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Friday, July 08, 2022

J.J. Cooper: Looking Back At ‘Moneyball’ 20 Years Later

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With the benefit of hindsight, Oakland’s “renegade” list fares incredibly poorly.

Of the 15 unique players on the Athletics’ list, three produced at least 1 WAR in MLB: outfielder Nick Swisher (No. 34 on the BA board), Khalil Greene (35) and Mark Teahen (134). Those 15 players combined to produce 33.6 WAR. Of the 11 players who ranked outside of the BA Top 50 who were on Oakland’s top 20, Teahen is the only one to produce at least 1 WAR.

Josh McCurdy (“might be the next Jeff Kent”), Brant Colamarino (“might be the best hitter in the country”), Ben Fritz (“third best righthander in the class”), Mark Kiger (“a machine for wearing down pitchers”) and Jeremy Brown (“we’re not selling jeans here”) all ended up being much closer to the industry’s evaluation of them than how the A’s viewed them at the time.

What about those 15 players who were coveted by “crusty scouts” from other teams? That list included Greinke, Cole Hamels, Scott Kazmir, Denard Span and B.J. Upton. Combined they have produced 211 WAR.

Yes, it is ironic that the 2002 draft would go on to be one of the best first rounds for high school pitchers, the draft demographic “Moneyball” most significantly poo-pooed.

Four of the players ranked in the BA top 20 failed to reach MLB. Another four failed to produce 1 WAR. One did not sign. Seven produced 10 WAR. Three produced 25 WAR.

Of Oakland’s top 20, 11 failed to reach MLB. Three more failed to produce 1 WAR. Three produced 10 WAR. None produced 25 WAR.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 08, 2022 at 11:59 AM | 13 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: athletics, moneyball

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   1. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: July 08, 2022 at 02:06 PM (#6085994)
IIRC, the Athletic's rival across the Bay, the Giants, helmed by Brian Sabean, concentrated for many years on drafting pitchers, with the idea that they could then trade them away for established or nearly-ready position players. It seemed to work for them, at least for a while. But they wouldn't have gotten their WS wins without Posey, Belt, Crawford, who were all home-grown (not to mention Lincecum and Cain). Sabean came from a scouting background.

But also IIRC, the basic idea of the Moneyball was to try to identify players of value that they could sign cheaply.

The Oakland A's throughout the mid-2000's were IIRC a pretty old team:

2007 Oakland A's:

C J. Kendall 33
1B D. Johnson 27
2B M. Ellis 30
SS B. Crosby 27
3B E. Chavez 29
LF S. Stewart 33
CF N. Swisher 26
RF T. Buck 23
DH M. Piazza 38

J. Cust 28
M. Scutaro 31
K. Suzuki 23
M. Kotsay 31
J. HAnnahan 27
D. Murphy 42
D. Barton 21
M. Bradley 29
T. Walker 34
B. Kielty 30
A. Melhuse 35

Average age: 29

Though on the hurler side they were quite a bit younger:

J. Blanton 26
D. Haren 26
C. Gaudein 24
L. Dinardo 27
J. Kennedy 28
D. Braden 23

A. Embree 37
S. Casilla 26
H. Street 23
J. Marshall 24
K. Calero 32

Average age 26.6

   2. Walt Davis Posted: July 08, 2022 at 03:57 PM (#6085998)
The draft is a crapshoot. :-)
   3. Walt Davis Posted: July 08, 2022 at 04:49 PM (#6086004)
Anyway ... my memory is that if you look at who they drafted in the slots they drafted them, they got pretty good return. Swisher was the #16 pick ... and he's the 4th-best #16 pick of all-time (Giolito, 11 WAR behind, is the closest active player). He's the 24th best #14-18 pick of all-time. The embarrassing thing is that the #3 all-time #14-18 pick (Cole Hamels) was picked right after him. Blanton was the 6th-best #24 pick of all-time. Randall "they picked me before Trout" Grichuk is an active player within striking distance. Blanton is 34th among #22-26. Cursed again, Cain was the next pick and he put up 17 more WAR than Blanton. Ben Fritz #30 never made the majors but only 20 picks in that slot had positive WAR; Brown was one of the 18 #35 picks to post (barely) positive WAR. So that was 3 well-above-average picks for their slots and one bust.

Fairly enough, this article (not that I've read it) looks beyond just who they picked, adding their other prospect rankings. Those might be worse and of course their draft looks better in part because they never had the chance to draft Greinke and others.

Beyond all that, if you were looking for financial efficiency then the obvious move at the time was to sign as many Dominican and Venezuelan kids as you could get your hands on. I don't recall the A's being very active on that front. If they were, they don't seem to have found any superstars there either (Tejada signed back in 1993).

