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Saturday, March 08, 2014

Peter Gammons: The new, new thing better than Moneyball

I have a curare solutin’ BB gun at my ready for the first writer that pulls a Killer B’s for Billy Beane/Billy Burns.

Back in the Moneyball Summer, Billy Beane used to say, “whoever hits the most homers usually wins,” and could live without stolen bases. But while the movie was superb, it was, in reality, fiction, or semi-fiction. “All movies are,” Beane said when the film was released. “Thirteen Days” wasn’t the way it really was, either.

“In our market (and a park that brings new meaning to Flushing Meadows) there isn’t one way to do anything,” Beane says. “Trying to compete is about always trying to stay ahead of the curve, always adjusting, always trying to find undervalued ways to win. That’s all.” He also probably wouldn’t have been so open to creating a goofball, laughing gashouse gang and handed them to a manager who is cerebral and exceptionally logical.

“There is no set way to doing anything, in baseball or business,” Beane says. “Hey, I’ve grown to really like stolen bases. I don’t like the concept when guys get thrown out, but when they don’t get thrown out, I like them.” Billy Burns, who is in the Billy Hamilton/Micah Johnson class of speed, in three years in the Nationals organization stole 125 bases and was thrown out 17 times. Going into the weekend spring training games, he had more stolen bases than all but six teams in Arizona. So Billy isn’t as big as Ken Burns? He is a switch-hitter, every infield ground ball turns opposing infields into British roundabouts and he has the range of Coco Crisp and Craig Gentry. “I have to be honest,” said another American League GM. “I’d never heard of him.” One A.L. scout joked that “I thought he was the manger’s kid the first time I saw him in the Nationals organization.

...Beane, like Andrew Friedman in Tampa and some of the other unconventional small market general managers, is forever searching for a different way to look at and approach the business. It has worked, and once again the Athletics are the real team to beat in the American League West, with a jackrabbit named Billy Burns, a $10M closer and the intellectual flexibility to be able to take stock of what doesn’t work and keep searching, as Lewis once wrote, for the new, new thing.

Repoz Posted: March 08, 2014 at 10:11 PM | 1 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: oakland, sabermetrics

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: March 08, 2014 at 11:04 PM (#4668475)
Burns has a few things going for him that Hamilton doesn't: (1) a consistently high minor-league walk rate; (2) a BA over 300; (c) he Ks about the same as he walks; (d) he's already played some CF. However he is one year older, has even less power (ISO of 68! 1 HR in over 1100 PAs!), seems to already be playing some LF in the minors and probably isn't quite the base stealer Hamilton is (at least he's never put up those sorts of SB totals). One suspects that if Beane thought Burns was anywhere near ready, he wouldn't have extended Crisp and traded for Gentry.

I'd never heard of Micah Johnson -- it's early yet (age 22, nothing above A+) but he might be the best of this trio because he's flashed a little bit of power with an ISO of 130 and 46 XBH last year.

Articles like this make you think writers are wishcasting (never!) and have forgotten that Omar Moreno and his lesser counterparts weren't actually very good players. It's true, take 10-20 of these guys and you'll eventually find a Luis Castillo (29 career WAR, consistent 3-WAR player at his peak) or Bill North.

As to the SB, the 2013 A's were 11th in the AL with a mere 74. Crisp was the only one with more than 10. Unless the A's put both Gentry and Crisp in the lineup frequently, I wouldn't expect many SBs from them.

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