Self Help

Moneyball - Lewis, Michael

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Matheus Puppe

· 53 min read

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Here is a summary of the praise and reviews for Michael Lewis’s book Moneyball:

  • Critics praised the book for providing entertaining anecdotes and insights into baseball through Lewis’s reporting and storytelling. They said it was an enjoyable and enlightening read.

  • Reviews emphasized that the book debunks conventional baseball wisdom and celebrates an underdog story of an unorthodox team finding success.

  • Critics said Lewis did an excellent job telling the story of Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s quest to win with limited resources through analytics and an economic lens.

  • The book was praised for its journalism, characterization of people, and ability to appeal to average readers as well as decision makers.

  • Reviews highlighted that the book is just as interesting for fans of new ideas as it is for baseball fans. It provides a modern and even revolutionary look at how the game is changing.

  • Critics argued the book deserves a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame and may be the best book ever written about baseball. They said anyone who cares about the sport must read it.

  • Overall, the reviews were overwhelmingly positive and praised Moneyball as an entertaining, well-reported, insightful book that upends conventional baseball wisdom through Michael Lewis’s storytelling abilities. It was seen as a must-read for baseball fans and beyond.

  • Billy Beane was an elite high school baseball prospect from Southern California in the early 1980s.

  • At a workout in San Diego for Major League scouts, Beane outperformed the other top prospects in a 60-yard dash, clocking an unexpectedly fast time of 6.4 seconds. The scout Pat Gillick was skeptical of the time and made them rerun it. Beane won again.

  • Beane was a natural athlete who excelled at multiple sports from a young age, despite not having a very athletic father. His father taught him baseball meticulously from manuals and during long sessions practicing pitching techniques.

  • Beane’s raw athletic talents were evident early on, though determining his pro potential would prove complicated. The risks of drafting players had increased significantly as MLB salaries skyrocketed in the late 1970s. Scouts now faced high stakes in correctly evaluating amateur prospects.

  • Billy Beane was a star baseball player in high school in San Diego in the late 1970s/early 1980s. He pitched and played outfield and hit over .500 as a junior.

  • Major league scouts flocked to see him play, noting his athletic body and skills. His coach Sam Blalock let the scouts observe Billy’s workouts and games.

  • Billy was committed to attending Stanford University on a baseball/football scholarship. However, his batting average dropped his senior year from pressure and teams adjusting how they pitched to him.

  • The New York Mets held the first pick in the 1980 MLB draft. Their scout Roger Jongewaard was high on Billy and pushed for the Mets to draft him even though he may not sign.

  • Most other scouts wrote Billy off as unlikely to sign, not wanting to waste the top draft pick. However, the Mets had three first round picks so took the risk on Billy with one of them.

  • Billy Beane became the number one pick in the 1980 MLB draft by the New York Mets, despite his intentions to attend Stanford. The scouts failed to notice flaws in his game or how he reacted to failure on the field.

  • Billy Beane was preparing for the amateur draft as the GM of the Oakland A’s. He was about to start arguing for a change in how his scouting department evaluated players and made draft selections.

  • In the previous 2001 draft, the scouts had too much influence and the A’s ended up drafting Jeremy Bonderman, a high school pitcher, with their first pick. This went against Beane’s preference of avoiding high school pitchers due to low odds of success.

  • Beane called a meeting with all the scouts to discuss the upcoming 2002 draft. The previous year, the scouts led the discussions but Beane wanted more control this time.

  • During the disastrous 2001 draft, when the scouts’ head Grady Fuson selected Bonderman with the first pick, Beane angrily threw his chair through the wall of the draft room in protest of going against his player evaluation strategy. This set the stage for Beane to argue for changes in their draft process.

  • Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A’s, was growing frustrated with the traditional scouting approach and results. He felt the draft was a “crapshoot” with low success rates.

  • Paul DePodesta, Beane’s assistant with a background in economics, wanted to use statistical analysis to evaluate players rather than rely solely on scouts’ eyes. This threatened the authority of scouting director Grady Fuson.

  • In the 2002 draft, DePodesta highlighted players like Kevin Youkilis that the scouts had ignored based on traditional scouting evaluations.

  • One player, David Beck, went completely undrafted but had strong stats in college. When the scouts finally saw him, they dubbed him “The Creature” due to an unusual throwing motion. However, he dominated in rookie ball, validating DePodesta’s analytical approach.

  • Beane was growing increasingly frustrated with the scouting department’s resistance to new ideas. The 2002 draft would be Beane’s first experiment in applying analytics to the amateur draft, threatening the existing scouting culture.

  • The passage describes a meeting of Oakland A’s scouts and front office staff to evaluate players for the 2002 MLB draft, where the A’s had an unprecedented 7 first-round picks.

  • They go through the process of discussing each player, determining his abilities and any potential red flags or risks. Scouts provide information on skills, makeup, character, injury history, college commitment, etc.

  • Factors that raise red flags include lack of competitiveness or leadership based on psychological tests, family or legal issues, signs of difficult personality or attitude, drug/alcohol problems, lack of dedication to baseball as a career.

  • Players tagged as having “bad makeup” are essentially barred from consideration. Their name is paired with a photo of a former employee, Phil Milo, who epitomized problem personalities.

  • Disagreements arise over how to evaluate certain risks like past drug use or cocky attitudes. The goal is to weed out players unlikely to succeed professionally while identifying talent they can develop.

  • It describes their analytical process of filtering the large player pool down through discussions and ultimately deciding who to draft with their valuable early picks. Success in the draft is critical given rules that allow teams to control costs of young players.

  • The Oakland A’s scouts and front office are going through their draft board to select players for the upcoming draft. They start with over 600 players and cut it down by eliminating those with bad makeup or other red flags.

  • Billy Beane has already decided Nick Swisher will be their top pick. However, the scouts kept Billy from seeing Swisher play himself so other teams wouldn’t realize how interested Oakland was in him.

  • When discussing other players, Billy often challenges the scouts’ evaluations, questioning players’ actual hitting or athletic ability rather than just praising their tools and potential.

  • The scouts favor traditional tools-based players, while Billy wants proven hitters based on stats like OBP and slug: ging percentage.

  • Billy inserts Mark Teahen onto the draft board, a local player from a small college the scouts had not considered. His stats impress Billy and Paul as a good hitter profile.

  • The scouts are skeptical as they had not heard Teahen’s name connected to other teams or discussions all year. But Billy questions only caring about players other scouts like rather than who is the best hitter.

So in summary, it shows tensions between Billy’s analytic/stats-based approach and the scouts’ more traditional evaluation of tools and upside in their draft discussions.

  • Scout notes that Perry looks impressive when he does something right in his swing, but needs some work. Billy says you can’t change players, they are who they are.

  • Billy takes interest in Jeremy Brown, a catcher from the University of Alabama with a history of hitting and walks. The scouts doubt Brown due to his body type.

  • An argument ensues between Billy and the scouts over the merits of Brown. Billy focuses on Brown’s hitting ability and plate discipline while the scouts criticize his body and fielding.

