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Reason Writers At the Movies: Peter Suderman Reviews Moneyball In The Washington Times

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In today's Washington Times, Associate Editor Peter Suderman reviews the new adaptation of Michael Lewis's 2003 book, Moneyball.

What does it take to win at major league baseball? Drive, passion, certainty, conviction, intuition, experience, talent, practice, money—they're all important. But in "Moneyball," it turns out that the key to winning games is mostly just math.

Ostensibly, "Moneyball" is a sports film. But it's really a movie about management and decision-making, about business strategy and execution, about the power of numbers and our capacity to use them to our advantage. Even more than that, it's a movie about science, about information, about the triumph of rationalism over superstition.

That may not sound very exciting. How emotionally engaging could a movie about math and management really be? And yet despite—or perhaps because of—its nerdy analytical sensibility, "Moneyball" pulls out a big win without seeming too calculated. You might say it's statistically significant entertainment.

Whole thing here. 

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    1. You beat me to it!

    2. When they first announced it I wondered if I might have to sign a form or waiver or something, but I never heard word one from anybody so I’m pretty certain I’m not in it.

  1. It is also a load of bullshit. Allan Berra takes the book apart in the WSJ yesterday. http://online.wsj.com/article/…..llen+Barra

    And of course the As complete lack of success in the last 8 years kind of puts lie to the book as well. Look, the As got lucky on an incredible crop of young starting pitchers in the early 00s. The rest is just geek bullshit.

    1. Glad to see everything I was planning to say has been covered.

      1. But wait there is more. Sandy Alderson was the As general manager before Bean. And he was using a lot of the same methods but gets little credit in the book and no credit in the movie. And of course smart baseball people like Earl Weaver have known for years that guys who get on base a lot are valuable players. And you don’t need to do SABRMetrics to realize that there is no such thing as a “clutch hitter”. You only need to watch the game and seen guys like Gene Tennace hit .348 in a World Series while any number of truly great players have put up horrible numbers in the post season.

        1. the leadoff needs an OBP bet 4 & 500

        2. Gene Tenace was a pretty good ballplayer.

          1. He was. But he was a light hitting catcher. He wasn’t exactly Yogi Berra and he had no business hitting .348 in a World Series.

            1. BA’s, especially when tracked over short periods, have historically been notoriously misleading.

              As someone who played the game through college, and then coached it going on 30 years, I have witnessed a lot of guys hit laser beams right at outfielders and have o’fer games, while a team-mate would go 4-5 on a couple of baby flares and a couple of opposite field seein’ eye singles.

              A .348 BA for a 5-6 game series means nothing.

              1. That is my point. And that is why there is no such thing as clutch hitting.

                1. of course there is; its called RISP avg

    2. I don’t think the geek stuff is bullshit, but the book certainly over-values it. It’s a competitive advantage only when most of the competitors aren’t using it.

      The book made Kenny Williams look like an idiot. By then end of 2005, Kenny Williams had a World Series ring and Billy Beane still doesn’t have one.

      yet again, Hollywood is asking you to suspend far too much disbelief.

      1. Some of it is true. Yes, wins by starting pitchers is an overrated statistic. Yes, batting average is not the end all be all. But a lot of people knew that before the geeks came along. They act like everyone in the world was Joe Morgan before they came along and showed us the light.

        1. Don’t underestimate how much conventional wisdom and gut feelings dominate sports decision-making, though. Football in particular is regularly guilty of rejecting the unorthodox and of embracing players for totally irrational reasons, ignoring their limitations (and especially ignoring their important statistics).

          1. Football is the worst. They think they are so damned smart. But I swear two people of average intelligence armed with a Sporting News draft preview could draft as well as at least half of the teams in the league. They wouldn’t be the Patriots but there is no way they wouldn’t do better than the bottom feeders do.

            The NBA is the same way. How many times do GMs have to get burned by drafting big guys who can’t catch the ball and have no basketball skills beyond being big before they learn? Seriously, did anyone besides the Memphis Grizzlies not know that Hashim Thabeet was a stiff?

            1. I bitched about that in a post a while back. It’s about production and fitting into your scheme, not about much else.

              1. It amazes me how they will draft guys who didn’t produce or play hard in college just because they do well at the junior olympics held every year at the combine. If the guy doesn’t play hard or dominate in college before he has millions of dollars, what makes you think he will play hard and dominate a much higher level of competition after you give him millions of dollars?

                1. For defensive players, for instance, can they tackle? Do they show good instincts in getting angles and in positioning? Etc.

                  1. Zack Thomas pro. He played at Texas Tech. I watched him in college. He was a four year starter and a tackling machine as a middle linebacker. He just had incredible instincts and was always where the ball was. He went in like the third or fourth round because he was only five foot eleven. He ended up having like a ten year career and making multiple pro bowls because gee he could play football. What a concept.

            2. Seriously, did anyone besides the Memphis Grizzlies not know that Hashim Thabeet was a stiff?

              I knew that the first time I saw him play against WVU in Morgantown. It was obvious that his only skill was being really, really tall. That might work in college against most teams, but the NBA is a different story.

            3. How many times do GMs have to get burned by drafting big guys who can’t catch the ball and have no basketball skills beyond being big before they learn?

              What? Are you saying Manute Bol was a bad decision?

              1. I used to sit courtside next to the visiting team during Timberwolves games in the 80’s. Until you have that guy sitting at your feet, feeling the heat radiate from his body, you don’t understand just how big that guy was.

            4. Randy. Fucking. Moss.

              I take great delight that this self-important, lazy piece of shit never got a ring.

        2. They act like everyone in the world was Joe Morgan before they came along and showed us the light.

          People still send batters out there to bunt, even though bunting (to sacrifice – not for a hit) is indisputably statistically moronic.

          So I guess not everybody got the message.

