Liveblogging ‘Moneyball’ Underway

Fed up with the misconceptions and generalizations surrounding ‘Moneyball’ I decided to spend a whole day re-reading the book and live-blogging my experience.† What will follow is a chapter-by-chapter recap explaining what does and does not happen based on these misconceptions.† Newer chapters will appear at the top.† At the end I will re-organize everything.
9:37 PM – Conclusion
Well, what started at 11:37 will come to an end; a 10-hr (though I was done at 9:33 and just waited until 9:37) liveblog on a book reading.† Overall, there was more mentioned about Chad Bradford’s religion in this book than there were overt references to scouting being irrelevant.† All Lewis (not Beane) did was discuss how Beane (not Lewis) decided to change things around due to their financial limitations.† They were never going to have a large payroll so it made no sense to continue drafting the players old-time scouts coveted.† These players would demand higher signing fees/bonuses and take the A’s to the cleaners when it came time for arbitration.†
Finding talent in places nobody else looked is not an idea to shoot down; it’s an idea to embrace, at the very least for its logistics.† If you want to be like Joe Morgan and completely write off the notion that there may be better ways to evaluate talent, go ahead and stick to your guns; but to call these methods of exploiting marketing inefficiencies stupid is, well, stupid itself.
Moneyball does not call scouting ridiculous nor does it point out any of the positives that come with scouting; it treats scouting as an outdated end-all method and points out that, for a team with a financial situation such as the Athletics, there may be better ways to evaluate talent.† Moneyball does not say that all player decisions need to rely on OBP; it points out, quite logically, that players with better OBP’s have historically been more likely to aid their team while simultaneously being undervalued.† Overall, Moneyball is not a book about using sabermetrics as a means to run your team but rather a way to succeed and attempt to ensure future success in ways that others would never think.† If you do not agree with statistical analysis, fine, but look no further than the Athletics 2000-2006 W-L records and standings position to realize that Beane may be doing something correctly.
8:37 PM – Chapter Twelve: The Speed of the Idea
This chapter, the final chapter,†explores the major differences between the regular season and post-season as it relates to baseball in general and not just the Athletics.† Lewis refers to Palmer and Thorn’s The Hidden Game of Baseball to explain that the difference in skill is about 1 run per game whereas the difference in luck is about 4 runs per game.† The playoffs would be a whole different motha’ and Billy Beane openly admitted that his strategy was designed to get a team into the playoffs – after that it was all luck.
Rent-a-player at the time Ray Durham noted how all playoff games were 2-1 or 1-0–very close games.† In the division series, the Athletics ended up scoring more runs than they averaged in the regular season (5.5 to 4.9).† Joe Morgan stated that the Athletics could not win in the playoffs because they could not manufacture runs.† Clearly they manufactured runs.† DePodesta chalked their failure up as allowing 4.0 runs in the regular season and 5.4 in the playoffs.† On top of that, Tim Hudson–their usual unflappable ace–had two terrible outings.† The offense realistically had little to do with it, but rather their pitching.
The chapter closes with a discussion of Beane’s off-season move of trading Art Howe to the Mets as well as what appeared to be a changing of the guard in at least Toronto; DePodesta’s righthand man Ricciardi was hired within 5 minutes of his GM interview.† Ricciardi then brought along Keith Law and they rebuilt the Blue Jays.† DePodesta attests to hoping that other teams continued to consider their methods ridiculous because it would give them more time before they caught on; this would make the rare strategy more commonplace and new exploits in inefficiencies would need to be found.
I’m going to wait a couple of hours to gather my overall thoughts for the conclusion but I hope this, at the very least, sheds some light on what does and does not happen in Moneyball.†
8:04 PM – Chapter Eleven: The Human Element
Okay, the food did come.† And, I was almost brought to tears when I watched the warm-ups for the Sixers-Nuggets came and saw Allen Iverson get a standing ovation.† Though I write for a baseball blog, basketball has been an equally important part of my life and† I was one of few people that cherished every game I got to see him play; most took it for granted that his play was “normal.”
This chapter starts with our first real “conversation” with Billy Beane and ends with the description of a tremendous game.† In the beginning, Lewis is with Beane, talking about then 24-yr old Eric Chavez.† Beane strongly contends that Chavez has the potential to be an all-time great.† He compares Chavez at 24 to Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Jason Giambi at 24; Chavez had comparable numbers to A-Rod and better numbers than Bonds and Giambi.† In Chavez’s defense when compared to A-Rod, Beane states that “Chavvy is the best defensive third-baseman in the game.† A-Rod’s not the best defensive short-stop.”
Personally, I remember A-Rod as a pretty damn good short-stop.† I see where Beane was going with this but Alex Rodriguez has always been one of those “special” players; Chavez started his career in a very promising fashion but I (maybe I’m wrong, maybe not) never really considered him anything more than a good-great player.† Not to say there is something wrong with that but guys like A-Rod, Pujols, Bonds (please, no cliche steroids reactions) were clearly of a different ilk than someone like Chavez.
The most ironic line of the chapter comes towards the end of the comparison.† Beane says – “Health permitted, his career is a lock.”
Then it gets into Chad Bradford and his religious views.† I didn’t really care about Bradford’s upbringing and I care even less that he reads the bible.† Luckily it then moves into a beautiful description of what turned out to be Athletics 20th win in that 20-game win streak.† They led 11-0 and somehow gave all of those runs back to the last-place Royals, before Scott Hatteberg unknowingly hit a walk-off home run.† My description wasn’t as beautiful, I admit, but my sanity levels are slowly decreasing.† I can’t even remember at this point if I made the joke about Scott Hatteberg’s OBP and seeing numbers.