  • The debate comes down to differing philosophies - the scouts rely on in-person scouting while Billy trusts statistical analysis to identify undervalued talents like Brown. The scouts are skeptical of Brown and doubtful analytics can reliably predict success, while Billy believes blending statistics and scouting provides an edge.

  • Billy Beane was a highly touted prospect drafted by the New York Mets out of high school in 1980. However, he struggled in his first professional season playing against much older college players in rookie ball.

  • The Mets had misjudged Billy’s nature by putting him on a high-level rookie team instead of with other high school players. This set him up to fail against more advanced competition using pitches like sliders.

  • Billy hit only .210 in his first short season and didn’t know how to process or make sense of that statistical failure. Baseball was tied to his identity as a success.

  • So after the season ended, Billy enrolled in college classes and essentially walked away from pursuing professional baseball further, unable to see himself as anything other than a success on the field. The Mets had miscalculated Billy’s psychological makeup and readiness for pro ball.

  • Billy Beane showed great promise as a prospect but struggled when he started playing minor league baseball for the Mets. While teammates like Darryl Strawberry excelled, Billy hit just .220 and doubts started creeping in.

  • He lived with teammate Lenny Dykstra, who had a different mental approach - Dykstra didn’t overthink things and had complete confidence even against great pitchers. This highlighted for Billy that he didn’t have the same baseball mindset.

  • Billy started to question if he really wanted to play baseball and whether he was cut out for it. The Mets manager Davey Johnson even told Billy he didn’t think Billy really wanted to play.

  • Billy kept playing but the difference between how others saw his potential and who he was as a player grew. He relied on his physical skills to get by but struggled with consistency at the plate. Billy took his emotions and frustrations from batting into his play.

  • While teammates saw his amazing physical abilities, Billy himself started to realize playing baseball was not his destiny and he may not have had the right mentality for the sport. This led to ongoing doubts about his career.

  • Billy Beane tried switch-hitting in Double-A ball in 1983 in response to struggles against right-handed pitching. He had early success hitting left-handed but then slumped and went back to hitting righty only.

  • In late 1984, Billy and Lenny came up to the majors briefly for the Mets at the end of the season. Billy got his first MLB hit but was then immediately picked off first base.

  • In 1985, Lenny was brought up full-time while Billy remained in the minors. Lenny had success in the postseason while mentioning Billy should have been the star, not him.

  • The Mets traded Billy to the Twins in 1986. He was promised the starting left field job but got injured in spring training. In his first game back he went 5-5 with a home run but was then promptly taken out of the lineup.

  • Over the next 3.5 years Billy bounced between Triple-A and the majors with the Twins, Tigers, and A’s, struggling to adapt at the plate due to fear and lack of confidence.

  • During his time he witnessed success of others like Lenny Dykstra, Darryl Strawberry, and played for famous managers but never panned out statistically himself due to perceived “makeup” and mental issues.

  • He briefly worked with baseball psychologist Harvey Dorfman of the A’s, who felt Billy hid from his demons and lacked coping skills and perspective, viewing himself only through stats. But Billy did not think his “character” could truly be changed.

  • Billy Beane gave up on his baseball career in 1990 after realizing he wasn’t living up to expectations and had other responsibilities as a husband and soon-to-be father. He asked to become an advance scout rather than continue playing.

  • Sandy Alderson was skeptical of Beane’s request but didn’t see much risk in hiring him as a scout. Alderson was determined to run the A’s in a more analytical, scientific way rather than relying on baseball traditions.

  • After new owners demanded a tighter budget, Alderson concluded offensive production, especially getting on base, was the most important aspect of building a successful team. He focused the A’s organization on emphasizing hitting over other skills.

  • Beane walked into the A’s front office in 1993 as Alderson was beginning to implement more analytical, evidence-based approaches to player evaluation, strategies, and resource allocation based on statistical analyses of baseball data.

  • Sandy Alderson implemented a new approach to hitting throughout the A’s organization focusing on on-base percentage. There were three main rules: every batter should act like a leadoff hitter and focus on getting on base, every batter should have home run power to force pitchers to be more cautious, and hitting is primarily a mental skill that can be taught.

  • By 1995, Alderson had created an organizational culture centered around on-base percentage. In his view, scoring runs was a process - if every player did their part, a team could score runs cheaper. He pushed this approach rigorously through the minor leagues.

  • Alderson’s system began to see results, as all A’s minor league teams started leading their leagues in walks. He closely monitored stats and pushed managers if teams weren’t drawing enough walks.

  • There was still conflict with the major league team approach under Tony La Russa. Players would regress to old habits when reaching the majors. This was resolved when La Russa left and a new manager, Art Howe, was hired to implement the front office’s ideas.

  • Billy Beane found purpose and guidance in Alderson’s new analytical approach after leaving baseball as a player. He embraced ideas from Bill James that Alderson had implemented, seeing an opportunity to succeed through objective analysis rather than traditional views. This opened Beane’s mind to new ways of evaluating the game.

  • Bill James grew up in a small town in Kansas and studied economics/literature in college. He had no clear role models as a writer.

  • He took a job as a night watchman at a pork and bean factory, where he began writing down his thoughts, especially about baseball. Everything he felt compelled to write about was related to baseball in some way.

  • His first self-published book in 1977 was called the Baseball Abstract. It was mostly statistics with brief explanatory paragraphs. It got the attention of 75 buyers.

  • He took issue with how fielding stats like errors were recorded and evaluated players. He argued they were subjective judgments rather than objective facts and didn’t capture the full picture of a player’s fielding ability.

  • James believed statistics about performance could convey deeper meanings about character, psychology, history if analyzed properly. The “numbers acquire the power of language.”

  • Conventional wisdom of evaluating players solely by watching games was inadequate. Statistics were needed to discern small performance differences not visible to the naked eye.

  • This was James’ first major challenge to baseball’s traditional thinking and reliance solely on observation over objective data. He argued a new statistical approach was needed.

  • Traditional baseball statistics like batting average and RBIs don’t fully capture a player’s contributions and can lead to misvaluation of players.

  • Bill James proposed a new statistic called “range factor” to better quantify fielding performance by counting the number of plays made per game.

  • While range factor had flaws, it showed a new approach of using counting statistics to shed light on aspects of the game not fully captured previously.

  • James’ broader mission was to systematically search for new baseball knowledge through statistical analysis, building on the work of early pioneers like Henry Chadwick who first created box scores but didn’t fully think through their implications.

  • Chadwick’s early statistics created distortions and perverse incentives due to oversimplifying aspects of the game. This led to players and strategies being systematically misunderstood.

  • James argued that with modern computing power and high salaries, it was important to more precisely quantify player contributions on both offense and defense through new statistics. This could correct misvaluations and inefficiencies in how the game was played and players were evaluated.

  • Bill James was obsessed with analyzing baseball statistics to understand how the game works at an empirical level. He spent huge amounts of time compiling over 40,000 individual stats to analyze hitting, pitching, and fielding.