          1. Apparently Bill James didn’t get the message about bunting either. He has this to say about the sacrifice bunt

            [T]he general argument against the bunt seems unpersuasive to me. The essential argument against the bunt is that the number of expected runs scored after a bunt attempt goes down in almost all situations when a bunt is used, and the expectation of scoring one run goes up only in a few situations.

            But this argument is unpersuasive, to me, because it assumes that there are two possible outcomes of a bunt: a “successful” bunt, which trades a base for and out, and an “unsuccessful” bunt, which involves an out with no gain. In reality, there are about a dozen fairly common outcomes of a bunt attempt. The most common of those is a foul ball, but others include a base hit, a fielder’s choice/all safe, a pop out, a pop out into a double play, an error on the third baseman, and a hit plus an error on the third baseman, or the second baseman if you’re talking about a drag bunt.

            Some of those outcomes are reasonably common, and others are quite significant even if they are statistically uncommon. For example, if there is a 2% chance that the third baseman will field the bunt and throw it up the first base line, that has a huge impact on the calculations, even though it is only a 2% chance. It seems to me that the argument against the bunt is unpersuasive unless you account for the entire range of reasonably common outcomes.

            … [W]e are in danger of replacing one dogma with another. And the analysis is not strong enough to justify that.

            http://thenats.blogspot.com/20…..-bunt.html

            1. He also gave credit to the Pirates 2nd baseman during the Bonds/Bonilla era (whose name Im forgetting) because he was bunting for a hit, and taking the sacrifice.

              But, he has generally been critical of the early game sacrifice too. And other little ball strategies.

            2. If you’ve built your team properly (and have batters who have high .OPB and low strikeout numbers) I can’t see a situation where you’re better off bunting.

              Let’s say your punching bag, JD Drew, comes to the plate with a runner on first and second and no one out.

              Classic bunt situation, right?

              Except his OBP was usually around .400. That means if I just leave him up there, 4 times out of 10 I’ll end up with the bases loaded and no one out. I’ll take that over second and third with one out. Especially since even in the 6 in 10 times Drew makes an out, he often moves one or more runners over anyway (flyout to center or right; groundout deep in either hole).

              Bunting is there to feed the manager’s ego. “Look at me, I manufactured a run, I’m so important!” Just get good players and let them hit, dude.

              1. “That means if I just leave him up there, 4 times out of 10 I’ll end up with the bases loaded and no one out. I’ll take that over second and third with one out.”

                With a forceout at every base and a good chance of hitting into a double or triple play?

              2. What’s his % GIDP when there’s a man on 1st and third. It depends what kind of outs the guy gets. If he hits a lot of grounders, you want him to bunt because chances are higher that he’ll GIDP when the defense is playing at double play depth.

                1. The whole argument is a pointless exercise since we all know JD Drew would strike out every time this happens from the third inning on.

                2. People also pop out into double plays when bunting.

                  Bunting isn’t automatically successful.

                  We have to compare his X% chance of successfully sacrificing with his Y% OBP. While keeping in mind that even a successful is less productive of net runs over the course of a season than hitting away successfully.

          2. People still send batters out there to bunt, even though bunting (to sacrifice – not for a hit) is indisputably statistically moronic.

            No it isn’t. It is totally dependent on the leverage of the situation. Generally speaking, bunting in the first 6 innings (with position players) is stupid. But there are situations where it is a good strategy and you better have a couple players on the roster who are capable of doing it. If you go a whole year without bunting, you won’t be able to do it when it becomes strategically possible; hell, if you don’t bunt the infield will play back – you can get a few extra OBP points just by having infielders cheat in a step or two because of the possibility of a bunt.

            I remember watching Oakland in the playoffs and thinking “They ought to bunt in this situation and they won’t.” And it cost them a couple of playoff series. When you’re facing better teams, you’re facing better pitchers. And stuff that works against bad teams doesn’t work against better teams.

            When Beane says “My shit doesn’t work in the playoffs” it is BECAUSE IT’S SHIT.

      2. Also not mentioned is how many steroid-induced sluggers were on the A’s rosters.

        I’m not anti-steroids, I just think that maybe sabremetrics is covering up some of THAT story.

        1. That is the other part of the story. The As were famous for getting guys like Jason Giambi who walked a lot but were not that valued because they didn’t do much else. Then they mysteriously developed all this power after coming to the As.

          1. Except Moneyball deals with the 2002 As, and Giambi left after 2001. Also Giambi was drafted by the As and hit 20 HRs his first year and then hit 20, 27, 33, 43, 38 HRs. It wasn’t sudden “power after coming to the As”.

            And the theories behind Moneyball was really just exploiting undervalued players in baseball. The As and Billy Beane did acquire players for cheap that produced well, but then other teams caught on, and those same types of players were no longer undervalued.

            1. Exactly.

              And Beane has proven incapable of finding any categories of undervalued-but-should-not-be types of players.

              To me, that is the story. Beane was ahead of the curve ONCE. Isn’t that statistically insignificant?

              1. IMO, Beane isnt the point of moneyball.

                1. robc, it’s a David vs. Goliath story. David won a couple of battles.

                  But now Goliath is kicking his ass. And David appears to be incapable of finding any other weaknesses in his opponent.

                  1. It’s hard to beat Goliath when Goliath has a slingshot too. Look at the Rays. They’ve used a combination of good drafting and finding undervalued major leaguers (the point of Moneyball) to be successful for 4 years in a row on a shoestring budget in the same division as the sports’ twin Goliaths.

                    1. The point isn’t that someone can find undervalued players, there have ALWAYS been teams that have done that.

                      The point is whether they can do it consistently for 10-15 years. IMO, the better example of that is the Twins, not the A’s – they’ve had 3 GM’s in their run. Hell, I think the Expos in the 80’s and 90’s had a longer run than the A’s, they just couldn’t get any first-place finishes that didn’t get wiped out by strikes. And there was no more money-strapped club than Montreal.

