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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Statistically Speaking: Seidman: Liveblogging ‘Moneyball’ Underway

I once did an on-stage reading of The Descendents’ “Weinerschnitzel”...this is much nuttier.

7:18 PM - Chapter Ten: Anatomy of an Undervalued Pitcher

So, it turns out it wasn’t Chinese food, but rather an unusually late UPS delivery of some more baseball books, yummy… which means the Chinese food will be here soon.  I also am realizing as I type that if someone reads this tomorrow or Friday they will have no idea what I’m talking about.

As I feared thought, this is the Chad Bradford chapter.  Lewis (not Beane) discusses how the White Sox were undervaluing Bradford and sent him to the minor leagues mostly because they thought his mechanics were shaky; his early success and lower-level successes were considered flukes because “nobody that throws like that can get guys out.”  Honestly, the first half of this chapter did not really hold my interest and I found myself, early on, finding the last page of the chapter in order to determine how many more were left.  As much as I love this book, and as much as I respect how Chad Bradford was undervalued, I felt that I read this with Scott Hatteberg and did not really need the point to be hammered home again.

After the first half ends, though, we get a taste of DIPS.  Voros’s theory is well-explained, including quotes from McCracken himself.  Since Lewis (not Beane) weaved his undervalued point into the DIPS theory so well, I have to say the chapter turned out better.  Kind of like Sandy Koufax…

Repoz Posted: March 20, 2008 at 02:05 AM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: athletics, books, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. philly Posted: March 20, 2008 at 02:29 AM (#2716063)
His synopsis of the Jeremy Brown/draft chapter is just flat out wrong. You can't start a column bragging about how you - and only you - are going to dispell misconceptions and then go on and promote different ones.
   2. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: March 20, 2008 at 02:40 AM (#2716068)
You want Bill sperm with that?
   3. Eric J. Seidman Posted: March 20, 2008 at 03:13 AM (#2716084)
Philly, what's wrong about it? I literally read the chapter at my computer and wrote in exactly what happens. I can't express the word 'literally' enough. If you disagree with some of the opinions I presented based on my thoughts about it, fine, but to say the synopsis is flat out wrong is, well, flat out wrong.

And I never started a column bragging how I - and only I - am dispelling misconceptions. I jokingly suggested that I think this is the first ever live blog of a book (and if I'm wrong, please correct me, because honestly there are probably 321 things I care about more than that) and the entire point was to show what does and does not happen in the book, coming straight from reading and posting each chapter progressively.
   4. cardsfanboy Posted: March 20, 2008 at 03:20 AM (#2716086)
I was going to ask about what was wrong with his comments about the brown chapter, there are other nitpicks, he seems to think that the underlying tone against scouts isn't in the book, and it's clearly there, it may not 'say' scouts are stupid but it does a good job of at least implying that scouts are stupid. About the only thing he really missed on his summation about Brown is that Beane didn't think he was at best a backup catcher potential, he thought he had an upside of major league starter. Also I do have to argue that "undisclosed non-baseball reasons" as fact that he didn't retire due to baseball reasons isn't in fact, fact. If Brown was just tired of the game and not actually making it to the show and felt it would be better (ala Beane) to pursue other passions that he may be better suited for, technically he wouldn't be retiring due to baseball reasons but honestly he is because he sees the writing on the wall.

Eric was way too nice on Lewis treatment of scouts in the book.
I also don't understand why he disliked the Bradford chapter, my favorite chapter that dealt with individual players.
   5. Eric J. Seidman Posted: March 20, 2008 at 03:29 AM (#2716087)
Cardsfanboy, I did acknowledge that it was implied rather than overtly acknowledged at some points throughout as well as how it was biased with selective sampling in a chapter focusing on DePodesta and his computer, however it honestly was not as implied as I thought it was from when I initially read it. There are times when he describes how the statistical analysis is better in certain instances but never discusses how the scouting can be valid; that I didn't think was fair. The approach he took was to build up how important the statistics side of it without ever throwing the scouts any semblance of a bone. So that combination resulted in some implied scout-bashing, but it definitely does not take on as much of a negative tone toward scouts, implicitly or explicitly as some people (Joe Morgan) think. It's there but not as much as I anticipated going in.