  • Hitting statistics were most abundant and amenable to analysis. James focused on developing models to predict how many runs a team would score based on factors like walks, hits, stolen bases, etc. This became his “Runs Created” formula.

  • James’s models were surprisingly accurate at predicting actual team run totals from past seasons, implying the conventional wisdom of baseball professionals was flawed. His analysis supported giving more value to walks and extra base hits over batting average and sacrifices.

  • James’s work provoke interest from statisticians, economists, and other analysts who saw potential to uncover deeper patterns and relationships in baseball data. This included Carl Morris, Eddie Epstein, and hobbyists already analyzing stats.

  • While James’s own formulas were crude, he opened up the field of rigorous statistical analysis of baseball that others could take further. He viewed himself as a “mechanic with numbers” seeking to understand how the “machinery” of offense worked based on evidence.

  • Dick Cramer worked for SmithKline and used their computers to test his theories about baseball, like whether “clutch hitting” actually exists. He found no evidence that players perform differently in important situations.

  • Cramer shared his ideas by writing letters to a small group of like-minded analysts, including Pete Palmer. They independently developed similar offensive models to those of Bill James.

  • James’ writings gained popularity and attracted many intelligent readers from various fields who contributed their own analyses. This grew into a sabermetrics movement searching for new baseball knowledge.

  • The limited statistics available frustrated analysts. Major League Baseball did little to support fan research. James proposed independent scorekeeping by volunteers to collect better performance data unavailable publicly.

  • By the 1980s, James had a large group of knowledgeable correspondents peer-reviewing work and generating new data, advancing baseball studies as a serious analytical discipline rather than just an eccentric hobby.

-STATS Inc was founded by Dick Cramer in the 1980s to record comprehensive play-by-play data from baseball games that had never been collected before, like pitch counts, locations, batted ball distances. They tried selling this data to MLB teams but teams showed little interest.

-In the early 1980s, STATS Inc began collecting and analyzing this detailed game data themselves. They uncovered useful insights but MLB teams did not want to consider analytics that could challenge conventional wisdom. For example, STATS data showed the Astros would lose more games if fences were moved in, contrary to the planned change.

-In the 1980s, fantasy baseball leagues like Rotisserie Baseball grew hugely popular with fans who wanted statistical analysis to build better fantasy teams, even if not directly applying it. Bill James, who pioneered sabermetrics, was an important voice for these fantasy players.

-Despite deep fan interest, MLB teams resisted applying new statistical analysis. STATS Inc eventually had more success selling their data to media like ESPN than to MLB teams directly. The company grew but struggled to influence how teams were actually run. Real GMs did not truly embrace analytics yet.

  • Hiring a tour guide in Morocco, it’s best to pay off one guide so the other 75 who want to trade camels for your wife will stop bothering you.

  • In baseball front offices in the 1980s-90s, some GMs would hire “sabermetricians” or “stats guys” who analyzed numbers, but they were often seen as oddities and not taken seriously. Their input was rarely incorporated into decision-making.

  • Bill James, a pioneer of sabermetrics, wrote for years but was largely ignored by baseball insiders. He tried initially to explain his analytic approach to teams respectfully but later took a more confrontational tone out of frustration.

  • The Elias Sports Bureau, which kept official baseball stats, was dismissive of advanced stats analysis for a long time but later copied some of James’ ideas without truly understanding or applying them.

  • Even owners enthusiastic about sabermetrics, like John Henry who bought the Marlins, struggled to implement analytical changes within the traditional baseball culture. Insiders resisted non-traditional approaches.

  • It was very difficult for outsider analytics experts to have real influence on team decisions and operations from within baseball’s insular culture in the early decades of sabermetrics.

This passage provides context about the influence of baseball analyst Bill James on Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s organization. Some key points:

  • Bill James published the Baseball Abstract yearly from 1977-1988, challenging conventional wisdom and statistical analysis in baseball. His work helped establish sabermetrics.

  • By the time Billy Beane became GM of the A’s in 1997, he had read all of James’ Baseball Abstracts. James convinced Beane that many ideas about what makes a good baseball player were false.

  • In the late 1980s/early 1990s, several questions about evaluating players and game strategy remained unanswered, leaving opportunities for teams willing to challenge norms.

  • While James himself didn’t deeply analyze the amateur draft, his work suggested the South was overscouted and college players were a better investment than commonly believed.

  • Under Beane, the A’s implemented James’ ideas and continued developing analytical insights, gaining a competitive advantage through sabermetric evaluation of players and strategies. This passage sets up how James influenced Beane and the beginnings of the A’s analytics revolution.

  • Billy Beane, GM of the Oakland A’s, had developed a radical new strategy of evaluating players based on meaningful statistics rather than conventional scouting opinions or physical appearance.

  • The A’s scouts were reporting back from meetings with players they expected to draft. One was Steve Stanley, a small centerfielder the scouts had deemed too small but who got on base well. Another was Jeremy Brown, an Alabama catcher overlooked due to his size but who held school records.

  • Billy O, the A’s scout covering the South, had been working to change Brown’s low opinion of himself. He told Brown the A’s saw him as a potential first round pick and would offer $350k, much less than typical. Brown was in disbelief.

  • Beane was worried Brown might change his mind once drafted highly and pursued by agents. But Billy O assured him Brown understood and would sign.

  • The draft was about to begin where the A’s would implement Beane’s unconventional player evaluation strategy, focusing on players overlooked for superficial reasons.

  • The A’s want to draft Nick Swisher with their 16th pick. However, another team’s negotiations with their first pick fall through, triggering a chain reaction that affects other teams’ plans.

  • Specifically, Denard Span’s agent demands $2.6M, so Span falls in the draft and other teams change who they will pick. This means Swisher, who the A’s covet, will likely be picked by the Mets instead of falling to the A’s.

  • Billy Beane, the A’s GM, is enraged by this turn of events. He tries calling other GMs to change their plans but is unsuccessful. The draft room becomes very tense as they wait to see who will be available for their pick.

  • Eventually, the Mets GM tells Beane they will take a pitcher, Scott Kazmir, if he’s available, opening up the possibility of Swisher falling to the A’s. But it’s uncertain if Kazmir will make it to the Mets’ pick. The A’s hope another team like Detroit or Milwaukee will take someone other than Kazmir or Swisher.

  • So in summary, unexpected negotiations falling through trigger a chain of events that threatens to prevent the A’s from drafting their top prospect Nick Swisher, greatly upsetting Beane and stressful the draft room as they wait to see how it plays out.

  • Rinse Fielder is too large even for the Oakland A’s to consider drafting. No other baseball player in North America has this issue.

  • The Detroit Tigers may take Fielder anyway for sentimental reasons. If so, it could trigger a chain reaction that leads to the Mets getting one of their top draft choices.

  • The draft begins, with the A’s scouting director Erik Kubota directing proceedings. The A’s have a methodical strategy for selecting the best amateur players based on analytics.

  • Billy Beane and his team are hoping to get 6 of their top 20 prospects on their draft board. High school players being selected early increases their chances of their favored college players falling to them.