7:18 PM – Chapter Ten: Anatomy of an Undervalued Pitcher
So, it turns out it wasn’t Chinese food, but rather an unusually late UPS delivery of some more baseball books, yummy… which means the Chinese food will be here soon.† I also am realizing as I type that if someone reads this tomorrow or Friday they will have no idea what I’m talking about.
As I feared thought, this is the Chad Bradford chapter.† Lewis (not Beane) discusses how the White Sox were undervaluing Bradford and sent him to the minor leagues mostly because they thought his mechanics were shaky; his early success and lower-level successes were considered flukes because “nobody that throws like that can get guys out.”† Honestly, the first half of this chapter did not really hold my interest and I found myself, early on, finding the last page of the chapter in order to determine how many more were left.† As much as I love this book, and as much as I respect how Chad Bradford was undervalued, I felt that I read this with Scott Hatteberg and did not really need the point to be hammered home again.
After the first half ends, though, we get a taste of DIPS.† Voros’s theory is well-explained, including quotes from McCracken himself.† Since Lewis (not Beane) weaved his undervalued point into the DIPS theory so well, I have to say the chapter turned out better.† Kind of like Sandy Koufax.† The latter part more than made up for the earlier “eh”-ness.† Plus, Greg Maddux is mentioned; any chapter that discusses him at all is tremendous in my book… not the book I’m literally writing, Bridging the Statistical Gap (shameless self-promotion, yes) but the book in my head?† I’m not too sure where “…in my book” came from.† Anybody know?
I’m not going to explain the theory here because, chances are, if you’re reading here you know all about it.† If not, go to google, type DIPS in, or type in Voros McCracken, and there you go.
6:29 PM – UPDATE – Chinese food just got here so I’m going to eat.† Only three more chapters left and I have a funny feeling that Chad Bradford one is next.
6:25 PM – Chapter Nine: The Trading Desk
This chapter focuses on Beane trying to get Ricardo Rincon from the Indians.† Turns out the Giants are also interested in Rincon, so Beane contacts Brian Sabean and offers minor leaguer Mike Venafro.† This way, the Giants won’t need Rincon.† Sabean says he is interested and when Billy calls Mark Shapiro (Indians) back he finds out that the Giants offer has mysteriously gotten worse.† For insurance, he contacts the Mets and offers them Venafro, and wants in exchange the money to make up for the difference between Rincon and Venafro, and a throw-in prospect that he really does not even care about.† Steve Phillips feels that Beane is swindling him due to his reputation.†
I have to imagine this must have been very difficult but overcomeable for Beane; to always have others think you are taking advantage of them even when you aren’t.
Anyways, Beane eventually works out the deal, but in the span of a few hours has a TON to deal with.† He needs to release Mike Magnante, the 37-yr old washed up reliever; he has to work out the trade with the Indians for Rincon; and, to top things off, Omar Minaya (then of the Expos) calls to tell Billy that Cliff Floyd would be going to the Red Sox, not the A’s.† This immediately catches Beane’s attention as he wanted Floyd (so he tells Omar).† He convinces Omar to work out the trade “through him,” wherein Floyd would go to Oakland and then to the Red Sox.† Confused as to why this would happen, Beane finally reveals that this way he could get Youkilis.† Youkilis, the guy that DePodesta’s computer loved, that the scouts ignored, that Lewis refers to as the Greek god of walks.
That did not end up working out as but Beane ended up getting Magnante off the team and completing the trade with Shapiro for Rincon.† Oddly enough, the A’s and Indians were playing each other at the time and Rincon had a really hard time comprehending how he was on the other team now.
5:21 PM – Chapter Eight: Scott Hatteberg, Pickin’ Machine
This serves as a wonderful testament to all of the secondary traits often ignored by scouts and general managers when gauging talent, that the Athletics feast on.† Hatteberg had been the Red Sox catcher up until 2001, when he was traded to the Rockies for Pokey Reese.† The Rockies did not really have much interest in re-signing him until it†became clear that Billy Beane wanted him; the fact that Beane, with his knack for evaluating talent, thought†so highly of Hatteberg made the Rockies realize there might be something to be had.† Hatteberg opted for the A’s but had no†idea how to play first base.
Ron Washington (now the Rangers manager) trained him†and recalled how uncoordinated†Hatteberg looked.† Luckily for Scott,†Jermaine Dye was still recovering from an injury, which meant Justice in RF, Giambi in LF, and Hatteberg as DH.† When the A’s went into a tailspin, though, Giambi was sent to the Phillies for John Mabry, highly-touted 1B Carlos Pena was sent to the minors, as were Eric Hiljus, Jeff Tam, and Frank Menechino.† Hatteberg saw what†Beane was capable of and realized he would need to become a good 1B to stay there.† He slowly but surely turned into an average or above average fielder which meant his offensive impact would do more than just make up for his defensive liabilities.
The stories about Hatteberg fraternizing while at 1B are great, too.† It seems like he enjoyed that the most; figuring out from Raffy Palmeiro if Zito or Mulder was harder to hit (Mulder) or trying to tell†a self-hating Jeff Bagwell that he was awesome.† There is also the great story of Hatteberg’s first hit, which easily could have been a double, but†resulted in a single.† Scott decided to stay at first in order to meet his hero, Don Mattingly.† Blog-hating broadcaster Bob Costas could not believe what†he saw.† PS – that line is meant to be read as if Kirk Gibson just hit†that home run.
The final†paragraph of this chapter†is another instance of Lewis (not Beane) presenting an extremely valid sabermetrics study that†make traditionalists vomit.† The DePodesta study in question involves what happens if you put nine of the same player in a lineup; IE – how many runs would your team score if nine exact replicas filled the lineup?† Due to Hatteberg having such an efficient OBP, a tremendous K:BB ratio, and such a high†number pitcher per plate appearance, on top of his hitting skills, it was determined that a Hattebergian†lineup would produce between 940-950 runs.† The 2002 Yankees scored 897 runs.††
Essentially, this guy was not good enough to stay on the Red Sox, or even be arbitration-worthy in the minds of the Rockies, and yet a lineup of nine versions of him would be the best offense in all of baseball.† A line like that,†no matter how much statistical proof backs it up, is going to come off a bit controversial.† Although I will wholeheartedly defend its validity, I DEFINITELY understand where traditionalists and Joe Morgan are coming from on this one.†