In my poking around, I found what might be the luckiest spot in the draft -- the #22 overall pick. Palmeiro (72 WAR) and Biggio (66) lead the way but there are 5 more who made it to 20 and 7 who made it to 11. Your #22 AS team:

C Biggio 66 WAR
1B Palmeiro 72
2B Wong 21
SS Craig Reynolds 13
3B Dave Anderson 6
LF Tom Goodwin 8
CF Chet Lemon 56
RF Jayson Werth 29
Bench: Ricky Jordan 5, Lee Stevens 2

SP: Bruce Hurst 34, Rick Helling 20, Jeremy Guthrie 18, Stroman 18, Gil Meche 17, Kyle Gibson 14
RP: Matt Thornton 13, Steve Karsay 11, Glen Perkins 9, David Aardsma 2

For comparison the #21 spot has just 6 players who made it to 11 WAR. Slots 19 (Clemens, Grich) and 20 (Mussina, CC) may be better at the very top but don't have the depth. #16 is quite similar but you have to go all the way up to #6 (mainly because of Bonds) or #4 to find a slot that's had clearly superior results. And #22 has had clearly better results than #9 and #11.
   4. Zach Posted: July 08, 2022 at 05:37 PM (#6086010)
From BBref:

Rnd   OvPck   Bonus                        Name Pos  WAR    G   OPS  ERA
1        16 1780000      *Nick Swisher (minors)  1B 21.5 1527  .799    0
1        24 1400000       *Joe Blanton (minors) RHP 11.8  262  .263 4.38
1        26 1375000       John McCurdy (minors)                       SS
1        30 1200000         *Ben Fritz (minors)                      RHP
1s       35  350000      *Jeremy Brown (minors)   C  0.1    5       .864
1s       37  750000   *Steve Obenchain (minors)                      RHP
1s       39  725000       *Mark Teahen (minors)  3B  2.6  831       .736
2        67  200000      Steve Stanley (minors)                       OF
3        98  410000        Bill Murphy (minors) LHP  0.2         10 4.08
4               128         John Baker (minors)   C  0.7  359  .671    0
5               158         Mark Kiger (minors)                       SS
6               188     Brian Stavisky (minors)                       OF
7               218   Brant Colamarino (minors)                       1B
8               248       Jared Burton (minors) RHP  4.7  168  .000 3.44
9               278       Shane Komine (minors) RHP  0.1          0 4.86
10              308       J.R. Pickens (minors)                      RHP
11              338     Justin Crowder (minors)                      LHP
12              368      Kirk Nordness (minors)                       OF
13              398 Tyler Klippenstein (minors)                       3B
14              428          Brad Knox (minors)                      RHP
15              458      Chris Dunwell (minors)                      RHP
16              488       Lloyd Turner (minors)                       2B
17              518     David Harriman (minors)                        C
18              548      Jose Corchado (minors)                      RHP
19              578     Dustin Barnard (minors)                      RHP
20              608       Trevor Crowe (minors)  SS  0.2  265       .615
21              638      Wally Pontiff (minors)                       3B
22              668         Shawn Kohn (minors)                      RHP
23              698        Chris Shank (minors)                      RHP
24              728      Danny Gibbons (minors)                       OF
25              758     Steve Schilsky (minors)                      RHP
26              788          Ty Bubalo (minors)                        C
27              818         Greg Dupas (minors)                      RHP
28              848     Drew Dickinson (minors)                      LHP
29              878      Danny Barnett (minors)                      RHP
30              908      Brian Rodgers (minors)                       OF
31              938       Brad Ziegler (minors) RHP 13.3  477  .286 2.75
32              968        J.R. Towles (minors)   C -0.1  155       .583
33              998        Nate Nelson (minors)                       1B
34             1028      Rene Quintana (minors)                       SS
35             1058    Robert Jacobson (minors)                        C
36             1088         Jed Morris (minors)                        C
37             1118     Mark Rodrigues (minors)                      RHP
38             1148     Jason Williams (minors)                      RHP
39             1178         Joel Evans (minors)                      RHP
40             1208  Jonathan Papelbon (minors) RHP 23.3        306 2.44
41             1238         Don Sutton (minors)                       1B
42             1268           Joe Ryan (minors)                      RHP
43             1297       Curtis White (minors)                      LHP
44             1325      Ty Taubenheim (minors) RHP  0.2    4 1.000 5.09
45             1352       Matt Elfeldt (minors)                      RHP

   5. Zach Posted: July 08, 2022 at 05:39 PM (#6086011)
Pretty respectable, I'd have to say. 13 players who reached the majors in some capacity, 6 who got more than 2 WAR.

   6. Walt Davis Posted: July 08, 2022 at 10:00 PM (#6086043)
Huh ... when did b-r add bonuses? I'm not sure I've ever noticed them before.

Anyway, the Brown pick was pretty odd. It's one thing to "save money" but why risk missing out on Obenchain and Teahen, players the A's apparently thought were worth more than Brown (who nobody else was gonna pick in that slot). I see the Reds did something similar, drafting Mark Schramek at #40 but giving him just $200 K.

The Cubs did their usual great job, getting Luke Hagerty at #32, Chadd Blasko at #36 and Matt Clanton at #38 and giving them a total of $3.2 M. That was slot money but you can see why the A's might have thought a total under $2 M for Brown, Obenchain and Teahen was likely to produce as much value.