      3. It’s a competitive advantage only when most of the competitors aren’t using it.

        Ding ding ding!

    3. It hasn’t worked in the last eight years?

      That’s funny, the Red Sox are a Moneyball team in every way, and they’ve done pretty well for the last 8 years (until the last week of this August anyway).

      1. The Red Sox also have the second largest payroll in baseball. They have blown more money on stupid contracts and mistakes than teams like Minnesota have for their entire payroll. The Red Sox succeed because when they fuck up and spend a gazzilion dollars on losers like JD Drew and Daisy K Matzusaka it doesn’t matter because they have so much money elsewhere. And I fail to see how you have to follow money ball to figure out five tool prospects like Pedroia and Ellsbury were a good idea to draft.

        1. The Cubs have the dollars too. They dont win. The Mets have the dollars. They dont win.

          Megabucks gives the advantage of being able to walk away from mistakes, but it in no way guarantees winning. The Red Sox had money all those years they werent winning.

          1. True. But the Red Sox also got lucky. Why did they win the two world series they did? They signed Manny Ramerez because Yankees were morons and decided to resign Bernie Williams instead. Think about what they did to win their titles. It wasn’t exactly moneyball that told them getting a playoff ace and Yankee killer Curt Shilling was a really good idea. And sure maybe moneyball said David Ortiz was a more valuable player than people thought. But no one had any idea he would magically turn into the hitter he did. And you didn’t have to do SABREmetrics to know that Manny Ramerez was the best right handed hitter since Dimaggio. He was unbelievable in Cleveland.

        2. I think you, like most Joe Morgans, are misled by the “Money” part of the Moneyball title.

          It was only cheap for Beane to sign guys using Sabremetrics while no one else was using Sabremetrics.

          The real story in Moneyball is the statistical revolution that changed the way players were evaluated.

          The Red Sox aren’t a Moneyball team because they have a low payroll. They’re a Moneyball team because they’re a Sabremetrics team.

          Even Drew (as frustrating a player as he was to watch) had a near .400 OBP year after year.

          The Red Sox went out and built and managed their team based on the “new” statistics and have had more success than they’ve ever had before.

          You can’t tell MNG money doesn’t matter and then tell me that money is everything, John.

          1. JD Drew also never played in more than a 140 games. I don’t think even the most die hard Boston fan would say he was anything approaching worth the money they paid him.

            Sure money matters, but it is not everything. My point is that I don’t think the Red Sox are a particularly competent front office. They just have money to paper over their mistakes. If they had the money the As have, they would be a five hundred team. If moneyball were this magic formula for success, the Red Sox wouldn’t fuck up so much.

            1. If moneyball were this magic formula for success, the Red Sox wouldn’t fuck up so much.

              Not true, money gives you the chance to take high risk/high reward gambles THAT ARE STILL STATISTICALLY BASED.

              Oakland couldnt afford that. They had to be right. So they took low risk/moderate reward gambles.

              The point being the Boston decision making is still sabrmetrically based, just they can make different decisions.

            2. My point is that I don’t think the Red Sox are a particularly competent front office.

              Coming from a Yankees fan, you’re dead wrong. And Theo Epstein is an avid user of sabermetrics (he even hired Bill James). Having more money helps of course, but the type of players the Red Sox targeted used sabermetric principles (and sabermetrics is NOT all about big high obp sluggers. It’s using more accurate and granular data to evaluate players.)

              1. All that competence is going to get you arguably the biggest collapse in baseball history. Best team evah!! Not to make the playoffs. Did sabermetrics tell Theo it is a good idea to pay $50 million for Daisy K or to build a team post 07 that had no competant catcher or shortstop? The 08-10 Red Sox were some of the most poorly constructed teams of the last 10 years. How can you have a hundred million dollars to spend and not bother to get a good catcher or shortstop?

                1. Saltalamacchia’s stats aren’t that bad. It’s a bad decade for catchers league-wide.

                  Varitek can’t throw anybody out, but the pitchers still demand he get playing time because they want him to call the game. I hate Varitek and have hated him for years, but when every pitcher who ever works with the guy demands that he be kept, he must be doing something right.

                  And Marco Scutaro is hitting .300.

                  1. Saltialamacchia is a credible catcher. But they didn’t get him until the end of 2010. And they didn’t get Scuraro until 2010. They spent the better part of two years with no shortstop and no catcher. To me, considering the money they spent, is inexcusable. They also were terrible in left field after they traded Manny.

                    1. They had Victor Martinez at catcher for part of that time.

                    2. Martinez’s hitting goes in the toilet when he plays catcher. He really needs to play first base or DH for his bat to be effective, which is why you are paying him all that money.

                      I think catcher is a really underrated position. Look at the Yankees. People remember their great position players. But they forget that from 1928 until 1964 they Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra and Elston Howard playing catcher. Dickey and Berra are two of the to three or four catchers of all time and Howard wasn’t bad. I don’t think that is a coincidence.

                    3. Cather is a HUGELY underrated position.

                      At every single level from LL to MLB, give me a smart/tough guy who understands pitching strategy, and can keep the ball in front of him, and I don’t care if he hits .185.

                2. Doesn’t this depend in part on what’s available? I don’t disagree with you, but if a competant shortstop (I think Scutaro is pretty competant) or catcher isn’t available, doesn’t it make sense to put your capital to work in other areas?

            3. My point is that I don’t think the Red Sox are a particularly competent front office.

              Coming from a Yankees fan, you’re dead wrong. And Theo Epstein is an avid user of sabermetrics (he even hired Bill James). Having more money helps of course, but the type of players the Red Sox targeted used sabermetric principles (and sabermetrics is NOT all about big high obp sluggers. It’s using more accurate and granular data to evaluate players.)

            4. Did you miss game 6 of the ALCS? Lots of Red Sox fans are quite happy with the “$70 million Grand Slam”.

              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8zTsZ2yD70

              1. So what? He got one big hit. Does that mean the Braves should have given Fransisco Cabrera seventy million? He had a pretty big post season hit too.