As far as Chad Bradford, I was joking. Isn't it okay for people in this world or saber-community to have some fun? I just felt as if I had literally read the same thing with regards to Scott Hatteberg a few chapters earlier. They were undervalued and I got the gist of that.
   6. Eric J. Seidman Posted: March 20, 2008 at 03:31 AM (#2716089)
Oh, and the Jeremy Brown part was MY opinion, not Beane's. My point there was that by going on scouting alone the A's were left with many players that were still nowhere near the major league level, by going on stats alone they had Jeremy Brown, who I felt would never be more than a backup catcher, but by combining both aspects they landed on Nick Swisher.
   7. cardsfanboy Posted: March 20, 2008 at 04:04 AM (#2716093)
I liked your take on Nick Swisher from the book, I think you did a good job of explaining the meshing of scout/numbers. I still think you underplayed the negativity that is expressed in the book about scouts, which is partially why the few non-stat guys who have read the book, have issues with it.

My personal thought is that the chair throwing chapter, the emotions that Beane shows throughout the book would be a great way to show that he isn't a computer pounding geek that only looks at numbers, yet somehow the emotional aspects of this story, which is a very strong part of the book, are put on the back burner to the stats vs scout debate. The anti-stat guys like to say the stat guys aren't emotional, but read the different stories and you can see emotional context in many of the stories, I mean the scout guys want the perfect guys who had all the good things come to them in life, they are rooting for the jerks in high school, by supporting the stat guys you are supporting the defectives, the guys with a club foot, with a weight problem, with unorthodox approach, yet the stat guys are the ones who are cold? (sorry different tangent)
   8. Eric J. Seidman Posted: March 20, 2008 at 04:09 AM (#2716095)
Yeah the biggest thing I took away from the re-read was that Beane wanted to avoid drafting himself. He said that the key to him being a good general manager was to "mis-remember" what he had been taught. Scouts coveted him and he saw what he went through, and did not want the same types of players. He was into the statistical analysis but also the character side of things - calling or having his scouts call these 7 first/second round picks to make sure they knew they would be getting much less and gauging their reactions.

If anything, the stats guys were more open to include certain aspects of the other side than the traditionalists were - and that inability to be open-minded is truly a shame.
   9. philly Posted: March 20, 2008 at 04:57 AM (#2716125)
Philly, what's wrong about it? I literally read the chapter at my computer and wrote in exactly what happens. I can't express the word 'literally' enough. If you disagree with some of the opinions I presented based on my thoughts about it, fine, but to say the synopsis is flat out wrong is, well, flat out wrong.


Here's what you wrote:

While the quick reaction would be to point out how Kazmir and Fielder have fared in the major leagues thus far, while guys like Jeremy Brown is retired (again, NOT for baseball reasons or struggles), what MUST be remembered is that the Athletics do not have money. They have a very low payroll and cannot afford to sign or keep the guys that MAY end up with better futures. Beane was given 9.4 million dollars to draft 7 first/second round picks; Kazmir ended up signing for 2.5 million. There is no way he could have afforded to sign all of these guys, or keep all of these guys when it came time for their arbitration-eligibility.


Here's what Lewis wrote:

The A's front office has a list, never formally written out, of the twenty players they'd draft in a perfect world. That is, if money were no object and twenty-nine other teams were not also vying to draft the best amatuer players in the country. The list is a pure expression of the new view of amatuer players.


Lewis then provides the list of players, all of whom are college players. Without checking back at pre-draft rankings I'd say 10-13 are consensus top few rd players and the rest are Brown like mid to late rd filler.

That page is Lewis' grandiose summation of what the A's "revolutionary" process of amatuer talent evaluation is all about. It is, if not the main point of the chapter, pretty close to it. In Lewis' own words it is "perfect" and a "pure expression" of the A's new, non-traditional evaluation process.

It is also a lot of what made traditionalists crazy with rage.