  • The A’s are able to select Nicholas Swisher with their first pick. Then they get fortunate when other teams pass on prospects the A’s ranked highly, allowing them to also select Aaron Blanton and John McCurdy with their next two picks. Beane and the A’s front office are elated with how their draft is unfolding according to their strategic plan.

  • Billy Beane and the A’s front office had an incredibly successful draft, acquiring many of the top players on their board despite having lower draft picks. This was due to their unconventional evaluation methods.

  • They drafted players dismissed by other teams’ scouts for being too short, skinny, fat, slow, or not throwing hard enough. They focused on skills other teams overlooked.

  • This created a separate market in Oakland where they found value that other teams missed. It was like a new Wall Street manager investing only in overlooked areas.

  • The draft resonated with young players who had always been told they didn’t look like pros. It gave hope to these “antitheses” of typical ballplayers.

  • The success of the draft challenged the traditional scouting methods of the older scouts. It drove many of them out since they didn’t agree with the A’s new approach.

  • Beane was thrilled with how the draft turned out, though he wasn’t sure if he had simply found new ways to evaluate players or truly eliminated subjective biases. Either way, it was one of his happiest days in baseball.

  • Major League Baseball commissioned a “Blue Ribbon Panel” to examine competitive imbalance due to economic differences between rich and poor teams. MLB commissioner Bud Selig hoped it would conclude salaries needed to be constrained and rich teams should subsidize poor ones.

  • The Panel’s report in 2000 did conclude this, citing the payroll disparity between rich and poor teams. However, Paul Volcker questioned why poor teams were still profitable and the Oakland A’s could succeed with a low payroll, winning 87 games in 1999 and improving.

  • Billy Beane presented to the Panel, arguing the A’s fanbase cared about winning over stars. They assembled a competitive team each year despite losing players to free agency. Between 1999-2001, the A’s won 87, 91, and 102 games respectively with expanding payroll differences.

  • By 2002, the A’s had lost three stars to free agency. Despite this, Paul DePodesta predicted they could still win 93-97 games based on their team’s past performance, enough to make the playoffs. The A’s success contradicted the argument that money bought wins in baseball.

  • Billy Beane developed a strategy of turning minor league pitchers into successful closers in order to sell them for a profit after they gained value from accumulating saves stats. This was more efficient than paying top dollar for established closers on the free agent market.

  • When closer Jason Isringhausen left via free agency, the A’s were able to get draft picks in return that they used to select new prospects. This showed how fungible players could be if you focused on finding and developing talent rather than paying stars.

  • Beane took a similar approach when Johnny Damon left, trading for replacement players and focusing on on-base percentage rather than flashy stolen bases or slug: ging stats.

  • Paul DePodesta developed a sabermetric model showing that on-base percentage was about 3 times more important for scoring runs than slug: ging percentage, a radical idea at the time. This informed the A’s strategy of underpaying for players who got on base over power hitters.

  • In summary, Beane focused on developing talent internally and replacing stars through trades and draft picks, recognizing that players were more fungible and replaceable than commonly believed if you focused on optimal sabermetric values like on-base percentage. This allowed the A’s to compete on a small budget.

The passage discusses the origins and work of AVM Systems, a company formed in 1994 by former Wall Street traders Ken Mauriello and Jack Armbruster to apply quantitative analysis to baseball.

As highly trained quant traders on Wall Street, they saw an opportunity to analyze baseball data more precisely and value players’ performances in a new way. Just as derivatives allowed more precise pricing of financial risk, AVM’s system broke down baseball plays into intricate components (“derivatives”) to evaluate luck versus skill.

Their detailed statistical model recorded every aspect of plays using grid coordinates and abandoned traditional baseball stats. This “parallel world” of abstracted derivatives data could more accurately value how players should be credited or debited.

Paul DePodesta was intrigued by AVM’s presentation as an intern. As GM of the Moneyball A’s, he later hired AVM and replicated their system to inform decisions like Johnny Damon’s defense. AVM showed how luck is not evenly distributed, opening DePodesta’s eyes to extracting it from evaluations.

Their Wall Street background taught Mauriello, Armbruster and later DePodesta to identify “inefficiencies” in how baseball players were valued, and to assign more precise “expected run values” to every on-field event and situation. This level of abstraction sought a “Platonic idea” of true player value.

  • The video room in the Oakland A’s clubhouse was a cramped space where players would study footage of themselves and opponents. Dan Feinstein, who worked there preparing tapes, didn’t have a good feeling about an upcoming game against the Yankees because “they’re better than us.”

  • Also working in the video room were David Forst, a former Harvard shortstop who joined the A’s front office after graduating, and Paul DePodesta, who was seen as an antidote to Billy Beane’s undisciplined approach.

  • The system they used analyzed past play-by-play data to estimate the expected value of different events, like hits and outs. This allowed them to quantify things like how many runs Johnny Damon saved in the outfield compared to potential replacements. However, there were still uncertainties about applying past performance to predict the future.

  • Jason Giambi was one of the A’s best players who left via free agency. Unlike other departures, losing Giambi’s offensive production was a real blow because advanced metrics showed he created runs very efficiently despite poor defense. Filling the hole left by his loss would be challenging.

  • Paul DePodesta became GM of the Blue Jays at age 28, the youngest in baseball history. He was meticulous about ideas and realized there was still new baseball knowledge to uncover.

  • Despite his analytical mindset, Paul had also played sports in high school. He was an outsider who found a way into a front office, carrying the spirit of Bill James who taught the value of asking “why.”

  • The A’s realized they couldn’t replace Jason Giambi exactly after he left, but could recreate his aggregate offensive production for less money. They acquired players like David Justice, Scott Hatteberg, and Jeremy Giambi who were less valuable to other teams due to perceived flaws.

  • Jeremy Giambi is a poor fielder put in left field because of his bat. He mishandles an early double. Paul is unfazed, seeing this as the price of Jeremy’s production.

  • Jason Giambi’s at-bat commands attention due to his talent and contract with the rival Yankees. Paul notes Giambi’s mastery of the strike zone allows him to wear down pitchers.

  • Every hitter has weaknesses in their swing, known as “holes.” These are areas of the strike zone where they are least effective and likely to make outs.

  • Hitting legend Ted Williams analyzed the strike zone and determined there were certain spots he hit under .270 if pitches were thrown there.

  • Jason Giambi’s particular weakness or “hole” was waist-high, inside pitches around the size of a pint of milk. Pitchers knew about this weakness.

  • However, aiming for a hitter’s weakness is risky as good hitters can still hit these pitches or foul them off aggressively. Pitchers are wary of missing their spots by even a little.

  • The A’s front office tracked every pitch thrown to their hitters and the percentage they swung at pitches out of the strike zone. This gave insights into batter disciplines and tendencies.

  • Younger, homegrown A’s hitters like Tejada and Chavez tended to swing at more bad pitches despite instruction, while veteran acquisitions like Giambi and Justice exhibited more discipline.

  • David Justice, at age 36, was still physically fit but considered “defective” due to his declining abilities from age, though an injury may have played a role the prior year as well.