          2. As a fan of the Big Red Machine, growing up in the 70s in the Ohio Valley, I hate waht Joe Morgan has come to represent. But, damn, he deserves it.

            1. I always think they should lay off the guy. All these geeks that are always dogging him couldn’t make their junior high JV team. Morgan meanwhile might be the best second baseman of all time not named Rogers Hornesby. That ought to count for something.

              1. It does. On the field. In the booth, you start from scratch.

              2. You know Billy Beane was drafted in the first round of the MLB draft and that Paul DePodesta (the person Jonah Hill’s character was modeled after) played baseball AND football at Harvard, right?
                And this herp a derp stuff about sabermetrics geeks is so condescending and wrong. Hey I made my JV AND Varsity HS baseball team and played baseball until I was 21, and I love sabermetrics and enjoy baseball just as much. Just because you like to use your brain doesn’t mean you’re an unathletic geek that lives in your mother’s basement.

                1. The truth is what it is. The book is BS and Billy Beane is the most overrated sports figure this decade. He is not a great GM.

                  1. The truth is what you say it is? Ok. Billy Beane did very well early in the decade with a very small budget. It’s not easy to do, and it’s even harder to sustain especially when your better funded competitors adopt the principles that made you successful.

                    1. He did very well because he had three great young starting pitchers. Good for him. But that was why he won not moneyball. And that is why the book is BS.

                    2. Actually, part of the book deals with how to pick successful starting pitchers.

                    3. Actually, part of the book deals with how to pick successful starting pitchers.

                      He’s got a pretty good staff this year, too.

                      And probably the worst offense in both leagues.

                      Sabremetrics used to be underrated. And now it’s overrated.

                    4. Sabremetrics used to be underrated. And now it’s overrated.

                      What does this even mean? Sabermetrics is not one thing and there are constantly new developments. And EVERY team has a statistics department. Sure some teams emphasize it more than others, but sabermetrics has undoubtedly changed the Front Offices of MLB.

                    5. What does this even mean? Sabermetrics is not one thing and there are constantly new developments.

                      I said it before – its original purpose was not the be as predictive as it is presently being used by some. Certainly Beane shouldn’t have a last-place club like he does now if there are new developments he can take advantage of.

                    6. Beane doesn’t have a last place club. He’s had more playoff teams since Moneyball was published than last place clubs.

                    7. Has John actually read Moneyball?

                    8. I wonder. Ive loaned it to non-sports people to read as a business management book.

                      College football recruiters could learn a lot from the part where they identified the headcases in order to avoid drafting them.

                    9. Yes and it is BS. Most of the player Beane drafted were busts. And most of the insights were just common sense.

                    10. And most of the insights were just common sense.

                      Yeah? You’ve been saying how wrong Beane was this entire thread. And if it was just common sense, then why have so many teams spent a lot of time and money trying to advance their evaluations of players through advanced stats when almost none did before Billy Beane did? Billy Beane is not infallible or a god, but he was influential in getting sabermetrics embraced MLB-wide.

                    11. Didn’t Beane do a decent job of picking up free agents who played well for a year, letting them go the next year, whereupon they resumed sucking?

                      Beane also let those pitchers go at just the right time. Look at Zito. Look at Mulder. And then he’d have a Haren or Harden or some other pitcher waiting in the wings.

                      The only thing I never understood is why he held on to Eric Chavez so long.

                      Listen, as an A’s fan, I have to say, that period in the early 2000s when we had Zito, Mulder, and Hudson was a pretty fun time. I was always disappointed we choked it up against the Yankees every year, but the A’s were a fun team to watch. I give Beane a ton of credit for that even if we didn’t win a World Series.

                      And, as for the Red Sox, I mean, jesus, after 86 years, it’s amazing they had the payroll they’ve had and it took them so long.

                    12. “The only thing I never understood is why he held on to Eric Chavez so long.”

                      Inability to deal with sunk costs have made smarter people do dumber things.

                    13. “The only thing I never understood is why he held on to Eric Chavez so long.”

                      The Chavez thing killed him. Back when they were winning, he looked at all of his young talent and knew he could ink one guy to a long term deal and would have to eventually let the rest go. He picked Chavez.

                      Chavez then embarked on a string of ill-health for about five years where he was the highest paid player on the team and useless. The A’s last playoff appearance was also the last year Chavez was anything resembling healthy (even that year there were problems).

          3. The real story in Moneyball is the statistical revolution that changed the way players were evaluated.

            That is the story Lewis should have written.

            Instead he wrote a story about the genius of Billy Beane and his ability to find the player other teams are undervaluing. If you only know of one way to find undervalued players, you are sunk once the competitors do the same thing.

            1. More Voros, less Beane!!!

              Although, people have picked Voros theory apart too, finding all the exceptions…although none of them are surprising. What? A flyball v groundball adjustment…okay. Plus a knuckleball adjustment. Whatever.

            2. It is the story Lewis wrote, if you actually read it.

              1. If you knew about sabremetrics before reading Moneyball, it is a weak read.

      2. Exactly. Red Sox == A’s + $$$$

        1. If that were true and moneyball that valid, the Red Sox would have about five titles instead of being just a good big market team. Maybe they have gone away from Moneyball. But their front office decisions since 2007 have generally been horrible. They just have been able to cover it up with money. Has there been a franchise with three worse free agent signings than Drew, Lackey, and Daisy K? Oh and throw in Carl Crawford too, although he is only in his first year and may do better next.

          1. CC was very good most of his career–I doubt he suddenly sucks. On the other hand, it could just be a bad fit for some reason.

            1. The playoffs were not a one and eight crapshoot for the Yankees who won four out of five years. And the As run of playoffs ended right when Tim Hudson and Barry Zito left. It wasn’t moneyball, it was the pitchers they had.

