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Moneyball is dead. Long live Moneyball.

Jun 14, 2011, 1:30 PM EDT

Moneyball

Nothing makes me roll my eyes more than when something bad happens with the A’s and some clever wag — often a print sports journalist who still bases his Cy Young vote on wins — makes some crack about “well, I guess “Moneyball” isn’t helping anymore, huh?” This is usually followed by chuckling, snorting and picking up the Andy Rooney book he had been reading, highlighter in hand.

The response to this, which has been obvious to anyone who actually read the book for several years, is that “Moneyball,” is not a synonym for “whatever Billy Beane is doing,” nor is it shorthand for “take walks, hit dingers.”  Rather, it was a book that described the idea of finding market inefficiencies — which is something its author, the financial market experienced Michael Lewis, was exceedingly familiar — and applying it to baseball.

Anyone could do it, and for the past decade, everyone has been doing it.  And, not soon after “Moneyball” was published, the idea of “take walks, hit dingers” ceased to be a market inefficiency because the very definition of a market inefficiency is something which has not been widely published in a best-selling book. By then it has become big bright information which, as everyone knows, is immediately gobbled up by the markets as soon as it is made big and bright. Which, by the way, is why you should never take your investing advice from books you can buy at the airport, but that’s another subject.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t still market inefficiencies. There always will be because markets aren’t perfect and, at any given time, there will be ways in which the savvy can exploit those concepts which can’t be found in best-selling books.

I hadn’t read it until today, but Bill Barnwell tackled that topic over at Grantland last week. And, after making a longer and better argument out of the concept I mentioned above, set out to describe the many areas — aside from “take walks, hit dingers” —  that teams are or should be trying to exploit.  Like defense and bullpen usage and that sort of thing.

It’s a good piece if you have the time. But if you don’t have the time, at least enjoy this little nugget that would have been Quote of the Day fodder had I not wanted to write a little more:

Moneyball was about statistics and on-base percentage in the same way that the ‘77 punk revolution was about looking like Richard Hell; what was relevant and counterculture then is mainstream and comfortable now. Babies get mohawks now, and they come out of the womb knowing that Jeff Francoeur sucks. So what’s a small-market team to do now? Where are the market inefficiencies for them to exploit in 2011? What’s the new Moneyball?

Once again, Richard Hell shows us the way.  So forget that [blank] generation that likes to make the dumb and easy “Moneyball” jokes. They’re going, going gone.

  1. yankeesfanlen - Jun 14, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    Wow! What a post!
    You have no doubt found a market inefficiency in negative posts about Frenchy today!

    • mooda1 - Jun 14, 2011 at 7:18 PM

      Bloggers who are nasty and simply spew toxic rants should be held accountable for their blogs. Craig is yet another obnoxious lawyer who is an expert on nothing.

      Craig’s baseball expertise is deep rooted as a T Ball professional growing up in Beckley WVA, graduating from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1991. He went to college at Ohio State where he majored in political science, graduating in 1995. He went to George Washington University Law School, where he received his J.D. in 1998.

      You can find his picture at : http://www.splicetoday.com/vault/posts/0000/1489/Craig_Calcaterra_large.JPG

      If you looked like Craig, you would be as obnoxious as he is.

      • yankeesfanlen - Jun 14, 2011 at 8:01 PM

        Jeez, that inside joke went right out of the park.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Jun 14, 2011 at 8:10 PM

        Congratulations mooda1, you have truly held me accountable! You have listed information about me that I have, at one time or another, myself written on this blog and which is freely available about me on multiple public databases and in interviews I have freely given!

        I am truly naked due to your muckraking and stand chastened against every uttering anything about that which you hold dear!

        Or not!

      • cur68 - Jun 14, 2011 at 8:53 PM

        mood1; WTF are you talking about? Does any of that information have any bearing on what Craig wrote? I mean, sure you got a beef with the piece then have at it but throw us all a friggin’ bone, man. Allude to some part of the post or quote something or just have a FACT that is different or is germain to ANYTHING in the article.

        As for his picture; well I look much the same without my glasses. Except for having hair. And being blacker. And way better looking. But aside from that, we’re identical. I don’t see what his picture has to do with anything except to make you look like a jealous tool with a penchant for mudslinging. The only thing is you forgot some mud. You’re just slinging your own BS.

      • dwishinsky - Jun 14, 2011 at 9:40 PM

        Craig – If you are truly from Beckley – who is your favorite Bluefield Oriole of all time???

      • Craig Calcaterra - Jun 14, 2011 at 9:46 PM

        I saw Gregg Zaun play there in 1990 (summer before my senior year in HS). I honestly didn’t go to many games there, though, so I can’t say I had a favorite.