Last season, David Justice struggled with declining skills as an aging slug: ger. The Oakland A’s signed him for $3.5 million, half of what the Yankees had paid him the previous year, with the Yankees picking up the other half. For the A’s, Justice represented an experiment to see if a player’s skills could maintain their level even as physical abilities declined with age.

General manager Billy Beane saw the A’s front office as conducting experiments on players, reducing them to statistical analyses of their skills rather than considering intangibles. Players were vaguely aware the front office guided their actions but didn’t know the details of Beane’s analytical approach. Beane was highly hands-on and involved in strategy, overriding manager Art Howe’s control. While some veteran players like Randy Velarde disliked Beane’s meddling, young stars like Barry Zito appreciated Beane’s unorthodox approaches and felt it gave the team a chance at success.

  • Before home games, Billy Beane would work out in the weight room to get in his own training and ensure players were also working out.

  • He couldn’t bear to watch the games live because he would get too upset and irrational if things went wrong.

  • Instead, he would drive around with a device that showed live scores to get a sense of how the game was going without watching directly.

  • When the A’s fell behind the Yankees 5-1, Billy peeked at the game in the manager’s office and complained about the pitching to an assistant GM and another staff member.

  • The A’s battled back but ultimately lost 7-5. Billy drove away to avoid watching the end.

  • The assistant GM tried to remain optimistic that the A’s 95-win season prediction was still on track, despite frustration with certain calls.

  • Scott Hatteberg, a former catcher signed by the A’s to replace Jason Giambi, came to the video room to review his own tape from the game.

  • Scott Hatteberg was a catcher who ruptured his throwing elbow nerve, ending his catching career. The Red Sox traded him to the Rockies, who quickly made clear they didn’t want to pay his arbitration amount of $1.5M.

  • The Rockies granted Hatteberg free agency and offered $500k, a 50% pay cut. He refused. The A’s called his agent on Christmas Day with interest.

  • Hatteberg signed with the A’s for 1 year plus a club option, with a $950k salary. Billy Beane informed him he would play first base, not his usual catching position.

  • Hatteberg lived in Washington in the offseason and was struggling with the transition from catcher to first baseman. He practiced taking grounders from his wife at a nearby tennis court to prepare.

  • Ron Washington was the A’s infield coach. He had 6 weeks in spring training to turn Hatteberg into the starting first baseman, despite his lack of experience at the new position.

  • Scott Hatteberg struggled when first playing first base for the Oakland A’s in spring training, unsure of what to do and feeling nervous. Coach Ron Washington worked with him to boost his confidence.

  • When the season started, Hatteberg began as the DH but expected to be benched once the regular first baseman returned. However, the A’s had a tailspin and Billy Beane made several roster changes, including demoting the first baseman, which left Hatteberg playing first by default.

  • Hatteberg continued to struggle at first, having trouble with routine plays. But with continued coaching from Washington, who called out encouragement, his play improved over time. By mid-summer he was seen as an “above average” first baseman.

  • Hatteberg’s talent for getting on base through walks was more valuable to the A’s than his power. He had a ability to work deep counts without striking out much, wearing down opposing pitchers. His on-base percentage was much higher than the league average.

So in summary, Hatteberg overcame early struggles to become a solid first baseman thanks to coaching and experience, while his prime skill of getting on base through walks was highly valued by the A’s analytical front office.

  • The passage discusses Scott Hatteberg’s talent as a hitter, particularly his ability to avoid striking out. This was valuable to the Oakland A’s as strikeouts are considered the most expensive outcome for a hitter.

  • It describes how Hatteberg didn’t seem to have any weaknesses in his swing. He was comfortable hitting with two strikes and wasn’t afraid to work deep counts. Most hitters have holes in their swing but scouts couldn’t identify one for Hatteberg.

  • Hatteberg’s patience and plan-based approach at the plate came naturally to him. He was drawn to role models like Don Mattingly who also thinkfully approached their at bats. Hatteberg worked to identify what pitches he could and couldn’t hit well from each pitcher.

  • Through preparation and avoiding unfavorable counts, Hatteberg was able to develop his talents and make it to the major leagues, unlike others who were exposed once opponents identified weaknesses in their swings. The passage ends by describing Hatteberg’s first major league at bat facing David Cone.

  • Scott Hatteberg, a rookie with the Red Sox, hits a double off the right field wall for his first major league hit. However, he pulls up halfway to second base when he sees Don Mattingly standing there.

  • Mattingly teases Hatteberg for not knowing where second base is and acting like a rookie. This interaction sticks with Hatteberg.

  • Hatteberg faces challenges with the Red Sox because his patient, careful approach to hitting is not valued. Coaches want players to swing aggressively. Wade Boggs faces similar criticism for his hitting approach.

  • When Hatteberg joins the A’s, his hitting approach is fully supported. Coaches appreciate his disciplined style and desire to get on base through walks and line drives instead of home runs.

  • Hatteberg thoroughly studies video of opposing pitchers, like Jamie Moyer, to gain an analytical advantage at the plate. The A’s approach to hitting emphasizes benefitting the team through each individual at-bat.

  • Scott Hatteberg watches video tapes of Jamie Moyer, who has previously shut out the A’s twice while Hatteberg was not in the lineup. Hatteberg wants to prove his manager (Art Howe) wrong for keeping lefties out of the lineup against lefties.

  • Moyer is an unorthodox pitcher at under 6 feet tall throwing around 80 mph but has great command and mixes speeds effectively. Hatteberg believes this distorts hitters’ perceptions.

  • Hatteberg analyzes Moyer’s pitches and believes he will try to get him pitching inside with two strikes.

  • John Mabry and David Justice discuss how Moyer preys on aggression and hitters thinking they can hit pitches they can’t reach. Feiny (a scout) engages in a back-and-forth with Mabry about simply not swinging at bad pitches.

  • During the game, Hatteberg draws a walk, singles in a run, flies out deep, and has a long at-bat against Moyer where Moyer stops on the mound and says something unexpectedly to Hatteberg.

The summary focuses on Hatteberg analyzing Moyer’s pitching style and having various exchanges with teammates and a scout about preparing to face Moyer’s unusual approach.

Here is a summary of the key events:

  • Mike Magnante pitches poorly in relief for the A’s, allowing 5 runs without recording an out against the Indians. This highlights the A’s weak left-handed relief pitching.

  • Billy Beane is frustrated with manager Art Howe for using Magnante in a close situation instead of their best reliever Chad Bradford.

  • Beane is waiting for a call from Indians GM Mark Shapiro, as the trading deadline approaches. He wants to acquire Indians reliever Ricardo Rincon, who had dominated the A’s the night before.

  • Magnante’s struggles emphasize the gap between the A’s weak lefty relief and Rincon’s strong performances for Cleveland. Beane uses the whiteboards in his office to track players on other teams he wants, like Rincon, and players on his own team he’s looking to trade, like Magnante.

  • Beane multitasks while waiting for Shapiro’s call, reading a magazine, ordering a book online, and critiquing the announcers’ views on clutch hitting and team performance. His goal is to acquire Rincon from Cleveland before the trading deadline.