Not only did you miss that, you contradicted it and made the excuse that financial constraints caused the A's front office to strike players like Kazmir and Fielder from thier dream list. You've made an excuse for the A's that Beane never sought (to his credit) and Lewis flat out states is not true.

No, I don't think you did a very good job summarizing that chapter at all.

It's possible that Lewis' reporting was wrong and the A's would have loved to have taken high quality HS players in a "perfect world".
   10. Eric J. Seidman Posted: March 20, 2008 at 05:10 AM (#2716129)
The point was that they did not have the money. Regardless of who they wanted to draft they could not draft them; when other teams decided to take them it was music to their ears because it meant the players they may not have expected to be available would be available. The examples of Fielder and Kazmir without discussing the collegiate players is something I did wrong, I'll give you that. I was referring to the picks around the Blanton area where teams taking high school guys somewhat unexpectedly allowed them to get the collegiate guys they coveted.

I never said they liked the HS players, or would prefer them, but rather that other teams opting to draft them immensely helped the Athletics get the guys they wanted and could afford. There is even a line in the chapter, (I'm not picking that book up again for a while) about how Beane and DePodesta were happy at the fact that the opposing teams were using the traditional scouting approach and drafting these guys. Early on in the chapter (or in chapter 2) it is mentioned how the A's only had 9 mil to sign 7 draft picks and that the top guys were going to end up costing much more than that. Due to this, he needed to find similar talent levels that would not cost him much due to that small amount of money. The Kazmir example was one of the high levels of signing money compared to what they had available. In no way did I mention this meant other teams completely disliked collegiate players, but because they ended up going for Kazmir and Fielder, when Beane had thought they would opt for college players, he was able to get who he wanted.

The players (collegiate/high school) taken ahead were players that he found out they could not afford, or would definitely be going to other teams.

You showed quotes from my article and the book that, in no way whatsoever contradict anything, and then proceeded to try and rip me. I'm wondering, I live in Philadelphia, would you want to meet up and say all of this to me? I'll give you my cell phone number. If you truly have that much of a problem with a fun post like this please let me know and I'll literally give you my number and meet up for lunch. I'll even let you get a free punch to my stomach to make up for me being such a moron.
   11. cardsfanboy Posted: March 20, 2008 at 05:50 AM (#2716134)
I think you are overreading the criticism a little. I don't think he called you a moron or anything like that he said that you you misrepresented the chapter. or ignored a hefty portion of it. I haven't read it in a while, but he said that the chapter states that in a perfect world, regardless of what the other team, costs or anything else, the A's had a list of 10 or so players that they would pick and none of them were high school players.

His point is that the a's never even considered a high school player in the first round, not because of money, but because they didn't make the cut by their system. (I seem to remember that the chapter did mention money and that they discounted high school players pre-listing automatically because of signability, but post 10 implies that wasn't the case)
   12. Eric J. Seidman Posted: March 20, 2008 at 05:57 AM (#2716136)
Haha, well that will happen when you've done nothing but read a book for eleven hours. Earlier it was mentioned how he was only given 9 mil for 7 picks; that amount of picks would usually equate to much more then 9 mil. The A's ignored high school players because of what I wrote about in Chapter 2, which I detailed as part of their system. The players the A's wanted were not high school players but on that list of players mentioned Lewis goes into detail about who could and could not be had, and it seems odd in retrospect that Beane and DePodesta could have been so happy that someone "made the mistake" of drafting Fielder and Kazmir.

I had discussed their non-high school allegiance in Chapter 2. For everyone I have upset with this, I am so so so so so sorry. If anyone would like to re-do the summary of Chapter 5, please e-mail me - seidburns850@aol.com and I will post yours over mine.
   13. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: March 20, 2008 at 07:22 AM (#2716146)
I'll literally give you my number and meet up for lunch. I'll even let you get a free punch to my stomach to make up for me being such a moron.
...
For everyone I have upset with this, I am so so so so so sorry. If anyone would like to re-do the summary of Chapter 5... I will post yours over mine.

Dude, get a grip.
   14. Halofan Posted: March 20, 2008 at 07:29 AM (#2716150)
Milo goes to Fremont?

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