  2. deathmonkey41 - Jun 14, 2011 at 1:50 PM

    Jeff Francoeur sucks?

  3. clydeserra - Jun 14, 2011 at 2:06 PM

    I can’t take or leave each time

    • clydeserra - Jun 14, 2011 at 2:06 PM

      *can

  4. amhendrick - Jun 14, 2011 at 2:11 PM

    Still, Billy Beane apparently isn’t any better at finding market inefficiencies than anyone else is.

    • scatterbrian - Jun 14, 2011 at 2:41 PM

      No, he’s actually pretty good, he just has much more competition these days.

  5. Chris Fiorentino - Jun 14, 2011 at 2:11 PM

    The thing that bothers me is when too many people say that Moneyball was responsible for the success of the A’s when the success of the A’s can be attributed to three words…Hudson, Mulder and Zito.

    • deathmonkey41 - Jun 14, 2011 at 2:13 PM

      And a decade before that it was lots and lots of steroids.

    • screename529 - Jun 14, 2011 at 2:36 PM

      The thing that bothers me is when too many people attribute the success of the A’s to three pitchers when they had one of the best hitting infields ever.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jun 14, 2011 at 2:41 PM

        Which made up for the lamest hitting outfield ever. By the time Dye got good, the Big Steroid was already gone. Without Hudson, Zito and Mulder, they were just a big-hitting team. With them, they were simply LDS losers.

    • jeffbbf - Jun 14, 2011 at 2:50 PM

      Of course, one of the main tenets of the system was to evaluate and draft based on projectable history, be it hitting OR pitching. Based on that, the A’s stayed away from high school pitchers and focused on pitchers who excelled in college. Thus, you have Hudson, Mulder, and Zito. And don’t mention Bonderman to Billy.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jun 14, 2011 at 2:53 PM

        If you want to say that Moneyball brought the A’s Hudson, Zito and Mulder, then I’ll definitely give you that, although I think it is kind of a stretch. But I wouldn’t argue against that notion.

      • scatterbrian - Jun 14, 2011 at 3:57 PM

        Chris, if you think it’s a stretch, you either didn’t read the book, or you didn’t quite grasp it.

      • heynerdlinger - Jun 14, 2011 at 4:08 PM

        The point is that drafting college players is a strategy built on low risk, low upside players. College pitchers get to the majors faster and they are a surer bet to succeed, but the trade off is that they’re also less likely to be outstanding players.

        That the A’s were able to get three college players who all turned out to be aces during their time with Oakland is largely luck, not strategy.

        (Let me also add that the real genius behind the A’s front office wasn’t so much in identifying underpriced players, but because they were willing to take risks by foregoing traditional strategies and instead built their player development system based on data.)

    • heynerdlinger - Jun 14, 2011 at 3:59 PM

      The real market inefficiency that the A’s leveraged was being able to pay those three pitchers (and Tejada and Chavez) well below market-rate salaries for their services because of the reserve clause.

      What most people don’t discuss when it comes to market inefficiencies in baseball is that all those inefficiencies allow you to do is outperform the payroll. Your team may still suck, but it won’t cost as much.

  6. jwbiii - Jun 14, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    I saw Richard Hell at the Cubby Bear, across the street from Wrigley Field. I also saw Johnny Cash there. It was an odd place.

    Hudson was an Alderson pick, Mulder and Zito were Beane’s. At the time, college pitchers returned more value based on their draft position than HS pitchers. I don’t know if that is still true.

    • bleedgreen - Jun 14, 2011 at 3:56 PM

      Beane was still there under Alderson though, and may still have had a lot of input on Hudson.

      • jwbiii - Jun 14, 2011 at 4:11 PM

        It’s always hard to apportion credit for a draft pick between the GM, assistant GM, amateur scouting director, etc.

  7. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 14, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    Damn, Colin Wyers of BPro is having some fun with this article. His latest tweet might be the best:

    If you’re going write an article called Moneyball 2.0, you should PROBABLY have read more of the book than Joe Morgan, is what I’m saying.

    Considering defense was featured in the book (esp regarding Johnny Damon), and was also a prominent feature of Keri’s Extra 2% regarding the Rays.

  8. dwishinsky - Jun 14, 2011 at 4:43 PM

    God bless you Craig!

  9. royalsfaninfargo - Jun 14, 2011 at 5:38 PM

    Craig I dont know if you frequent Deadspin.com or not, but they have some very funny and astute observations about Grantland.

  10. JBerardi - Jun 14, 2011 at 9:13 PM

    I’m sick of arguing about Moneyball. I’ll just point out that this version of Time by Richard Hell is more or less the finest song ever recorded.

    And know he only knows as much as time to him reveals

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