Forget the bunt, the hit-andrun,and the stolen base. Getused to the homeruns, the walks,and even the strikeouts. This isMoneyball now.
For as long as I can remember,I have followed baseball. Iconsider myself as having beena fan of the game for most of myadolescent life. However, I donot consider myself as havingbeen a knowledgeable baseballfan until about three years ago.That is when I read MichaelLewis’ book, Moneyball.
At the time, the book aboutOakland A’s general managerBilly Beane was still stirring upcontroversy and dialogue in thebaseball world. For many, it wasa radically different approach tothe game that most fans weresimply uncomfortable with.
Instead of old-time baseballscouts, ivy-league graduateswere running the show – andthey were winning.
Their methods were highlyresisted at first but are slowlybecoming accepted into mainstreambaseball knowledge.
Stats like OPS (on-base plusslugging) for batters and WHIP(walks and hits over inningspitched) are relatively new.Both, and plenty other stats,help to more accurately givefans an insight into a players talentlevel.
Even today, though, there isplenty of resistance against it.But for a young, educated collegeaudience, such as the fansat St. John’s, there is hardly anyreason not to accept “new”baseball.
You do not have to be greatat math or have an undying loyaltyto computers, as somewould have you believe. It reallyis just a matter of logic andsome simple percentages.
For instance, on-base percentageis now generally acceptedas a very important stat for ahitter. It was not always so,though. The reasoning for it isquite simple: it measures howoften a baseball player is notmaking an out. Not making anout leads to more runs whichgive the team a better chance towin. And it is that simple.
Using similar lines of logic,it can be proven that “smallball”tactics like the sacrificebunt can actually decrease ateams chances at winning agame. Unless a player can stealbases at a very successful rate, itcan be proven that it is notworth it to go at all. Manytimes, it is actually better to “sitback and wait for the longball.”
As a journalist, I have aresponsibility to my readers toremain objective and accurate inmy reporting. In the same veinof logic, I have a responsibilityto understand more fully what Iam writing about. It is notuncommon to hear a radio personalityor newspaper writerseem to imply that runs scoredportray a lead-off hitters ability.
But what is a run except for theother members of the team gettinghim in? Perhaps there issome correlation but not a verystrong one. Would Jose Reyesimmediately be a worse lead-offhitter if he did not have CarlosBeltran around to drive him in?
Similarly, what does a “win”for a pitcher say, except that heleft the game when his teamslineup scored more runs than helet up? Not many would arguethat Steve Trachsel and MikeMussina were comparablepitchers last season, eventhough they both had 15 wins. Itwould be irresponsible for meto give evaluation on a pitcherbased on a stat that obviouslydoes not have a strong correlationto ability.
As a fan of the game of baseball,especially one enrolled incollege, it seems a responsibilityto also be aware. Not everyfan has to read Moneyball(though it does help) but simplythinking about the game wewatch so often can lead to new,perhaps surprising conclusions.Just like in every other aspect oflife as a student, try to be openand do not be afraid of learninga few new things. Even if it isabout something that alreadyseems so familiar.