, no GM in any sport ever had to worry about how things were valued, because they didn't have to pay fair market value. They just had to worry about finding talented players.
   13. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: October 08, 2011 at 09:19 PM (#3957074)
Until about 1975, no GM in any sport ever had to worry about how things were valued, because they didn't have to pay fair market value.


That's only true in the payroll sense, but players could still be improperly valued by organizations depending on the particular skills they had/lacked and whether those skills were given their proper weight.
   14. Athletic Supporter can feel the slow rot Posted: October 08, 2011 at 09:28 PM (#3957079)
Seems as good a place as any: Al Davis is dead. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this abomination of a view-blocking behemoth in center field!
   15. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: October 08, 2011 at 10:11 PM (#3957084)
I heard that about Davis today. He was a smart football guy at one point, but he should have stepped down years ago.

Saw Moneyball today with my wife. Lewis may have made fun of tobacco-chewing scouts, but Beane dipped more in that movie than anyone else.
   16. McCoy Posted: October 08, 2011 at 10:17 PM (#3957085)
In the recent interviews of Al it looked like he was ready to fall over at any moment. Parts of him were falling off him as he spoke.
   17. ellsbury my heart at wounded knee Posted: October 09, 2011 at 12:15 AM (#3957122)
All told, there is zero evidence to support one of Moneyball’s pillars: Beane’s unique ability to identify and draft undervalued prospective stars.


In the movie, of course, I don't think the draft was even mentioned.
   18. Walt Davis Posted: October 09, 2011 at 01:45 AM (#3957216)
Many low-budget teams fared better – not just this year but over the past several years.

Sure, by drafting 15-20 slots earlier.

The A's have drafted well given the slots they have drafted in. For example, Nick Swisher is (by WAR) already the 4th best #16 pick in MLB history. Even if we take a range (pick, # players better than Swisher, best player):

14 5 (Derrek Lee)
15 4 (Utley)
16 3 (Berkman)
17 4 (Halladay)
18 1 (Willie Wilson)

Or Kurt Suzuki. He was the #26 pick in the 2nd round of 2004 and has 10 WAR. That was a good 2nd round as Pedroia, Gallardo and Pence were also picked ... and each of them was picked before the A's got to pick. The gap between Suzuki and Pence/Gallardo is about 3 WAR while the gap between Suzuki and Seth Smith (the next guy) is over 6 WAR. He's the 5th best #67 pick of all-time.

Or let's take Jemile Weeks at #12 in 2008. Too soon to judge this draft of course but the only guys picked after him that have more WAR to date are Ike Davis and Brett Lawrie. Dropping the 2010-11 picks, we have 45 #12 picks in history. 15 of these never made the majors although Kasey Kiker (2006) still has a chance. Another 10 have produced 0 or fewer WAR although Matt Dominguez and maybe Lastings Milledge could get into positive territory. If Weeks can get to even 5-6 WAR, he'll be in the top 3rd of #12 picks of all-time.

And when you look at total WAR, the A's have done very well in the draft and better than anybody else in the AL West. The following includes players they didn't sign (Papelbon being the big one) and of course not all value accumulated for the A's but this is how B-R conveniently presents it:

2002: 57 WAR
2003: 11 WAR
2004: 26 WAR
2005: 8 WAR
2006: 19 WAR (Cahill and Bailey)
2007: 0 WAR
2008: 2 WAR

Who knows how Beane would have drafted given top 5 and top 10 picks in most seasons but in those years the only top 20 picks he had were Swisher (#16) and Weeks (#12). Beane doesn't put shitty teams out there so he doesn't get top draft picks. Over those same years, the Rays picked #2, #1, #4, #8, #3, #1, #1. Yes, it's shocking the A's haven't drafted as well as some other low-payroll teams.

Oh wait ... (A's vs Rays)

2002: 57 vs 41
2003: 11 vs -5 (ouch!)
2004: 26 vs 7
2005: 8 vs 11
2006: 19 vs 27
2007: 0 vs. 10
2008: 2 vs. 0

Even if you ignore 2002-3, the A's are even with the Rays (so far ... they're likely to fall behind going forward). 2006 is almost all Longoria (#3) and 2007 is all David Price (#1) so the superior performance of the Rays in those years is almost entirely due to getting a top pick.

There is at least one team drafting in similar slots to the A's who have (probably) out-performed them and that's the Red Sox who have no connection to sabermetrics whatsoever.

There's stuff you could criticize Beane and the A's about with regard to the draft. If not so down on HS pitchers, he might have grabbed Hamels and/or Cain in that 2002 draft (of course he probably couldn't afford them now anyway). And their big problem in young talent has been a lack of international FAs. And his few ML FA signings haven't been too inspiring.
   19. Walt Davis Posted: October 09, 2011 at 02:00 AM (#3957230)
Also the A's "disastrous" 2011 performance was 74 wins. Alas, that's only good for a #11 pick. Beane can't even make a good disaster!

Also WAR credits the A's aggressive baserunning with 0 runs above average. The 2002 A's were credited with +5 runs. Good thing Beane sees the light now.
   20. tfbg9 Posted: October 09, 2011 at 02:34 AM (#3957257)
Edit-wrong thread
   21. Joey B. is being stalked by a (Gonfa) loon Posted: October 09, 2011 at 02:20 PM (#3957506)
Preach on brother Hirsch. The truth is sometimes painful, but it needs to be told.

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