          2. If that were true and moneyball that valid, the Red Sox would have about five titles instead of being just a good big market team

            That makes no sense. “Moneyball” adds a factor on to your chance of winning. There are still 29 other teams, so your odds arent that good to start with.

            With the A’s, it pushed them into a position to make the playoffs for a stretch of years.

            Ditto for the Red Sox, who werent doing it before that.

            Really, the playoffs are basically a 1 in 8 crapshoot.

            Get to playoffs, hope to get lucky. It worked for the Marlins. Twice.

            1. The playoffs were not a one and eight crapshoot for the Yankees who won four out of five years. And the As run of playoffs ended right when Tim Hudson and Barry Zito left. It wasn’t moneyball, it was the pitchers they had.

              1. Since the expanded playoffs started, the Yankees have made it 15 times and won 5. More than would be expected from a 1/8 shot, but I think it was a fluke. Since their 2000 title, they have made the playoffs 9 times, and won the WS once.

                1996-2000 was a fluke.

                1. I don’t see how you can say a five year run is a fluke. That is too large of a sample. One or maybe two years is a fluke. Five years cannot be a fluke.

                  1. Its possible that in that stretch they were so flukishly good that the 1/8 didnt apply to them. But then again, in 1997 the Marlins won the series. The fish have made the playoff twice and won the WS both times. Im fine with calling fluke on them too.

                    Since 2001, the Yankees have been the best team in baseball most of the time, and yet still only has the 1 title in 9 tries.

                    Look, the 1/8 is a rough approximation. Obviously, some teams are better built for the playoffs than others (strong 3 deep rotations, good bullpens), but even for them, I doubt it is any more than 1/4 or 1/5. The Yankees had a nice statistically insignificant run.

                    1. There have been exactly two teams that have won four tittles in five years. That is hardly statistically insignificant run. That is half a decade. Only the 36-41 Yankees and the 49-53 Yankees can stake a better claim. They have been paying world series for over a hundred years. That is statistically significant.

                    2. Lets assume that a great team has a 60% chance of winning a series instead of a 50% coin toss (Interesting, 60% is exactly the Yankees record in the 1st round of the playoffs since they expanded, 9 out of 15). The chances of a 60% team winning 3 rounds is 22%, which would lead to just over 3 expected WS wins in 15 tries.

                      The Yankees have been fluky good especially at the ALCS level, winning 7 of 9. Take that down to 5 of 9 and then 3 of 5 in WS and they are right about where expected.

                      The 4 in 5 years was a fluke. 7-2 in ALCS is a fluke, as is 5-2 in WS, but much less so. That the ALCS is their fluke level is funny, because that is the level the Sox beat them in that INSANELY FLUKY comeback from 3 games down.

                    3. Three world series in 15 tries. The Yankees have won five in 15 tries. That is nearly double the amount expected. That is statistically significant.

                    4. That is statistically significant.

                      You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

                      So If I flipped a coin 10 times and got 10 heads* (ZOMG! More twice as many as expected), it does not mean that I am good at flipping coins or that the result is statistically significant.

                      * Which will happen about once every thousand times

                    5. No Mo. If you have a large sample and something happens twice the amount it should if it were truly random, that is statistically significant and strong evidence that what is happening is not change. If you hit tails ten times in a row on your coin, that is good evidence your coin isn’t properly balanced and favors heads.

                      By your standard, no deviation no matter how big would ever be anything but a fluke.

                    1. Why? Because you say so? How can a team win four out of five years and do something only two other teams in history have done and have it be called a fluke? what does that even mean? If they had won 10 straight would you call that a fluke too? Why is five a fluke but ten not? You are just pulling this shit out of your ass.

                    2. Both RobC and Mo have decided up front that the Yankees success must be a fluke. So therefore, no matter how much their success deviates from the norm, it will be written off as a fluke. At some point the deviation from the norm because evidence that something other just random chance is going on. That is the point of statistical significance. A five year run of winning three rounds of playoffs is a very significant sample. I fail to see how someone could just get lucky and win four out of five years. And if such a thing were possible, why hasn’t it happened more often? When you say “fluke” what you really are saying is that rather than it being the result of excellence, it is the result of a wildly improbable statistical quirk. So, basically the Yankees in the 1990s were the luckiest team in the history of sports. Possible, but highly unlikely.

                    3. ITS NOT 4 IN 5, ITS 5 IN 15.

                      Which is less than 2 above the 3 a 60% team would be espected to win. A variance of 2 in that small a sample size is a fluke.

                    4. Jesus Rob, why stop at 15, why not go all the way back to 1980? It is a different team now than it was in 1996.

                    5. Those Yankees were really good/ great teams that made the playoffs and got some breaks along the way, as does every team that wins the World Series. The key is to get into the playoffs and after that it’s very unpredictable.

                    6. To me I think the difference for the Yankees was Rivera. They were playing 9 inning games and their opponents were playing seven inning games. A closer makes a huge difference in the post season. Put Rivera on the Braves in the late 1990s and they win four out of five.

                    7. Yes, it’s a statistical fluke. The best team doesn’t win every game (which is why March Madness is so fun). And the margin between the best team and the second best team is generally very small. As such it’s unlikely that a team would win that many series that many times.

                      Look at the Lakers of the 2000s. They had the best big man in the league and one of the best wings. The won a 3 peat, yet to do that, they needed questionable calls against the Kings in a game 6, a shot made when they got the ball with 0.4 seconds left and lost the chance of winning 4 in 5 years by losing to a team that was inferior talent-wise (you play that series 100 times and the Lakers likely win 55 of them).

                    8. The best team almost always wins a best of seven series. The Lakers were not the best team in 2003 or 2004. They were deeply flawed, lacking a point guard, Shaq was out of shape and unmotivated, and their two stars were barely on speaking terms. The Spurs and the Pistons were not the most talented teams those years but they were the best teams.