  • The Cleveland Indians GM Mark Shapiro is looking to trade left-handed relief pitcher Ricardo Rincon and has another bidder besides the A’s.

  • Billy Beane finds out the other bidder is the San Francisco Giants and their offer may be better than what Billy has offered so far (a minor league 2B named Marshall MacDougal).

  • Billy comes up with a plan to make the Giants a less competitive bidder by offering them A’s left-handed reliever Mike Venafro for very little in return, both to raise cash and reduce the Giants’ interest in Rincon.

  • Billy calls the Giants GM Brian Sabean and pitches the Venafro deal. He then calls Shapiro and hints the market for Rincon is softening.

  • Shapiro calls back and says the other bidder lowered their offer, giving Billy a 2-hour window to get Rincon.

  • Billy and his assistant Paul scramble to trade Venafro to another team, calling the Mets GM and getting 15 minutes to propose a return player.

  • They flip through farm system books and settle on proposing minor league player Garcia to the Mets in exchange for Venafro, in their effort to get the money toacquire Rincon from Cleveland within the 2-hour window.

  • Billy Beane is trying to trade Mike Venafro and get $233,000 from the Mets. He speaks to Steve Phillips, their GM, to make a deal.

  • Billy tries to sell Venafro as a good pitcher and convince Phillips to trade for him. He also wants $233,000 in cash to help another trade.

  • The conversation does not go smoothly. Phillips is skeptical of Venafro’s abilities and Billy’s intentions.

  • Billy realizes the Mets think they will trade for Rincon instead. So he tells Phillips he will trade Venafro to the Giants for Luke Anderson unless the Mets make a better offer first.

  • Billy gets a call from Peter Gammons who tells him the Expos traded Cliff Floyd, another player Billy wanted.

  • The summary briefly describes Billy’s past moves in May where he traded away many players like Jeremy Giambi after the team was losing. He claimed the moves were not really necessary in hindsight.

  • Billy is working hard to make trades before the deadline to improve his team for the rest of the season. The conversation with Phillips does not lead to an immediate deal.

  • Billy Beane, GM of the Oakland A’s, was trying to make a “Fucking A” trade to improve his team for the playoffs, as they were only in third place in their division despite winning games.

  • He had been dangling Carlos Pena as trade bait but ultimately dealt him to Detroit for Jeff Weaver, then traded Weaver to the Yankees for Ted Lilly. He also extracted $600K from Detroit in the process.

  • He continued trying to make other trades, coming close on some but failing to land players like Randy Winn or Raul Ibanez.

  • He then used Cory Lidle as trade bait, nearly getting Magglio Ordonez from the White Sox but settling for their 2B Ray Durham instead in a deal where he only gave up a minor league pitcher.

  • Durham was valuable as he would become a free agent, netting the A’s compensation draft picks. Billy was betting labor negotiations wouldn’t eliminate this.

  • He tried to acquire Cliff Floyd from the Expos but was outbid by the Red Sox. He then called the Expos GM to question the value of the players Boston offered, in an attempt to insert himself in the deal.

  • Billy Beane is trying to convince Omar Minaya, GM of the Montreal Expos, to get more from the Boston Red Sox in a trade for Cliff Floyd.

  • The Red Sox really want Floyd to make a playoff push and are willing to overpay. Beane thinks Minaya can extract more from them.

  • Beane’s plan is for Minaya to give him Floyd temporarily, so he can negotiate directly with Boston and get additional players. He would then give those extra players to Minaya.

  • Specifically, Beane wants Minaya to demand prospect Kevin Youkilis from Boston in the deal. Beane thinks the Red Sox won’t refuse because they don’t want the embarrassment of losing the trade over an unknown minor leaguer.

  • Minaya is skeptical but intrigued by Youkilis. Beane talks him up more, trying to convince Minaya to make the demand to Boston.

  • Ultimately, Minaya doesn’t fully commit to pushing the Red Sox for Youkilis. Beane suspects the trade will go through without that extra piece.

So in summary, Beane sees an opportunity for Minaya to maximize return from Boston’s eagerness, but Minaya isn’t fully onboard with Beane’s proposed tactic of demanding Youkilis.

  • The Oakland A’s were attempting to tie an MLB record by winning their 20th consecutive game.

  • In the 7th inning with an 11-5 lead, starter Tim Hudson got into trouble by allowing two singles.

  • Manager Art Howe had to decide whom to bring in from the bullpen. The options included Mike Venafro, Jeff Tam, Micah Bowie, Scott Sauerbeck, Ricardo Rincon, Billy Koch, and Chad Bradford.

  • Of these options, GM Billy Beane had instructed Howe to bring in Chad Bradford whenever the game was close. Though this game wasn’t close, Bradford was called in due to the historical significance of trying to win their 20th straight.

  • Bradford proceeded to walk from the bullpen to the field to enter the game. The A’s were attempting to make history with this pitching change.

Chad Bradford is a relief pitcher for the Oakland A’s who has an unconventional pitching style and demeanor. He throws from an extremely low arm angle, almost underhand, in a submariner motion. Bradford does not draw attention to himself and gets visibly uncomfortable if the cameras focus on him.

He grew up in Mississippi with his family, including his father who had a debilitating stroke. Against the odds, his father regained some mobility and was eventually able to play catch with Bradford, though he could only toss the ball back underhand. This early experience with an underhand style may have contributed to Bradford developing his unique pitching motion.

In the majors, Bradford is one of the most effective relievers in baseball but pitches in a way that is difficult to describe. He is valued by the A’s for his ability to get outs despite his unorthodox approach. Bradford wants to succeed but also wants to avoid attention, which grows increasingly difficult as his performance brings more notice. His pitching success seems to stem as much from imagination and mental adjustments as physical skills.

  • Chad Bradford had a strange sidearm throwing motion that his high school baseball coach Bill “Moose” Perry taught him, after Chad showed interest in pitching.

  • Moose didn’t think Chad had much talent as a pitcher and rarely let him pitch in meaningful games. Chad’s throwing motion was awkward and unconventional.

  • With the new sidearm motion, Chad’s fastball got movement that made it harder for hitters. He practiced repeatedly throwing against the side of his house.

  • His father built him a homemade pitcher’s mound in their yard to practice on. Chad spent hours refining his strange motion.

  • Chad was not a star player in high school or college but kept playing because he loved the game. Australian scout Warren Hughes took an interest in Chad because of his unusual throwing style.

  • Hughes repeatedly saw Chad pitch in college over multiple seasons. He eventually convinced the White Sox to sign Chad despite his unconventional skills. Chad went on to have success as a major league pitcher.

  • Warren Hughes was the lone scout who showed interest in Chad Bradford, a soft-tossing pitcher from Mississippi. He convinced the White Sox to draft Chad in the later rounds.

  • Chad struggled initially in the minor leagues, with an 86 mph fastball that wasn’t effective. He considered quitting to finish college.

  • Before the 1998 season, Chad unconsciously changed his delivery to come from a lower arm angle. This gave his pitches more movement and deception.

