August 30, 2009

The Ultimate Moneyball Post


I think it would have been pretty interesting if all the card blogs had been around when Moneyball first came out and what our general opinion would have been. Overall, I think we tend to agree on most of the key issues relating to the sport and I wonder if anyone would have "called bull shit" on the basic premise that you can mathematically measure just about everything about baseball and consequently you can make better decisions using statistics than your "guts." Some of the ideas presented in the book fly in the face of our conventional opinion of the game such as that a pitcher has no ability to control where a ball is hit. It is hard to swallow that at first but it's impossible to argue with the stats that show only knuckle ball pitchers are more likely to produce ground balls over pop ups.

So I've put together a little collection of my Moneyball related players and with the help of Checkoutmycards.com upgraded some of the lesser known players that would normally just go straight into your commons box.

Jeremy Brown

If there is one person made famous by Moneyball, besides Billy Beane, it would probably be the little known prospect Jeremy Brown. Brown was drafted by the A's in the 1st round in the 2002 draft to the shock of everyone else in baseball. You couldn't help but hope that Brown would make it to the big leagues and be a success and by the end of the book you don't really know much more than he was excelling in A-ball. So it was with great surprise to find that Brown had retired from baseball in 2008 having played just five games in the majors.

Here are two of his few cards including a nice little Upper Deck SPx autograph:

2007 Upper Deck SPx #YS-JB

2006 Topps Rookies '52 #112


Scott Hatteberg

Scott's Moneyball story is one of being under appreciated by general managers thinking about baseball conventionally. However, to Billy Beane Hatteberg was a treasure who could wear down pitchers with his marathon at bats and great on-base percentage.

2004 Topps Heritage #159


2007 Topps Chrome #98


Barry Zito and Tim Hudson

Surprisingly, the A's two aces don't play a major role in Moneyball. In the Acknowledgements section of the book, the author, Michael Lewis, cites Zito and Hudson for the support they provided and sort of apologizes that they weren't in the book more.

2008 Upper Deck Spectrum #RS-BZ2


2002 Upper Deck Vintage#A-TH

Chad Bradford

I wasn't able to find a Chad Bradford card that portrayed him as an A so instead we'll highlight one that shows the pitching style that made him famous. That right hand is going to go so low that it will sometime scrape the pitching mound. Like Scott Hatteburg, Bradford was unappreciated by every other ball club but became a great fireman in the A's bullpen when they acquired him from the White Sox. Chad is currently with the Rays and pitched in last year's World Series.

2008 Upper Deck #175

Ray Durham

Ray Durham appears in Moneyball only briefly but he is the key example of a player that doesn't understand the Billy Beane-style of baseball the A's play. The main point of contention was over stolen bases. The A's organization viewed steals as a nice way to throw away scoring opportunities while Durham had made a name for himself as a great base stealer. He was only an A for a little part of one season, just long enough for Beane to get compensation draft picks when Durham signed elsewhere at the end of the season.

2002 Fleer Tradition Update #U264

Billy Beane

And here is the A's commander and chief. Billy only has a few cards from his brief career and this is from the 1986 Fleer Update set after being traded from the Mets to the Twins. As Moneyball lays out, it is widely held that Beane is considered one of the greatest draft busts in baseball history. The Mets nearly drafted Billy ahead of Darryl Strawberry and it was thought that Billy would become the third piece to an All-Star outfield with Strawberry and Lenny Dykstra.

1986 Fleer Update #U-11


Jeremy Giambi

When Jason Giambi left the A's for the bright lights and big city of the Yankees, Billy Beane looked to replace Jason's offense and defense number with three different [and cheap] players rather than one large free agent purchase [that the A's would never be able to afford]. Fittingly, Beane turned to Giambi's brother Jeremy to be one of those three players.

2000 Fleer Showcase Fresh Ink Autograph


1999 Fleer Tradition #95

Art Howe

If there is one figure in Moneyball that you could look at sympathetically for it would be A's manager Art Howe. Pretty early on in the book you realize that Billy Beane runs the team thru Howe with Art having to abandon nearly all the baseball principles that he learned through his playing career. Eventually, Beane even ended up trading Howe to the New York Mets.

1978 Topps #13

2002 Topps Chrome Refractor #299

2 comments:

AdamE said...

No scanof he "Greek God of Walks"????

freeandylaroche said...

I have to disagree with you on a couple of ideas.

I don't believe that the main premise of the book was "you can mathematically measure just about everything about baseball and consequently you can make better decisions using statistics than your 'guts.'"

While I agree with that as a secondary premise -- baseball people rely far too much on "guts, instinct, intangibles, etc." rather than actual performance, I don't agree that it was the main premise. As the title suggests, it was about finances, and fielding a successful team in the face of big-money clubs. Billy Beane's MO was to identify undervalued (and positive) attributes in ballplayers, and to take advantage of undervaluation. Lacking payroll, Beane can't chase after overvalued attributes.

And I think it's a gross oversimplification to say it's all about "statistics." It's not about crunching numbers, but rather, measuring actual performance. A guy (like Jeremy Brown, for example) may not fit the classic mold of a ballplayer, but he clearly displayed attributes Beane and his staff valued.

Also, I think this assertion is incorrect: "The A's organization viewed steals as a nice way to throw away scoring opportunities"

The A's saw caught stealing as a way to throw away scoring opportunities. The A's under Beane have long held that a base stealer must be successful at an 80% clip or better in order to justify the risk of attempting steals. Rather than throwing away outs needlessly by getting caught stealing, the A's were clear in that they wanted only high-success base stealers running.