                      March Maddness is one and done. If baseball were one and done, you would have a point. It is instead best of seven. The best team almost always wins a best of seven series.

                    9. The best team almost always wins a best of seven series

                      Not really true and depends on how you define ‘best team’

          3. Drew was paid way too much – but until this year I can’t really argue with his “Moneyball” performance.

            He went out there and worked a 7 or 8 pitch count every at-bat, and put up OBP’s of .373, .408, and .392.

            He’s not a 15 million a year player obviously, but if you promised me his 2008-2009 stats forever I’d say, “Hey, great, I never need to find a right fielder ever again.”

            BIG DISCLAIMER: I hated Drew.

            1. Is it possible that the Red Sox fell in love with his OBP and ignored his other obvious flaws to over pay him? I don’t know a single St. Louis fan who wasn’t happy to see him go. That should have told the Red Sox something.

              1. He’s not a fun player to watch.

                He is extraordinarily boring. He leaves the bat on his shoulder trying to draw a walk very often. And he looks like he doesn’t give a shit one way or the other.

                Unfortunately, that made the Red Sox more likely to pick him up. Because the 2004 team had a lot of freaks and hotheads on it, Theo got in the habit of talking about how “professional” some of his acquisitions were. By “professional”, he meant “dead fish guys who look like they don’t care” like Drew and Jason Bay. I think sometimes Theo’s emotionalism gets in the way. We should just let the computer be GM and be done with it.

                1. See I think that says there is more to life than the computer. In 2004 they had a team that had great chemistry and was more than the sum of its parts. Post 2007 they seem to have teams that are less than their sum of their parts.

                  And they are poorly built. I think Epstein’s refusal to get a decent catcher and shortstop in the last few years is inexcusable. Jesus, Veretec was the worst catcher in the league in 2007 and he just got worse. I could steal a base on the guy. And they kept telling themselves all these lies about how he could handle the pitchers and that is all that matters. BS, catcher is one of the most important positions on the team. You can’t have an incompetent one. Same with shortstop.

                  1. Watching the other team run on your catcher is frustrating, but I really can only think of a handful of times when it’s cost them a game or even put a game in jeopardy.

                    The only guy who ever actually beat the Red Sox by running on Varitek now plays left field for them.

                    1. It is more than just running. It is passed balls. It is the extra pressure he puts on the pitcher to keep the guy from running. How many times did guys tee off on fastballs they knew were coming because they knew the pitcher was trying to make up for Veretec’s weak arm. We will never know, but I bet it is more than zero. A bad catcher is a major liability.

                    2. A bad catcher is a major liability.

                      The White Sox have done pretty well with a statistically bad catcher. Pierzynski is probably the most alert catcher in the game. But there’s no stats for that.

                  2. The 2004 Red Sox led the league in OBP (and Runs by 130) and allowed the 4th fewest runs in the AL. They were the best team in baseball that year.

                    1. They weren’t when you consider the entire season. They didn’t have the best record. If they were so good, how did they fall behind 3-0 to the Yankees? They won because they got lucky against Rivera in game four and the Yankees starting pitching completely collapsed. They started a 40 year old Kevin Brown who back was out in game 7. They were the best team in October, no question. But they were hardly an historically great team or clearly the best team all year.

                    2. Random variation. It happens. The Red Sox had better frontline pitching and better hitting than the Yankees. The 2004 Red Sox had a +180 run differential, second only to the Cardinals’ +196. They might not have been historically great, but they were really really good and the best team in American League.

                    3. Well the seven game series showed they were. Although, considering that the Red Sox swept the series against the Rockies, a team that beat the Cardinals, it makes you wonder if run differential means that much.

                      The Yankees pitching wasn’t that bad. Lieber Mussina and El Duque were good in that series. But Brown was hurt and horrible. Torre should have never sent him out there. That more than anything cost them the series.

          4. Sabremetrically speaking, Carl Crawford is a player to AVOID.

            His OBP has fluctuated wildly and his value is his speed. Which leaves most players by age 30.

            1. That is a good point. Why did the Red Sox spend so much money on him? Especially with the free agents that might be available this year.

              1. Because he beat them.

                Like I said, the human element gets the best of Theo sometimes.

                He gets odd fixations.

                He was ABSOLUTELY DETERMINED to get Edgar Renteria, and had decided to do this in advance. So they let Orlando Cabrera go, to make sure the slot would be open. But damned if I can see any statistical reason they would have done that. So it HAD to be that Theo had some kind of weird personal preference for Renteria.

                Signing Cabrera would have filled the shortstop hole properly for at least three years and probably until the end of the decade.

                I still shake my head about that.

                1. Orlando Cabrera seems to wear out his welcome VERY quickly wherever he goes. He even managed to piss off Ozzie Guillen and there is no one who lets players get away with shit more than Guillen.

          5. “If that were true and moneyball that valid, the Red Sox would have about five titles instead of being just a good big market team. Maybe they have gone away from Moneyball. But their front office decisions since 2007”

            Well I left in 2005, so that’s probably it. 🙂

        2. Exactly. Red Sox == A’s + $$$$

          I disagree. Beane used to find undervalued players. I don’t think Epstein has done that.

    4. Yeah…nobody in Major League Baseball has won jack over the past 10 years using Beane’s principles. It isn’t like any of his disciples successfully employed aspects of Moneyball to win 1 or 2 World Series rings for a bunch of Massholes.

      Nooop.

      1. And Brian Cashman also is a devotee of Sabermetrics. As is Jon Daniels and Andrew Friedman.

  2. finally baseball !

    hope the red sox complete their meltdown & drop to 3d.

    meanwhile, philly’s starting rotation is possibly the best evah !

    1. The Rays’ just moved up with Matt Moore’s start. Unbelievable. First major league start, gets the win, pitches five innings with four hits, one walk, no runs, and eleven strikeouts.