Again, though,†the biggest misconception other than who wrote the book is that it advocates going for players with high OBP’s no matter what.† That could not be further from the truth.† The book is about finding inefficiencies and using them to your advantage.† Right now, the rest of the league has caught on and so Beane is†finding other ways to get the best bang for his buck.†
4:59 PM – Chapter Seven: Giambi’s Hole
Okay, back from my break.† Kicking back into things, this chapter takes a look at exactly how the Athletics replaced Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, and Olmedo Saenz, the three pieces that would be moving out of the starting lineup; Giambi and Damon to free agency, Saenz to the bench.† To do this they brought in Scott Hatteberg, Jeremy Giambi, and David Justice, three guys that DePodesta considered to be “defectives.”†
The contents of this chapter reminded me of other merchandising situations.† These three players had very little wrong with them on the surface, but just enough to deter other teams from valuing them as highly.† It did not mean they were bad players, but rather that other teams felt they could do better; while other teams could afford these players, Beane and DePodesta felt that the similar production for MUCH less money was exactly what they needed to do.† They were not insisting Jeremy Giambi was a good fielder or a fast runner; they knew he struggled in these areas but also knew that he was an on-base machine.† Justice was 36 at the time he joined the A’s and had been steadily declining, however a decline for him was better than the prime of others; the decline made him much cheaper than he should have been.† Hatteberg was a case of being undervalued by the Red Sox simply because he got hurt and could not be a catcher.† Finding the right spot for him is what Chapter Eight gets into, though.
This chapter also details some hilarious Billy Beane moments.† Beane does not watch the A’s play, instead opting to work out in the weight room and do various other activities.† He was more interested in Michael Lewis’s trip to France than David Justice’s at-bat in a playoff game against the†Yankees and came off as dejected when Lewis was more focused on watching the game.† I think instances like this, though essential in painting a complete portrait, is what the traditionalists feasted upon; though mostly incorrect, he came off as a guy that only looked at stats, did not care about scouting information, and did not even watch his team play.
On a side note, I recently found out Joe Morgan wrote “Baseball For Dummies”….as Alanis would say… a little toooooo ironic, I really do think.
3:48 PM – UPDATE – Chapter Six marks the halfway point of the book.† I am going to take a break until about 4:30 and then continue.† I’d love to hear what you guys have to say about the book or my insanity in doing this.
3:45 PM – Chapter Six: The Science of Winning an Unfair Game
This is a saber-heavy chapter but not once throughout does it mention any sort of a disdain for scouting or any type of self-praise for statistical analysis being the key to life or success.† In fact, throughout this book so far (six chapters and 137 pages in) only Chapter Two presented scouting in somewhat of a negative light; even then it was only that Beane knew from his own personal experience that the way these guys judged people was not the end-all means for success.† He knew because of how he was judged and what ultimately happened to him that using terms like “The Good Face” or “soft-tosser” to pass judgment were not as effective as other methods could be.† So far I have gotten the sense that†the author†has a disdain for scouting but it is not as implied as†I initially thought.††The problem is that he never throws scouts any type of bone or validity.† Instead, he presents statistics as possibilities for better evaluative methods and basically ignores scouting.† He definitely implies negativity towards it but nowhere†near the amount that I expected.†
Back to the chapter.† In a meeting with George Will, Paul Volcker, Richard Levin, and George Mitchell (yeah, the†same guy that broke news that Tim Laker and Gregg Zaun used steroids) Beane compared his team to the Indians in the film Major League.† He reasoned that the owner assembled a teamful of “nobodies” who ended up being so efficient as a team that they won.
The chapter also explores a history of OPS and expected run values in a way that reasons the losses of Damon, Isringhausen, and Giambi, while significant, should only really result in the team going from 102 wins to 95 wins.
The part about Beane’s strategy with Closers is probably my favorite part of the book as, if you have read any of my stuff on closers and saves you will know that I think it is the most overrated statistic and position in the game.† His strategy is essentially to make a Closer out of a minor league or inexpensive pitcher, and when that guy becomes expensive/”star”-worthy, use him as an asset to net some great prospects from another team.† Rinse and repeat.
3:17 PM – Chapter Five: The Jeremy Brown Blue Plate Special
I remembered reading this chapter as the pages kept turning and I strongly consider this one of the best baseball chapters ever written.† It brings you inside the A’s draft room on the day of the 2002 draft (6/4/2002) and shows how†a gameplan can drastically change on the fly regardless of how well-prepared you are going in.† The A’s, thanks to Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, and Jason Isringhausen leaving for greener (money is green) pastures, have a lot of early draft picks.† Billy wants Nick Swisher badly and hates how some people may feel as though they are “getting stuck” with him by taking him.† If Beane had the #1 overall pick he would have taken Swisher.
The chapter is jam-packed with phone calls between GM’s trying to play games (Ken Williams convinces Beane he is taking Joe Blanton so Billy doesn’t take Royce Ring; Billy tries to make Steve Phillips dislike Swisher while Phillips covets Scott Kazmir).† Prince Fielder was also a hot commodity of this draft, as was BJ Upton, Adam Loewen, Khalil Greene, and Russ Adams.†
I personally feel that this chapter did a lot to quell traditionalists.† Lewis (not Beane) recalls how happy the A’s front office was that these teams were “making mistakes” in drafting Scott Kazmir and Prince Fielder, high school players.† While the quick reaction would be to point out how Kazmir and Fielder have fared in the major leagues thus far, while guys like Jeremy Brown is retired (again, NOT for baseball reasons or struggles), what MUST be remembered is that the Athletics do not have money.† They have a very low payroll and cannot afford to sign or keep the guys that MAY end up with better futures.† Beane was given 9.4 million dollars to draft 7 first/second round picks; Kazmir ended up signing for 2.5 million.† There is no way he could have afforded to sign all of these guys, or keep all of these guys when it came time for their arbitration-eligibility.