  • Chad was promoted to Triple-A in a difficult park known for killing pitching careers. However, he adapted by lowering his arm angle further, effectively underhand. This allowed him to dominate hitters there.

  • Chad’s unexpected success led to his call-up to the major leagues with the White Sox. He threw well in his debut, retiring the first 7 batters. He spent the rest of the season effectively pitching out of the White Sox bullpen.

  • Despite his unorthodox delivery, Chad found success by constantly adapting his approach as needed to get hitters out at higher levels of competition. This was guided by his singular focus on being a big league pitcher.

  • Chad Bradford had success pitching in the minor leagues but the White Sox did not trust his statistics and viewed him as a “Triple-A guy.” For two years he bounced between the majors and minors despite dominating Triple-A.

  • Voros McCracken, a paralegal bored with his job, took an interest in analyzing baseball stats. He came to the radical conclusion that pitchers have no control over whether a ball in play results in a hit, contrary to conventional wisdom.

  • McCracken noticed pitching stats like hits allowed varied wildly from year to year for great pitchers like Greg Maddux, and there was no correlation between years. But walks, Ks, and HRs were more consistent.

  • If defense/ballpark didn’t explain variations and pitchers couldn’t control hits in play, McCracken hypothesize that what was thought to be a pitcher’s skill was actually just luck. He set out to disprove his own theory by analyzing matched pitching stats.

So in summary, McCracken developed the idea through stats analysis that pitchers have less control over outcomes than believed, which explained the White Sox’ doubtful view of Bradford despite his minor league success.

  • Voros McCracken analyzed pitching stats from 1999 and found no correlation between a pitcher’s ability to limit hits per balls in play from one year to the next. This challenged the idea that pitchers could control this.

  • In 2000, McCracken looked for reasons why pitchers like Greg Maddux gave up hits but found none. He published an article arguing pitchers have little control over limiting hits per balls in play.

  • Bill James and others tried and failed to disprove McCracken’s theory. James ultimately conceded McCracken was correct and that it was an important realization, even if he wished he had figured it out earlier.

  • McCracken’s analysis led him to notice Triple-A pitcher Chad Bradford’s excellent defense-independent stats. He drafted Bradford to his fantasy team.

  • McCracken’s theory helped explain the Oakland A’s belief that reliable pitching stats could be created from walks, strikeouts, and home runs. Bradford fit this profile.

  • The A’s acquired Bradford from the White Sox, believing his unusual pitching style had caused the scouts to underrate his true ability, as indicated by his stats. McCracken’s work was influential in the A’s identification and acquisition of Bradford.

  • Billy Beane, GM of the Oakland A’s, did not intend to watch the game where his team was attempting to win their 20th game in a row, as he claims watching games provides only subjective emotion.

  • Marketing demanded he stay to promote the team given the national attention. He hid in the weight room until the A’s were comfortably winning 11-0 in the 3rd inning.

  • Relaxed in the manager’s office watching, Billy had a calm, detached demeanor believing the game can be reduced to statistics and probability.

  • He pointed out how talented third baseman Eric Chavez was at age 24 based on comparing his stats to other stars at that age like Giambi, Bonds, and Rodriguez.

  • Billy argued players’ careers tend to follow statistical patterns and Chavez’s career was “a lock” barring injury. He waived off concerns about Chavez’s free-swinging, saying at age 24 with looks and money, he could swing at anything.

  • This showed Billy’s rational, statistical view of running the team where players “are who they are” and the GM’s job is building the roster, not changing players.

  • Billy Beane is the general manager of the Oakland A’s who takes a analytical, “objective” view of baseball and his players. However, he also covertly tries to manipulate player behavior through subtle comments and bets.

  • During a high-stakes game, Beane notes subtle changes in how some players like Terrence Long and Ramon Hernandez are performing, suggesting his prior interactions with them have had an impact.

  • Pitcher Chad Bradford is going through a slump which is mentally affecting him. He lacks confidence even though his past success suggests he should believe in himself.

  • His pitching coach Rick Peterson tries to boost Bradford’s confidence by having him watch tape of himself successfully getting batters out in the past. However, Bradford remains plagued by doubts and insecurity due to never having overpowering stuff.

  • Beane recognizes Bradford is struggling with an internal issue of insecurity that science and analytics cannot address or fix. It remains a problem even for someone as analytically-minded as Beane.

  • Billy Beane reluctantly watches a baseball game between the A’s and Royals with the narrator.

  • Chad Bradford comes in for the A’s in relief and quickly gets into trouble, walking two batters. Miguel Tejada then makes an error on a routine ground ball, loading the bases.

  • Art Howe takes Bradford out and the new pitcher gives up a run. Howe then replaces the pitcher again, bringing in Jeff Tam.

  • Tam allows a game-tying home run to Royals hitter Mike Sweeney. Billy Beane becomes increasingly frustrated and angry with the events unfolding.

  • He storms out of the room multiple times to pace around. The game eventually ends tied in the bottom of the 9th when the Royals score another run off the A’s relief pitching.

So in summary, Billy Beane is dragged into watching a crucial A’s game but grows furious as their large lead evaporates due to pitching mistakes and errors, culminating in a blown save and tied game.

  • Scott Hatteberg is pinch hitting for the A’s in the bottom of the 9th inning with the score tied 11-11 against the Royals. He is using an unapproved bat given to him by a stranger.

  • He faces pitcher Jason Grimsley who throws hard sinkers. Hatteberg had faced him before and only saw sinkers. His plan is to lay off the first pitch and look for something higher in the zone.

  • He lays off the first low sinker, then hits the second pitch high in the zone deep into the outfield stands for a walk-off home run. He is in disbelief as he rounds the bases.

  • Meanwhile, infield/hitting coaches Ron Washington and Thad Bosley are watching Ray Durham hit in the cages. They comment on his talent and speed, reminiscing about stealing bases in their playing days (Washington stole 57 bases one year, Bosley stole 90 bases).

  • Ray Durham is impressed by their base stealing feats. He knows it’s different playing for the A’s under Billy Beane’s non-traditional approach compared to other teams.

  • Ray Durham was traded to the Oakland A’s and was surprised to learn Billy Beane wanted him to play center field, as he hadn’t played outfield since high school. His agent quickly shut down that idea.

  • While willing to help the team, Ray saw himself as an All-Star second baseman and didn’t want to jeopardize his future by playing out of position.

  • Ray had always stolen bases throughout his career, but the A’s coaches told him to stop trying and play it safe on the bases, which went against his instincts.

  • Ray, Wash, and Boz formed a small group within the A’s who still believed in speed and aggressive base running. They felt this approach wouldn’t work in the playoffs where scores are usually low.

  • Towards the end of the season and in the playoffs, there was pressure on Beane to change his unconventional strategies and embrace more traditional approaches like bunting and manufacturing runs.

  • Beane reviewed stats showing the A’s scored more runs than the Twins despite the Twins having a higher batting average and slug: ging percentage, because the Twins gave away more outs through caught stealings and sacrifice bunts.

