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The Athletics trade Mark Ellis to the Rockies

Jun 30, 2011, 3:01 PM EDT


The Oakland Athletics just announced that they have traded infielder Mark Ellis to the Colorado Rockies for pitcher Bruce Billings and a player to be named later (the latter of whom seems to get traded A LOT!).

Ellis has been a fixture at second base for the A’s since 2002, but he has fallen off a cliff this year. Following his hamstring injury earlier this month he lost his job to Jemile Weeks, making him expendable.  Ellis has played some first base since being activated from the DL, but will likely be used primarily at second base for the Rockies, who have had a heck of a time trying to find any kind of consistent production at the keystone.

Billings has pitched only one game in the majors. He’s 6-2 with a 4.47 ERA in 29 relief appearances at Colorado Springs this year. He strikes out batters at a pretty decent clip, but walks his share too. A pretty common story for a minor league reliever.

  1. APBA Guy - Jun 30, 2011 at 3:14 PM

    This is an out and out salary dump, as Ellis was due another $ 3M for 2011 starting tomorrow. He should get playing time with the Rockies and will hopefully see an offensive uptick in the NL. His defense will certainly be missed by the A’s, who lead the league in errors, but clearly Weeks is a greater offensive threat, and the belief is that working with Mike Gallego will improve Weeks’ defense.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Jun 30, 2011 at 3:31 PM

      APBA…I know I bust chops about the Moneyball thing, but I saw Green Hornet last night(awful) and they had a preview of the movie. Now, I am not a sabremetric guy, but I’m pretty open-minded…or at least I am getting more open-minded. However, I just can’t get past the motion that the A’s would not have had nearly as much success if they had not had the good fortune of drafting Mulder, Hudson and Zito. Granted, they were college guys and so that meant they were more ready to pitch and that’s a big part of the theory with the Moneyball(if I understand correctly).

      Am I wrong to wonder whether this whole “Moneyball” concept wasn’t more or less overrated because of those three pitchers? I mean, if you take away Hudson, Mulder, and Zito would the A’s have been any good? I guess another way to ask it would be this…put Hudson, Mulder and Zito in their early primes on ANY team and wouldn’t that team do what the A’s did?

      If I don’t get a decent answer to this question, then every time I see that damn trailer this is all I am going to think about. And I really like Pitt, the fat kid from Superbad, and Hoffman so I am going to see the show and I want to see it without thinking “Hudson, Zito and Mulder” the whole movie. 😉

      • clydeserra - Jun 30, 2011 at 4:15 PM

        you could read the book.

        If you think Moneyball is about winning with bad players you are wrong. Its about finding undervalued players who help you win more than what traditional baseball people thought they would.

      • scatterbrian - Jun 30, 2011 at 4:18 PM

        Chris, you’re getting hung up on the notion that Moneyball is strictly about offense or finding offensive players. Yes, the main offshoot of the book turned out to be a love affair with OBP, but the book was not about just finding hitters.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jun 30, 2011 at 4:27 PM

        I understand that, but you can find all the undervalued players you want…without Hudson, Zito and Mulder, are they still winning as much as they did? Those are guys they drafted…not free agents…not guys with good OBP and they certainly weren’t undervalued as they were picked in the 1st, 1st and 6th rounds. Those are pretty high draft picks.

        Again, I understand that the idea is to find undervalued players who help you win. But guys like Hudson, Zito and Mulder help quite a bit don’t they?

        I’m not the biggest WAR fan, but it’s the easiest thing to use here…

        Mulder 5.2, Hudson 4.4, Zito 4.3

        Mulder 4.3, Hudson 6.6, Zito 6.5

        Mulder 5.1, Hudson 6.7, Zito 4.9

        That’s just insane. You are talking about 13.9, 17.4 and 16.7 over 3 years. I need someone to tell me how “finding undervalued players” would have worked had the A’s not had those three guys. That’s all. I’m not aruging here…I’m legitimately looking for some knowledge…because I can’t get past those three guys and I really want to enjoy this show.

      • clydeserra - Jun 30, 2011 at 5:01 PM

        Without he big three they don’t win.

        Without Kofax and Drysdale the Dodgers don’t win. Without lincicum and cain the Giants don’t win.

        So what? You need good players to win.

      • APBA Guy - Jun 30, 2011 at 6:30 PM

        Lot of argument through the years about Moneyball, what it really means, what it really has done for the A’s.

        Moneyball is the philosophy of doing more (winning) with less (money) than what your rivals have available. Part of that, emphasize “part”, is to seek out value advantages in player evaluations (ie, on-base is cheap).

        In terms of using data to find these value advantages, the practice of Moneyball has been widely adapted by almost all major league clubs. That’s one reason why Oakland is no longer in first place: other clubs have smart guys with computers who spot trends and value inequities. When rich clubs do this, and Boston and New York do this very well, it helps to keep them winning all the time.

        The part that Oakland went overboard on, to their detriment, was in moving too far away from traditional scouting. The two (statistical evaluation and scouting) need to be kept in balance. The best illustration of this is in scouting high school pitchers. If you don’t scout them, you don’t know about them, and you tend to draft college pitchers because they have a body of data describing them that can be normalized. But you miss out on lots of the highest upside guys that way.