Beane was looking to find players that could provide similar production but cost much less, and be able to realize that the A’s are making commitments to them; essentially, they wanted talent and character in places that others would not even dare to look.† Lewis correctly concludes here that Beane was searching for his antithesis: the player who had those Dykstra qualities and not the looks and traditionally worshipped abilities that Beane possessed in 1980.
2:36 PM – Chapter Four: Field of Ignorance
This chapter has essentially nothing to do with Billy Beane†but rather a history of Bill James and the sabermetrics movement.††For those interested in learning how†the idea for this advanced statistical analysis came to be, this is definitely for you, however if you are already well-versed in sabermetrics, you will not miss anything by skipping this and moving onto Chapter Five.† I am also very glad that Lewis (not Beane) mentions Henry Chadwick in this.† I†discuss Chadwick in my upcoming book and feel it is a shame not many know about him.††Most of the statistics fans have†grown to love and therefore take†for granted were invented by Chadwick and yet they have no idea who is†or what he has contributed to the game.†
1:54 PM – Chapter Three: The Enlightenment
Here we take a step backwards†and†again look at the baseball career of Billy Beane.† To sum it all up, Billy’s talent had never evaporated since his high school days however his desire to play was steadily decreasing, and his smarts caused him to overanalyze every situation.† This skill that would translate one day into a great general manager was not, in his own eyes, indicative of a major league hitter.††Major league hitters, he felt, were supposed to be like Lenny Dykstra, his roommate in the minor leagues.††Lewis writes about a situation wherein Dykstra wondered who some “fat-ass” on the mound was, and what he threw.† When Beane informed him it was Steve Carlton and how he had heat and the nastiest slider in the game, a future hall of famer, Dykstra reared back†and said†- “Shit, I’ll stick him.”
Beane felt THIS was what a major league hitter was – someone who, regardless of the situation, still felt he could get up there and hit a home run.† What Beane had over Dykstra in the god-given abilities department, Dykstra more than made up for in mentality.†
The chapter ends by discussing Sandy Alderson’s approach to finding talent – namely the same things that Beane is credited with revolutionizing today.† Alderson valued OBP, the ability to hit home runs (since this caused pitchers to be more careful, usually resulting in more walks), and how power-hitting could be a learned trait whereas hitting ability was more physical.† Essentially, everything we credit Beane with today was really implemented by Sandy Alderson, who went onto hire Beane to find undervalued talent for the minor league teams in the A’s organization.† It also touches on the conflict between the A’s creed and Tony LaRussa’s managerial style; LaRussa liked to do things his way.† When Tony left for St. Louis, the A’s brought in Art Howe, who most likely became the first manager to implement what the front office wanted, not his own beliefs.† Chapter Four will come soon as I need to go buy some diet mountain dew from the uni-mart.
1:32 PM – Chapter Two: How to Find a Ballplayer
Chapter Two thrusts us into the Oakland†Athletics draft room and really explains the idea behind this†”Moneyball” theory.† As much as I love this chapter, though, I must admit there is some bias and selective sampling throughout.† Not to say that anything mentioned is invalid,†but one of the main points deals with Paul DePodesta, then Assistant GM, and the players his computer spits out as being worthy of†favorable consideration.† The two players mentioned†in particular are Kevin Youkilis and Kirk Saarloos.† Youkilis was ignored by the A’s scouts and went onto lead professional baseball in OBP; Saarloos was ignored and became one of only two pitchers in the 2001 draft in the major leagues.† Though the scouts mis-diagnosed these two I am sure there are plenty of others that DePodesta’s computer was incorrect about.† The scouts are not presented as villains nor the stat-geeks as heroes; rather, everyone is very well-described and the accounts are so in-depth that you really feel as if you are in that draft room, hearing what everyone has to say.
This chapter really centers on the ever-evolving draft theory of Billy Beane.† He wants to avoid high school players, at all costs, because a large majority of them a) think they are worth more money before being worth that money and b) do not translate into major leaguers as well as collegiate players historically have.† This philosophy came to its pinnacle in the 2001 draft, when Grady Fuson, then head of scouting drafted high school flamethrower Jeremy Bonderman at the end of the first round.† Bonderman has gone onto become a serviceable MLB pitcher with potential, but Beane did not want to overvalue a potential burnout.
This is where the OBP theory really comes into play; during the 2002 draft Beane focused on drafting the players that possessed the best skill-sets transferable into the major leagues.† The most important of these skills was being able to handle the strike zone.† Thus, walks and OBP became their barometer.† The scouts did not understand this and Beane even told DePodesta to avoid any attempt at explaining what it meant – “talking probability theory to scouts will just confuse them.”
This chapter also discusses Jeremy Brown, a bad-body catcher every team avoided that Beane coveted, whose recent retirement has basically caused traditionalists to experience multiple orgasms.† Let’s set it straight now – Brown did not retire due to a lack of success.† He retired due to undisclosed personal reasons.† This does not mean Beane was wrong for drafting him.† I would bet there are MANY more players that have flamed out due to faulty scouting than there are due to aberrations in numbers, which, again, does not apply to Brown because this was not the cause of his retirement.
Lewis (not Beane) also mentions Nick Swisher here.† Swisher was the epitome of everything Beane wanted and, not surprisingly at all, marked one of the few times that traditionalists in the organization and the stat-geeks agreed.† This has been a hot topic lately–the combining of sabermetrics and advanced scouting–and Swisher as its posterchild makes sense.† Looking at scouting only results in the other first or second round picks the A’s made in that 2002 draft that have not made it to the major leagues.† Looking at stats only leaves you a guy like Jeremy Brown, who, despite retiring for personal (non-baseball) reasons, likely would not have amounted to anything other than a backup cather.