  • The Oakland A’s lost to the Minnesota Twins in the 2001 MLB playoffs. This sparked criticism from baseball insiders like Joe Morgan who argued the A’s strategy of focusing on walks and home runs instead of manufacturing runs didn’t work in the playoffs.

  • Morgan made this argument during games, even as the A’s scored runs without manufacturing. The A’s games scores were also higher in the playoffs compared to the regular season.

  • After losing, the A’s GM Paul DePodesta noted their offensive philosophy wasn’t really the problem, as they scored more in the playoffs. The real issue was two poor starting pitching performances.

  • Billy Beane, the A’s GM, was relatively calm about the playoff loss since he viewed the small sample size of playoffs as more luck-based. His goal was just to get the team to the playoffs.

  • Beane was frustrated no one recognized how efficiently he ran the low-budget A’s. To address this, he traded the A’s manager Art Howe to the Mets for salary relief.

  • Beane started thinking about trading himself, feeling he had taken the A’s concept as far as it could go without more resources. His innovative work was largely unnoticed or dismissed due to playoff failures.

  • Godfrey wanted to hire a GM with a strategy and vision beyond just asking for money to compete with the Yankees. All the top GMs he spoke to took that approach.

  • The only exception he found was Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s, who were playing a different “moneyball” game focused more on analytics than spending.

  • Unable to hire Beane, he offered the Jays job to Paul DePodesta but he declined. Godfrey then interviewed J.P. Ricciardi from the A’s and was impressed by his detailed plan focused on replacing expensive players with cheaper alternatives.

  • Ricciardi proceeded to overhaul the Jays roster, firing scouts and trading established players for minor leaguers. He closely watched games with an analytics expert.

  • John Henry hired Beane to overhaul the Red Sox with an analytics-focused approach, making him the highest paid GM. But Beane got cold feet and backed out, staying with the A’s.

  • Beane’s departure led to Paul DePodesta becoming GM of the A’s with David Forst as his assistant, focused on continuing the “moneyball” strategy.

  • Jeremy Brown and Nick Swisher were called up from Vancouver to Single-A Visalia after dominating in rookie ball. They had a long travel and arrived tired.

  • In Visalia, the new teammates were unfriendly and didn’t acknowledge Brown and Swisher. Brown overheard a teammate call him “The Badger” due to his body hair, mocking him.

  • However, Brown excelled in Visalia, quickly taking the starting catcher job and leading the team in batting average, on-base percentage, and slug: ging percentage.

  • His success earned him an invite to the A’s big league spring training camp, making him the only player from the 2002 draft to get that honor.

  • By then, Brown had changed the negative commentary about him in Baseball America. His new nickname from teammates was “Badge.”

  • In an instructional league game, Brown hit a ball deep to left-center field, imagining he could get a triple. However, he fell on his way to second base and injured his finger. The ball cleared the fence for a home run. His laughing teammates now admired his success.

The passage then shifts to a postscript discussing how baseball executives face less pressure than players and can tolerate incompetence more as the culture focuses on loyalty to an insider “Club” rather than business results. Disloyalty is a greater offense than poor job performance.

  • The book profiles Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s front office, who spent less money than other teams but achieved success through analytical and statistical evaluation of players.

  • When the book was published, it garnered a huge negative reaction from “baseball insiders” like scouts, GMs, writers, and commentators. They harshly criticized Beane for having an inflated ego and promoting himself.

  • The insiders tried to pressure Beane and others into denying or walking back the events portrayed in the book. They saw it as a threat to their status within the “club” of traditional baseball decision makers.

  • This created a phony debate, with insiders posing superficial criticisms and questions, while defenders of the analytical approach argued the actual ideas and evidence presented.

  • While Beane and the A’s didn’t discover advanced stats, the book gave them credit for bringing analytical methods into practical use at the MLB level, which challenged the traditional ways of many insiders.

  • Joe Morgan, as a prominent insider, unleashed the harshest criticism and showed how intensely the “club” viewed the book and its promotion of new analytical thinking as a threat.

  • Baseball writer Joe Morgan criticized Billy Beane and Moneyball in interviews, claiming Beane portrayed himself as smarter than everyone else in the book. However, Morgan hadn’t actually read the book and incorrectly believed Beane wrote it himself.

  • When people pointed out Beane didn’t write it, Morgan continued criticizing anyway and dismissing the ideas in the book.

  • J.P. Ricciardi, GM of the Toronto Blue Jays, adopted analytical approaches like Beane and significantly cut the team’s payroll but improved results.

  • Two writers for the Toronto Star, Geoff Baker and Richard Griffin, strongly opposed Ricciardi and his new methods.

  • Baker wrote an article questioning why the Blue Jays roster had fewer non-white players under Ricciardi. This sparked backlash claiming it implied racism with no evidence.

  • Griffin then defended Baker but used a poor example, claiming Jackie Robinson’s style of play wouldn’t fit the new analytical approaches, when in fact his stats aligned with what teams like Oakland valued.

  • The real issue wasn’t race for these writers, but resisting the challenge to traditional scouting from “nerds” employing new statistical analysis instead of relying on personal judgments. They attacked Beane, Ricciardi and ideas in Moneyball without openly engaging with them.

  • Baseball writer Sam Baker published a story claiming sabermetric-based teams like the Oakland A’s would inevitably fail. He received a backlash from sabermetric fans online.

  • The author notes how critics of the “Moneyball” approach took any exception to distort and disprove the larger arguments. Specifically around the A’s use of bunting in the playoffs.

  • The A’s had a successful 2003 season, winning more games than all but a few teams. They took a 2-0 series lead over the Red Sox in the playoffs.

  • Critics searched desperately for explanations of why the A’s would ultimately lose, settling on criticizing a bunt by Ramon Hernandez as contradicting sabermetric strategies.

  • The A’s ultimately lost the series but had another winning season, challenging the criticisms. The author argues opponents of sabermetrics grasp at any straws to prove their points.

  • Columnist Tracy Ringolsby is called out as one of the most obsessed critics of Billy Beane and sabermetrics. The author argues Ringolsby and others lack real understanding of what the A’s are doing.

So in summary, it outlines the backlash and grasping at straws by critics any time the Oakland A’s and sabermetric approaches succeeded, despite their larger arguments holding true.

The passage describes using hypnotic suggestion techniques to put someone into a trance by having them focus on a finger held up about 6 inches from their eyes. The hypnotist tells the subject that their legs and arms are growing very heavy and that they are going deep asleep.

It then provides some additional context about baseball statistics and analytics. It discusses the history of sabermetrics and key figures like Bill James. It explains various batting stats like on-base percentage and slug: ging percentage.

The passage profiles Oakland A’s player Scott Hatteberg and his strong performance in the 2002 season, noting his high on-base percentage and ratio of walks to strikeouts. It discusses the A’s strong second-half performance from 1999-2002. Finally, it briefly mentions Theo Epstein being hired as general manager of the Boston Red Sox at a young age with no prior professional playing experience.

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About Matheus Puppe