All told the last 16 picks of the 1/1s cost $14-14.5 M (Mayberry Jr unsigned) and produced under 4 WAR, Teahen the best player.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: July 08, 2022 at 10:52 PM (#6086052)
For comparison I looked at the 2010 draft (random year with enough time to judge WAR). Picks #26-41 cost about $20-21 M total but that increase is mainly due to what I assume are signability picks -- Zach Lee got $5.25 M from the Dodgers and Anthony Renaudo got $2.5 M from the Red Sox (those two combined for -2 WAR). Much better return along the lines of 21 WAR, basically all Syndergaard and Aaron Sanchez (8 WAR). Two more good "1st round" picks after that in Taijuan Walker and Castellanos (but a $3.45 M bonus). The "1st round" in 2010 had 50 picks which kinda defeats the purpose of calling it the first round.
   8. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: July 09, 2022 at 01:08 AM (#6086064)
CF Chet Lemon 56

Oh, c'mon. Don't hide Chet Lemon in the middle of the list. In addition to the fact that he's a classic HoVG guy, he has one of the great names in modern baseball, and delivered his teams a great deal of value by being willing to lean into a fastball. Chet Lemon is a dude to be remembered.
   9. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: July 09, 2022 at 01:46 PM (#6086081)
1996 HOF voting:

Tony Perez (54 WAR): 309 votes (and eventual induction, in 2000).
Chet Lemon (56 WAR): 1 vote. (Lemon had more WAR than six HOFers on that year's ballot: Perez, Minoso, Kaat, Rice, Oliva and Sutter.)
   10. Walt Davis Posted: July 09, 2022 at 07:46 PM (#6086119)
Lemon was similar to Puckett and Torii Hunter but never got the press or the gold gloves although it sure looks like he deserved a few. He was still a solid player in his final, age 35 season. But <8000 PA, <2000 H, <250 HR, no GG, never a MVP vote, no significant black ink ... he was anonymous as a good player could be. In real time I don't think I thought of him as anything but an above-average player you'd want on your team but not a star.

CL 7874 PA, 121 OPS+, 56 WAR, 3 AS games
KP 7831 PA, 124 OPS+, 51 WAR, 10 AS games, 6 GG, a 2nd and two 3rds in MVP
TH 9692 PA, 110 OPS+, 51 WAR, 5 AS games, 9 GG, some MVP votes
TH 7740 PA, 115 OPS+, 50 WAR (similar peak)

Lemon was also involved in two lopsided trades. He was an A's draft pick and they traded him and Dave Hamilton (a reliever with a bit left) for Stan Bahnsen (4 WAR left, 3 for the A's) and Skip Pitlock (who never pitched in the majors again, not that anybody wanted him to). Several years later, the Sox traded Lemon, just turning 27, to the Tigers for Steve Kemp who had one OK season for the Sox then became infamous for getting a nice contract out of the Yanks. Somebody can check but my best guess is that both players were a year away from FA but the Tigers extended Lemon. I can't imagine that Lemon's demands were extreme -- I guess the Sox had Rudy Law and a young Baines so probably they thought Kemp was a better 1-year fit.

(Just read the SABR bio ... apparently the Sox and Lemon had a verbal agreement on a new contract which would have made him the highest-paid player on the team. But then they signed Fisk to more money before Lemon signed and he backed out of the deal. In the SABR bio, looking back, he calls himself childish for the move. That sort of thing will usually get you traded.
   11. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 09, 2022 at 08:08 PM (#6086121)
Lemon was certainly underrated by the Sox. He didn't walk a ton but he was a .300 hitter and led the league in HBP every year, which helped keep his OBPs pretty high.

But Steve Kemp was a legitimate hitter and the same age as Lemon. The real problem with the trade was that Kemp was a year way from free agency at the time of the trade, and Lemon wasn't.

Kemp then got hit in the eye with a ball during batting practice his first year from the Yankees, had trouble with his vision, and was never the same. He kept plugging away, though, and even spent a year in the minors at the age of 32, trying to fight his way back.

   12. SoSH U at work Posted: July 09, 2022 at 09:36 PM (#6086125)
The real problem with the trade was that Kemp was a year way from free agency at the time of the trade, and Lemon wasn't.

I think they both entered FA the same season. Kemp left for NY. Chet re-signed with Detroit.
   13. Rally Posted: July 11, 2022 at 08:47 AM (#6086201)
Lemon was similar to Puckett and Torii Hunter but never got the press or the gold gloves although it sure looks like he deserved a few.

Never really thought of these guys as similar. Kirby was an extreme high average guy. Won a batting title, hit .356 another year, and .318 career. But his OBP is only slightly higher than Chet’s despite outhitting Chet by 45 points. Plus there’s body type, no other outfielders in recent memory looked anything like Kirby. Hunter was more similar, average about the same as Lemon but more power, less OBP. I can see Lemon and Hunter as similar players, but Kirby is a different species.

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