Looking at both scouting and statistics leaves you with Nick Swisher.† The strategy for drafting Swisher was for Beane to never actually go to Ohio State.† The A’s felt if Beane went to go see him, with his reputation for finding talent, it would introduce Swisher to most of the baseball world and cause otherworldy interest.† Funnily enough, it turned out that “Operation Shutdown” worked too well because a White Sox exec hypothesized Beane had interest because of his extreme separation.† As we now know, the White Sox acquired Swisher from the A’s this offseason.
12:47 PM – Chapter One: The Curse of Talent
Throughout this chapter, Lewis (not Beane) very effectively foreshadows†what this book will be about.† Without overtly acknowledging the flaws in†using only scouting to evaluate talent, he†focuses his attention on Billy Beane’s high school-into-college/pros transition in order to express that basing decisions off of “what can be seen” and ignoring the statistics or tell-tale signs is a mistake.
He starts by explaining how, in†1980 workout, Billy Beane stunned everyone when he beat Darnell Coles, Cecil Espy, Erik Erickson, and Gerry Harris–all top prospects– in the 60-yard dash.† Beane was expected to finish dead last but, twice, made them all look slow.† Beane is painted as the kind of guy that could do no wrong;†no matter†where the fielders were placed he would find a way to hit it where they were not.† Scouts followed him everywhere and, after his junior season, were convinced he was what their team needed to succeed.
In scouting terms,†Billy had “the good face,” which†meant that he is good-looking?† Or had similar cheek and jaw structure to those of other successful major leaguers?† That’s like saying somebody is the next Ron Jeremy because they are fat, moustached, and have long hair.† Anyways…
The chapter comes to a close with the story of†what happened†with†Beane; mainly, did he go to college or the pros?† He was highly touted by the Mets, who had three first-round picks in 1980, but did not†necessarily want to†sign.† Beane wanted to go to Stanford on a joint-baseball and football scholarship.† He was a quarterback and some guy Elway was leaving pretty soon.† The Mets’ scout†convinced Billy to sign with the Mets and, because of this, Stanford would not let him take†classes in the 0ff-season.
Scouts ignored the fact that Billy’s senior year statistics had drastically slipped as well as his†lack of fervor†to join a professional organization so soon.† The Mets took him 23rd in the 1980 draft.† The four players he beat in that 60-yard dash went in the top ten.† His parents invested the entire 125,000 dollar bonus he received for signing into a company that†almost immediately went bankrupt.† In the span of a few months, Beane had gone from a potential #1 overall pick in the 1980 major league draft, to a potential Stanford baseball and football star, to a high school kid who was unsure about his future, to†signing a professional contract that ended up with Stanford†rejecting his acceptance and the money evaporating.†
12:16 PM – Cover & Preface
For starters it seems that the easiest way to show updates is to put the newest text on top; at the end I’ll re-arrange everything.†
The†cover of the book is where the name of the author is listed.† Most books will even feature some type of bold-print or protruding letters to show off the brains behind the book.† Despite the fact that this book†takes both measures to show that MICHAEL LEWIS was its author, I would be willing to bet that 65-70†people out of 100 will strongly†contend that Billy Beane wrote this book.† To me, that is the biggest misconception; not that the book focuses on “getting rid of scouting” but rather that the book was written by its subject.† That would be akin to thinking that Barry Bonds wrote “Game of Shadows” to show off his PED-usage.†
Michael Lewis wrote this book,†not Billy Beane.††
The preface delves into Lewis’s†reasoning for writing the†book – he fell in love†with an underdog story that saw the Oakland Athletics, with one of the lowest payrolls in all of baseball, win more regular season games than any non-Atlanta Braves team over the “past several years” relative to this book’s 2003 release.† He discusses the creed that those with the most money will generally go onto win and shows how teams like the Mets, Rangers, Orioles, and Dodgers all found themselves at the bottom of the standings recently; all four had notably high payrolls.
Arguably the most important quote of the entire book (as of now) comes in the preface – “In professional baseball it still matters less how much money you have than how well you spend it.”†
To me, that perfectly sums up the REAL idea of Moneyball – which is finding the most effective bang for your buck, regardless of how that happens.† Inefficiencies in the market, not necessarily a steadfast reliance on sabermetrics.† He closes the preface with quotes from a conversation with Beane-disciple J.P. Ricciardi, the recently (book from 2003) appointed GM of the Toronto Blue Jays; Ricciardi laughed at the thought that he was similar in talent to Billy Beane.† He strongly considered Beane to the best and found it laughable that anyone could debate that.
11:37 AM – Introduction
Those who read last night now know what lies ahead – I am going to spend today re-reading Moneyball and live-blogging what does and does not happen, chapter by chapter.† I could wait until the end and just post a progressive review, but I feel it will be much more genuine if I write as I go instead of merely taking notes and relying on my memory (my friends call me a robot due to my ability to quickly and efficiently memorize things).†
At around 12:15 PM I am going to start posting and I would expect to have a chapter finished within a 30-35 minute period.† Certain chapters are smaller than others and, while I am not necessarily following a set format, the goal here is to legitimately explain what does and does not happen.† I have heard so many “old-timers” or “traditionalists” put down the ideas presented in this book – and most have never even read it.† Most of these same people get caught in the generalization game and consider the book to be nothing more than a 300 page rant on Billy Beane’s usage of sabermetrics at his general manager post.
I have not read the book since soonafter its 2003 release, so you will be getting a very fair assessment of everything inside.† I’m at the point right now where I remember some of the issues discussed but only in a general manner; I do remember, however, that you learn way more than is needed to ever learn about Chad Bradford.† I’ll be back in about a half hour with the cover and preface.† Believe me – one of the most important parts of this book can be found on the cover.