        So Zito, Hudson and Mulder were relatively safer bets than high school pitchers would have been, and that was part of the Moneyball approach the A’s took, even if that approach wasn’t called Moneyball when Alderson did it, it was based on an evaluation of risk/reward with data as the basis of the draft decisions.

        Unlike what the movie trailer implies, Moneyball didn’t come to Beane in a car in a flash, like zen enlightenment. It was a continuum of thought that began with Alderson and his approach to player evaluation that evolved over time.

        Michael Lewis, the Moneyball author and Berkeley resident, needing a dramatic focus for his book (see “How to write a bestseller”) allowed the notion that Beane created the application of statistical data to baseball analysis. The movie has gone one step further, suggesting overtly that Beane was the sole creator, and that his creation obviated the need for scouting.

        Finally, the causes of the disaster that the A’s have been over the past few years is largely a matter of speculation. Because we don’t know for certain what Beane’s marching orders are from Wolff we can only see the results on the field and guess at the causes. Suffice to say also that the A’s are profitable, despite their performance, as a result of what I call “the Angelos Way” which is to keep your payroll below the sum of tv money, attendance, and revenue sharing, and to hell with what your fans think. That has nothing to do with Moneyball, but everything to do with being an owner who places no value on winning. So if the club does not value wins, Moneyball’s whole reason for being vanishes. Thus, you can’t really evaluate the A’s in terms of Moneyball at this time.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jul 1, 2011 at 9:11 AM

        Clyde, nobody wrote a book about how the 60’s Dodgers changed how MLB scouted and valued players.

        APBA, thanks for the detailed explanation. It does clear some things up for me. However, sticking to the narrowest point, maybe this example would help me make my point…which I admittedly do a crappy job when it comes specifically to this damn book.

        I will grant that, as you said, while it wasn’t called Moneyball when Alderson did it, drafting Hudson, Zito and Mulder were part of this concept as they were safer bets. But let’s hypothetically say that they drafted three other guys out of college…I checked the specific rounds and drafts and let’s hypothetically say this…

        Instead of Hudson, the A’s get Matt Wise, another college P drafted in the 6th round in 1997.
        Instead of Zito, the 9th pick in 1999, they get Kyle Snyder, another college P drafted 7th.
        Instead of Mulder, and this one is a little more of a stretch since he was the 2nd pick, but let’s say they decide to take the guy picked 4th…Jeff Austin…out of Stanford U.

        Now, in 2001, they dont have Hudson, Zito and Mulder. They have Wise, Snyder, and Austin…none of whom did much in their MLB careers.

        Wouldn’t you agree that all the “finding undervalued players” in the world isn’t going to help that team win if they have those three instead of Hudson, Zito and Mulder?

        That is my specific question. I want to attribute their success to Moneyball and finding undervalued players I really do. But to me, Hudson, Zito and Mulder were 95% of the reason they were successful and “finding undervalued players” was the other 5%. And I have yet to read anything to specifically refute that point.

      • clydeserra - Jul 1, 2011 at 2:21 PM

        Chris, you are right. It was those guys that made them 100 win teams.

        And you are also right its not really remarkable which is why no one writes best selling books about it. As APBA guy notes, Lewis took liberties with it and made a compelling hollywood book about the underdog. Now the movie is going to magnify the importance of Scott Hatteberg because its a good story. Not because 9 Scott Hattebergs are the 27 Yankees.

        If you read the book and the media aftermath, you will see that it is a much more nuanced issue than OBP wins games.

        But every winning team needs to have players that are better than average on the margins, at the time in the late 1990s and early 2000s Michael Lewis chronicled the A’s version of getting those marginal players that helped the team win 100 games in 2001, and 20 in a row in 2002.

    • firerosenthalthebastard - Jun 30, 2011 at 3:48 PM

      How is it a salary dump if the A’s are picking up most of the salary?

      • clydeserra - Jun 30, 2011 at 4:10 PM

        more of a roster space crunch

      • APBA Guy - Jun 30, 2011 at 6:08 PM

        The cash considerations detail wasn’t available when I first saw the trade notice. Even so, the A’s come out ahead cash wise, but the reality is that it’s more of a roster move, as the comment below states.

  2. scatterbrian - Jun 30, 2011 at 3:18 PM

    Anyone else think it’s weird there have been so few trades, especially this deep into the season?

    • skerney - Jun 30, 2011 at 3:21 PM

      Lots of teams hovering around .500. If playoffs are expanded we’ll see even fewer trades because almost everyone will be in contention for that second wild card spot come trade deadline.

  3. captainwisdom8888 - Jun 30, 2011 at 6:53 PM

    Mark Ellis is the picture of mediocrity.

    • clydeserra - Jun 30, 2011 at 9:40 PM

      only if you ignore defense.

      I am not going to lie, he is one of my favorite players. Just watching him play defense is not enough. you have to watch everyday. If he were on another team he would have 10 Gold Gloves.

      • APBA Guy - Jul 1, 2011 at 12:59 AM

        Totally agree.

  4. Elwood Larf - Jul 1, 2011 at 1:09 AM

    The A’s are officially a farm team for the rest of baseball. It’s pretty damn amazing though, how Billy Beane is capable of consistently producing good players–particularly pitchers recent years, and always picks good prospects when he trades them away. If I were a player drafted by the A’s, I’d be happy. They know how to develop, and sooner or later they’ll trade you to a team with a reasonable chance of winning that actually plays in a decent stadium with people in the seats.

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