      1. Why didn’t they have Moore and Desmond Jennings up for the entire year?

        1. For Jennings, I’ve heard that he needed more development early on and was brought up at the right time.

          For Moore and in general, the Rays have to time everything to get the maximum tenure out of its internal talent. Otherwise, we can’t afford them and have to wave bye-bye, like with Carl Crawford.

          Maddon has done an incredible job with this team this year, what with the jettisoning of pay the team went through after last season.

          1. I think if they would have called them up earlier the Rays would be in the playoffs right now.

            1. Maybe with Jennings. Pitching hasn’t been the problem here.

              I think they’ll make the playoffs.

  3. Speaking of baseball – this guy takes OCD to a whole new level.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new…..ggest.html

  4. Bah, baseball. Not only is the sport just more boring, it demonstrates the inferiority of a system that doesn’t work to have meaningful equality between the teams, something that I should think would be of interest on this board…

    1. What is inferior about it? You end up with great teams and compelling matchups in the playoffs. I don’t see where enforced mediocrity like they have in the NFL, where the talent is spread so evenly none of the teams are interesting or compelling, is necessarily better.

      1. In the NFL you have much more hope that the teams at the top will move around, that every team will have some delightful talent worth coming to the stadium to watch, etc.

        It even promotes rather than limits hard work and excellence as you can’t just buy your way out of laziness and incompetence. A team like the Pats has to constantly work hard and develop an organizational ethos of excellence to stay on top every year, a team like the Yankees just cuts more checks…

        1. You can’t buy your way to the top in baseball. The Mets, Cubs, and Dodgers have tons of money. Yet they still lose. The Yankees had a huge payroll in the 1980s and had a single pennant and no championships to show for it. In contrast, teams like the White Sox, Cardinals and Phillies have won championships while not having the largest payrolls. Money doesn’t equal success.

          1. It’s still pretty strongly correlated, especially over time.

            1. The blue trendline indicates the positive correlation of team payroll and wins. The correlation coefficient works out to 0.64. The coefficient of determination (or R-squared) is 0.41, which means payroll explains 41 percent of a team’s win total.

              http://baseballanalysts.com/ar…..payrol.php

              And that’s just 3 seasons…

              1. “And that’s just 3 seasons…”

                So not a meaningful sample then.

                The Twins have never had money and won the WS in ’87 & ’92.

              2. One of the problems with this argument is that there are issues with the causation arrows. Better players cost more money and so better teams will have higher payrolls. This is as it should be.

                Even teams that could theoretically afford to spend more on players don’t if doing so isn’t likely to make them a playoff team. Also the numbers aren’t quite as strong when you use pre-season payrolls, because as teams have winning seasons they add payroll as the season goes on and losing teams do the opposite.

    2. That’s debatable. A much better example would be Britain’s Premier League football, where the top 4 teams really aren’t in question from year to year.

      1. I do think some sort of salary cap might be a good idea for getting a little more variety in our baseball entertainment. What I reject is the strange idea that enforced parity to give us a certain kind of entertainment someone translates into real-world economics.

        1. You get better games with parity because there is more equality and fairness, this forces teams to develop an ethos of excellence and compete harder, to make better decisions, etc.

          I’d say all that has lots of implications for our economy and society…

    3. demonstrates the inferiority of a system that doesn’t work to have meaningful equality between the teams

      I think you forgot to mention the part about government involvement in enforcing professional sports monopolies onto the American public at the expense of individual liberty.

  5. Baseball follows a libertarian model; if the owner has much more money and wants to spend it they can. In the NFL there are restrictions on that kind of thing, the restrictions keep the teams fairly equal in that area, and the result is much better game for all involved.

    We could learn something from that methinks.

    1. You view economics as entertainment?

    2. I think you are wrong about that. The NFL was much better back in the 80s and 90s before the salary cap when you had great teams. Teams like the old 49ers and the mid 90s Cowboys were complete teams. They produced great football. I would rather have a few great teams then no great teams and bunch of flawed teams competing every year.

      1. I thought it was tiresome to watch those teams dominate. The teams move around more in dominance; it makes the game less predictable and fun and exposes more towns to winning seasons and big games.

        1. I didn’t think it was because you always had more than one great team. Now we never get matchups and rivalries like the old 49ers Cowboys or Giants and Redskins. You get a random collection of teams in the playoffs where virtually any team can get hot and win. It is a matter of taste. But I find it boring.

          1. I don’t care to watch teams with huge advantages in resources beat the shit out of and dominate less advantaged teams and then battle it out in the end, but maybe that is the liberal in me ;).

    3. As far as I know both follow the libertarian model. They don’t point guns at anybody and steal their shit.

      1. [cough]stadium financing[cough]

        1. +1 billion (in taxpayer funds)

    4. the anti-trust exemption plays into this MNG which the NFL, NBA, & NHL dont have.

      1. The NFL has an anti-trust exemption that allowed the merger of the NFL and AFL.

    5. No it doesn’t follow the libertarian model.

      In the libertarian model the owners would be allowed to collude.

      In a league that employed collusion, you could get much more revenue-sharing, stronger salary caps, etc.

      1. In fact, half of the things that the NFL does in its labor agreement wouldn’t stand up to a vigorous antitrust challenge, if one was ever made and was honestly litigated (which would never happen, since whatever judge got the case would probably just Landis the thing into oblivion because the NFL can’t be trifled with.)

        1. The USFL agrees.

      2. Er, the owners of the NFL do collude via the labor exemption to anti-trust laws.

    6. Of course, MNG, the point of a league is to field as many entertaining (which is to say, close) games as possible.

      The point of an economy is somewhat different.

    7. The Rays have been good since 2008 with a tiny payroll. And the Twins have been good for the last decade until this year, with a small payroll (though a very rich owner).