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41 Responses to Liveblogging ‘Moneyball’ Underway

  1. dan says:

    hahhaha wow Eric, this is a fantastic idea. It’s really pointless since you could just review the chapters all at once, but it’s much more action-packed this way. I think you can safely say that you are the first person to ever live-blog a book, and for that I say congratulations, sir.

  2. Minda says:

    This is either awesome or completely insane. Nah, screw that, it’s *both* awesome and completely insane. Good luck; I’m looking forward to reading this beast.

  3. Haha, this is what happens when you’re angry and have nothing to do on a Wednesday. I have to play basketball to warm my eyes up for this bad boy.

  4. [...] Seidman at Statistically Speaking is liveblogging his re-reading of Moneyball. Yeah, that’s pretty much what it sounds like: I am going to spend today re-reading Moneyball [...]

  5. dan says:

    So far so good Eric. Since Joe Morgan refuses to read the actual book, maybe someone can get him to read this.

  6. Wow, I went to look at the time and all I saw was Scott Hatteberg’s OBP numbers. What I dislike about Joe Morgan’s stance on this isn’t that he finds it invalid, but that he won’t even give it a chance. In any situation wherein I feel I am right I will definitely at the very least give credence or Creedence Clearwater Revival, to something trying to prove I am wrong.

  7. Minda says:

    MUST HAVE MORE. Seriously, this is pretty awesome; it could serve as a primer for those who are interested in non-traditional stats but are to ashamed to tell their wives and coworkers.
    You could throw in a few more shameless book plugs, if you really want to. Also, I have pretty much LOLed every time you say “Lewis (not Beane)”.

  8. Haha, glad everyone’s enjoying it. It’s REALLY time-consuming so I would hope it’s going well. I want to wait a little before I post the conclusion to everything, but I found it fascinating how there were only a few instances of overtly discussing scouting inefficiencies.
    Lewis (not Beane) was something I did the first two chapters and then realized, why not, people are STILL going to insist Beane wrote this book so maybe the repetition will work.

  9. Justin says:

    I’ve gotta say, I really enjoyed this. I found myself checking back throughout the day to read your updates. Thanks for this.

  10. What’s the verdict? Should I do one of these each month?

  11. Minda says:

    My verdict: I’ll stick with my earlier assessment of an all-caps MUST HAVE MORE. This was pretty awesome (or “ballin,” as some crazy Nebraskans might say). What other books might you do?

  12. Not even sure. I don’t want to kill the idea since it seemed pretty new and creative. Maybe one every now and then if I find something interesting. I am really into baseball history and, while my upcoming book deals with sabermetrics, I’m in collaboration right now with a relative of former MLB pitcher Bucky Walters (who would have won 3 Cy Young Awards had the award been around in the 30′s and 40′s) to write a book about not only Bucky but his grandson’s pursuit to get into the HOF.
    The historical books I like to read are quite lengthy so it would preferably be one shorter. I don’t think I could read a 520 page, 10-inch fonted, Walter Johnson biography in 10 hrs.

  13. This was awesome. It was great to really see your perspective on the book and the issues it raised, and I would definitely be interested in seeing you apply this sort of treatment to other baseball books.

  14. Thanks, Jessica. It’s just very annoying how so many people, especially those with most of the power, can ignore and downright refute the validity of some of this stuff. Of course there is more to baseball than stats–which is what makes it so great–but to completely ignore the statistics because a guy “has a good body” or has “the good face” is ludicrous.
    The best possible evaluative method would combine both, which is what teams are finally starting to do. It’s okay to favor one over the other but not to completely ignore one.

  15. ” Itís just very annoying how so many people, especially those with most of the power, can ignore and downright refute the validity of some of this stuff.”
    I completely agree. It’s especially distressing when such views are espoused by the big-name broadcasters, since so many baseball fans learn about the game from watching on TV and listening to what Joe Morgan (for example) has to say. For every one of us out there gobbling up baseball information online, there are thousands whose main exposure to baseball analysis is the former player in the local team’s broadcast booth trying to apply the conventional wisdom at the time he played to the modern game.
    “Three Nights In August” could be an interesting book to tackle – it’s an interesting look at a different thought process than the one examined in “Moneyball.”

  16. dan says:

    I laughed out loud reading this line:
    “All Lewis (not Beane) did was discuss how Beane (not Lewis) decided to change things around due to their financial limitations.”
    I imagine this project took more out of you than you first expected. I think that if you decide to do more of these, it would have to be a controversial book like Moneyball. For a normal book, reading chapter summaries would be like reading sparknotes.

  17. Haha yeah. I wouldn’t do this unless there was really a point to it. Definitely took a lot out of me, which is one of the reasons it pisses me off how some people at Baseball Think Factory are nit-picking.

  18. dan says:

    Jesus, I just read the BTF thread… not sure what crawled up their asses. They obviously didn’t see the original paragraph that you’ve since deleted (“tomorrow at noon eastern time, I, Jackie Moon, will wrestle a bear”)

  19. Cardsfanboy didn’t bother me; that’s fine. The ‘philly’ guy is just annoying. I’m picturing a balding, 50-yr old, fat guy in his mom’s basement. Oh well. Such is life. I wish I could say stuff like that doesn’t get to me, but it does at times.

  20. Minda says:

    Oh, I went and read the BBTF discussion too. I’m pretty sure you could duct tape your argument to a sledgehammer, and hit that Philly guy with it, and he would still be unaware of what your actual point was. But he’d reiterate (maybe with a different set of unrelated quotes) what he thought you meant, and why he’s so up-in-arms about it. (So basically, I can see why stuff like this gets to you at times.)
    Ahh, the dear sweet Internet.

  21. Yeah, I see his point, but is it really worth going crazy over? Just have fun with something like this.

  22. Shane says:

    Eric, this was great and I’d love to see you do it with other books. Moneyball is a book that I’m interested in reading, but is low on my list of actually buying to read :).
    Also, what is the BBTF thread? Did I miss something?

  23. Shane, no, didn’t miss anything. I don’t even want to talk about it anymore as it was overblown, haha. Somebody just took exception with my summary of Chapter Five because I did not mention something, though the reasoning was that I had mentioned it in Chapter Two. That’s all.
    I’ll be posting a review of Geoff Young’s Ducksnorts 2008 Annual tomorrow or Saturday which I suggest any baseball fan buys.

  24. Evan (runner of this site) suggested I do one of these down the road on Canseco’s book “Juiced.” Thoughts?

  25. This a great idea Eric. I’m glad you shared your thoughts with us, and I enjoyed learning more about a book that I too have yet to read.
    I do feel there is some cherry picking being done here, as to who or what is correct regarding Beane’s strategies. Beane is a good-to-great GM, and has gained more notoriety than maybe he deserves because of this book (you can debate that somewhat, I mean without Moneyball is Beane a legend?).
    It’s still amazing to me that a general manager who has never taken his team to a World Series is widely considered the best in the game.
    I know money rules the roost in most instances, but I find it funny how quickly terrible A’s seasons aren’t scrutinzed in the least because of the “holier than thou” reputation of Beane.
    Also, his right hand men (DePo and Riccardi) haven’t succeeded either in their own right. DePodesta had the analytical skills no doubt, but you have to be personable as a leader of a team, which he failed at.
    Also, Riccardi has seemingly turned against these theories as he’s sunk tons of $ into mediocre players. Interesting, but in the end I feel this whole movement, while extremely valuable in how we view the game, has had far less success than people seem to give it credit for.

  26. One of the keys to the book is how much of a leader and personable guy Billy Beane is – there is even something about his philosophy on picking up women. He likes to tell women he cleans roadkill off the road because that way they will not be influenced by how he works in baseball/was a player.

  27. Tim Daloisio says:

    Juiced would be interesting…also John Fienstiens upcoming book about Glavine and Mussina last season. Others to consider: Last night of the Yankee Dynasty by Buster Olney, Chasing Stienbrenner by Rob Bradford.

  28. Tim, since it takes so long to do this, I want to avoid anything that is merely historical. As much as I love Mussina (half of a chapter in my upcoming book talks about him) and as much as I like the other two books you mentioned (very well-written) I feel like they would fall into Dan’s comment, about being sparknotes. Juiced or other books like that, if anyone has suggestions, could take on more of a Fire Joe Morgan approach, which would be funnier, and keep me more sane.

  29. Jeff Kallman says:

    Maybe someone ought to have a whack at a blow-by-blow of Mind Games, particularly since it chronicles a team (the 2004 Boston Red Sox) that executed precisely what you say (and I said a few years earlier, when reviewing that book in tandem with Scout’s Honor about the Atlanta Braves—taking my own heat from elsewhere for my trouble)—melding the numbers to the makeups, taking each equivalently, when it comes to player evaluation.

  30. That sounds like a good idea. I actually just finished reading “Built to Win” the book by John Scheurholz and in it he dedicates a whole chapter to explaining how, while he does not rely on sabermetrics, it is not as if he is an old-timer and ignores statistics or does not treat them as importantly; and that is a common misconception of people like me and the stats-community.

  31. Jessica, “Three Nights in August” is one of my favorite books of all time. Buzz Bissinger is, how we say, the man… though I am biased because he’s a Philly guy. He wrote the book Friday Night Lights which then became, in my opinion–and I’m sure others will debate it–the greatest sports movie ever made, from all possible facets. Story, cinematography, screenplay, acting, you name it. I’m a professional screenwriter and this is the type of movie I wish I could have been a part of.
    Back to the topic, though, the fact that Joe Morgan wrote Baseball for Dummies is what really bothers me. Joe Morgan the player was tremendous, but anyone that is completely closed-minded should not be allowed to author a tutorial book.

  32. I can understand where the resistance to sabermetrics is coming from among former players who put up less-than-outstanding numbers. But when a great player like Joe Morgan goes out of his way to dismiss the sort of analysis that explains why players like him were so valuable, it’s just sad.