    8. In the last 20 years 12 different teams have won the World Series and 13 different teams have won the Super Bowl. If you look at just the last ten years, which takes out the Yankees three-peat, more unique teams have won the World Series than have won the Super Bowl (9 to 7). Baseball arguably has more parity today than football. And spare me the shit about some teams always dominate and some teams always lose. Football has the exact same issue (Patriots, Steelers, Colts, Lions, Jaguars, Browns, etc). Basketball has less parity then any sport and they have a salary cap and maximum salaries, so it’s a bit simplistic to suggest that hard salary caps equal parity.

      1. Also, if memory serves, the Yankees weren’t exactly big spenders in the 90’s when they did the three-peat. They won with cheap homegrown talent (Rivera, Posada, Pettite, Jeter, etc.). Those guys got their big contracts in 00’s when the Yankees became the highest payroll team. They’ve only won one title since 2000.

      2. Football is interesting, though. Some of the teams that dominate the regular season do poorly in the postseason. That’s usually due to having a good offense and no defense, which doesn’t usually work in the postseason.

      3. The problem with using basketball as a comparison is that one player has an inordinate effect on the team. A single player is 20% of the people on the floor. Stars generally use up 25-30% of all possessions. So having a Kobe, Dirk or Duncan is inordinately valuable. Since there are very few stars and little star turnover, you end up with a few teams dominating.

        Football is similar, but to a lesser extent. There is a single position, quarterback, that has an inordinate effect on the outcome of the game. Also, coaching is much more important in football*. The perennial winners in football typically have a great quarterback and/or coach, usually both.

        Coaching in baseball is relatively unimportant and no batter has more than 14% of plate appearances (at most**) in a game and even that is only half the game. By the same token, no pitcher pitches more than 3 times in a 7 game series. So a single individual has a relatively limited impact on the game. Having Pedro Martinez or Barry Bonds in their prime can be neutralized if everyone else isn’t up to snuff.

        * Flip Norv and Belichick and the Chargers win 3 Super Bowls and the Pats 0.

        ** 4 at bats where there were only 28 plate appearances for the team

    9. “Baseball follows a libertarian model”

      No wonder you don’t like it.

    10. Baseball follows a libertarian model

      For “passtime” I play a video game called Minecraft made by a Swede that I downloaded off the internet…

      Right now my City is about to default on its bond obligations for 40 million for a sports arena where a minor league team plays…I have never set foot in the place.

      Also I am pretty sure a portion of the sales tax collected from any purchase I make goes to pay for Safco stadium in Seattle.

      Go fuck yourself.

  6. Wasn’t Matt Damon available?

    1. He was, but he considered numbers to be intrinsically paternalistic.

    2. He had a teachers’ rally to attend.

  7. Matt Welch should’ve done this review. It could have been him saying that sabremetrics didn’t win, just that the California Angels of Anaheim/Los Angeles Metropolitan Market were pathetic competition, so even mediocre teams could rise of the ALWest.

    1. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’m obviously pretty psyched about anything that rests on the 2002 season….

  8. You view economics as entertainment?

    Strictly tragedy.

  9. what’s the feelings on mixed division realignment?…some dub it the time zone realignment. for ex, the great lakes division w say the tribe, pirates, cincy, detriot, & one of the chicago teams.

    1. They killed the real leagues when they decided to have interleague play. That is also what killed the all star game. At this point, they might as well go all the way and have divisions that make sense. The greatest rivalry in baseball history was the old Dodgers Giants one, where you had two teams in the same city playing the same league. Why baseball insists on that never happening again, especially since the leagues are not meaningless, is beyond me.

      1. They ruined the World Series, too.

        I remember how cool it was to see to two teams that never played each other ever, even in exhibition, like the Tigers vs. Padres.

        Now, it’s just another series.

      2. dunno john – interleague rivalries are a big hit w the fans judging by attendance. cincy/tribe or pittsburg/tribe are always well attended or sellouts.

      3. * Get rid of the wild card and realign the divisions. If you don’t win the division, you watch from the sidelines. Tough.

        * Get rid of interleague play.

        * Get rid of the DH.

        * Maybe do something to cap salaries, at least enough to keep teams from operating with payrolls 6X greater than other teams.

  10. I’m an A’s fan but I would never see this piece of shit.

    Beane’s A’s won because of steroids, and nothing else.

    1. People who complain about steroids are douchebags.

      1. Even if there is nothing wrong with steroids, if that is the reason they won, then admit it instead of pretending they won because of some magic statistical formula.

  11. I will see this but I doubt it will be better than Real Steel, which is going to…rock…and…sock

    1. with . . . robots?

  12. BTW, just let me say:

    The real reason Moneyball is great is because of the HUGE AMOUNT OF BSING we can do about it on the internet.

    Except for maybe Fantasy Football, has anything else contributed more to the fun of arguing about sports online as this one book?

    1. James’ abstracts?

      Eh, probably not, they were too early. Their were lots of usenet arguments.

    2. That is actually really good point. And I think a lot of what it says is true. It is just not as wonderful as it is cracked up to be. And there is more to sports than just the numbers.

      1. And there is more to sports than just the numbers

        Who disputes this? You have a warped view of people that like sabermetrics. It’s not like we think baseball is played in spreadsheets. But due to the nature of baseball, with non-continuous gameplay and one on one interactions, much of evaluating players can be done through the numbers. Scouting is also important, btw

      2. And there is more to sports than just the numbers.

        If you scratch a sports fan what you find underneath is not just a huge nerd…but the worst kind of huge math nerd imaginable combined with a monstrous sense of denial about the whole thing.

        Also to all those closeted gays who watch sports for the hot ass I apologize for calling you a nerd.

        1. Daniel Clowes’ On Sports seems an appropriate reference here.

  13. From the trailer

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiAHlZVgXjk

    “Don’t go on the internet…Watch TV or talk to people.”

    Yup Sorkin wrote it. The implication that “TV” is better then the internet is amusing.

    I think I am going to enjoy watching Sorkin grow old and even more bitter.

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