  33. Jeff Kallman says:

    Eric–Baseball for Dummies could have been worse. It could have been written by Tracy Ringolsby . . . ;)—Jeff

  34. Jeff Kallman says:

    Jessica—Imagine if it had been Henry Aaron or Yogi Berra and not Joe Morgan. Aaron would have first had to explain how he could have resented the sabermetric analysis that rates him as perhaps the single most consistent great player of all time. And Yogi would have first had to explain (and you know how much fun that would be!) how he could resent a sabermetric or near-sabermetric analysis (Allen Barra, in fact, has done one) that rates him as (yes, you could look it up) the greatest team player of all time in any sport.—Jeff

  35. Jeff/Jessica,
    The book I’m writing that is going to come out end of April/beginning of May is designed to show that not all sabermetrics is intimidating. One of the major reasons people dislike statistical analysis is that they are “afraid” of it. They feel everything is these crazy Good Will Hunting formulas, when in reality, that is a small percentage of it. I mean, the Bill James game score? That’s an incredible stat, takes 2 minutes to calculate, and tells you a ton. That’s the type of things I discuss – stats/formulas of mine as well as other ideas to explore sabermetrics-style that are non-intimidating and fun to do. It’s called “Bridging the Statistical Gap” because I hope it does just that – show non-statgeeks that you need not be a statgeek to enjoy statistical analysis.
    Oh, and Kevin Collazo from Take the 7 Train is making some amazing illustrations for the book, too.

  36. Didi says:

    This is excellent. I’ve been forgetting most of the details in the chapters and reading your entries here brought most of those back to mind.
    It never occurred to me that the cover is so important but the line about wise spending is terrific and the inside merely described one way of doing it then by the A’s. If only Joe Morgan and his likes are even remotely tempted to pick up the book and read the cover, they may change their opinion. He…umm…really writes Baseball for Dummies – I’m at a lost for words.
    Thanks. And yes, to more controversial books live-blogging. You are insane to do this and I appreciate that.

  37. Didi,
    Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad people responded to this. Otherwise it would have been a waste of 10 hours! The cover usually is not that important, content-wise, but when most of the country thinks someone else wrote it, said content is more likely to be taken out of context.
    As I said, it would be akin to thinking Barry Bonds wrote Game of Shadows. In the Afterword (which wasn’t noteworthy enough to liveblog) Lewis notes that the best part of the book for him was how everyone that crticizes it criticizes Billy Beane and not him; it’s the best possible situation.

  38. lisa gray says:

    eric,
    i read the book not long after it came out, and i remember thinking that michael lewis had portrayed billy beane as, to be very nice about it, a self-important, arrogant jerk who can’t wait to display his contempt for everyone not attached to a computer.
    IF the point of the book was actually “Beane was looking to find players that could provide similar production but cost much less”
    THEN it got lost in a whole lot of emotion, to a great extent.
    michael lewis made it clear that billy beane had out and out contempt for scouts BECAUSE they had made an obvious mistake with him, going by his body type, handsome (well i gues THEY thought so) face and stats as a junior in hs.
    michael lewis made it clear that anyone who drafted ANY high school player for ANY money in the first round was an idiot (wonder what he thought of jr griffey and arod, to name a few…)
    it was not made clear that IF HE HAD HAD THE MONEY, that beane would have drafted hs players in the first round.
    there was a good reason that their famous list contained ONLY college players.
    however, it is silly for some MSM commentators to complain that beane had the nerve to try to evaluate players differently to see if he could come up with players not usually wanted who could succeed at a cheaper price. IF they even said that, which they don’t.
    but the billy beane worship copntinues, unabated, to this day. billy makes his share of mistakes, he misjudged all KINDS of guys using his “computer” just as much as scouts did him.
    trouble with movie stars, or any kind of star, is that people believe that whatever persona the media portrays is actually the person – who knows, beane may really be the kind of insufferable pompous jerk that lewis portrayed, but the fact is that if he really WAS that bad, the other GMs wouldn’t work with him (see tim purpura…)
    lisa

  39. Lisa, I appreciate your thoughts though I unfortunately have to disagree on some points, with no disrespect towards you at all, but rather because I literally read the book yesterday. Finding inefficiencies in the market is not lost at all throughout the book and it is, in fact, mentioned numerous times in Chapter Two, Chapter Five, Chapter Eight, and Chapter Ten, and at points in Chapters Four, Eleven, and Twelve; that’s more than half of the book.
    Lewis definitely painted Beane as arrogant, you hit that right on the head.
    It was made clear that if he had had the money he WOULD NOT draft HS players. The list of players they coveted that draft was said to have been the players they would draft in an ideal situation, if they had no limit for money and nobody else knew about the players – that literally says regardless of money they wanted college players.
    I did find it a bit odd that they thought people drafting HS players were idiots; though, for every A-Rod and Griffey there are most likely hundreds we’ve never heard of and never will hear of.
    Not sure what the MSM comment means, hopefully you can clarify that because I have heard many announcers and read many newspaper articles that shoot down this theory while incorrectly stating the theory.

  40. Ron says:

    I think too many of the sabermetric people project an attitude of intolerance. “We’re right and the baseball establishment is wrong!” That’s probably where Joe Morgan bristles. Certainly not everyone who played the game knows best how to build a winning baseball team, but crunching numbers into VORPs and BABIPs is no guarantee either. You people have turned your analysis into an orthodoxy. Something like OBP is important but you can’t quantify everything into a statistical box and make it fit. See Arizona’s W-L record last year compared to their “Pythagorean”. You people are doing backflips trying to explain that.

  41. Ron, you’re definitely correct that many people involved in sabermetrics come off as arrogant or intolerant, however the same can more easily be said for traditionalists. Many sabermetricians, myself included, are extremely interested in combining the scouting and statistics in order to get a much clearer picture, however people like Joe Morgan, for lack of a better word, SHIT all over the idea that in-depth stats can provide anything useful. While it is certainly correct that VORP’s and BABIP’s cannot quantify “grittiness” and “toughness” or “testicular fortitude,” having “the good face” or being a “soft tosser” is merely the opinion of someone. Neither is 100 % correct however a combination of both is pretty darn close.
    It’s the people that blindly shoot down the others without giving it a chance that irk sabermetricians. For Joe Morgan to put down Moneyball without ever opening it up or even knowing who wrote it is unacceptable given his position of power (purveying analysis to millions of viewers) as a broadcaster.

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