Thursday, October 22, 2009

SMALL SAMPLE SIZE! YOU USED A SMALL SAMPLE TO MAKE THAT POINT

There are at least fifty things worth picking on in this Buzz Bissinger shitbomb re: Billy Beane, Michael Lewis, and the book Moneyball. I don't have a lot of time so I think I'll pick on the most absurd one. Bissinger's thesis is essentially that Billy Beane is a decent but overrated GM, Lewis's portrayal of him is unfairly positive, and that the best way to build a baseball team is still by spending a lot of money on good, proven players. He may have a bit of a point with the last part. As for those first two:

Looking largely at the narrow time frame of 2000 through 2002, Lewis attempted to explain the phenomenon of how the A's had done so well (they made the playoffs all three of those years) with such little dough.

Yeah, great, that's true. Lewis does focus on that three year span, which isn't really as large a sample size as you'd like if you're going to evaluate a GM's ability. But before I get to my point about Buzz, let's quickly address this:

The explanation was dazzling, although Lewis barely mentioned the three reasons the A's had been so successful--pitchers Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, and Tim Hudson. The three won an astounding 149 games during that span. Each of them were 20-game winners in at least one of those seasons.

If you've read the book, you know that this is pretty unfair. First, Lewis mentions those three then-aces plenty. Second, the reason the book focuses a lot MORE on guys like Scott Hatteberg and Chad Bradford is because it's a lot more interesting to hear about how a GM took relative unwanteds like them and turned them into valuable players than to hear about how a GM had three really good pitchers at the same time.

But anyways, back to the point. Yes, Moneyball focuses on a tiny, insignificant, negligible number of seasons. Just three. (Three seasons during which the A's won more than 300 games.) Meanwhile, Buzz has some excellent points to make about Beane's allegedly sterling reputation for finding and developing talent:

Beane had seven first-round draft picks that year, each of them extolled by Lewis for their buried-treasure status. Three of them are still playing in the majors, none with anything close to superstar careers and all of them long gone from the A's. Three others were busts. Poor Jeremy Brown never stopped being fat and slow and finished with a grand total of 10 major league at-bats before retirement.

OHHH! OHHHH! JEREMY BROWN BUSTED EVEN THOUGH BEANE SPENT A FIRST ROUND PICK ON HIM! SHAME ON YOU, BILLY BEANE. SHAME ON YOU FOR FAILING TO DEVELOP EVERY PLAYER WHO ENTERS YOUR ORGANIZATION INTO AN ALL-STAR. OUT OF A WHOLE 7 FIRST ROUND PICKS IN 2002, NONE OF THEM BECAME SURE FIRE HALL OF FAMERS. THIS IS INDISPUTABLE EVIDENCE THAT BILLY BEANE IS AN IDIOT AND KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT BASEBALL. I'M BUZZ BISSINGER, AND MY HEAD IS STUCK IN MY TAINT. I LOOK DOWN UPON WRITERS WHO TRY TO MAKE THEIR POINT WITHOUT USING A REASONABLE SAMPLE SIZE. THAT'S JUST BAD JOURNALISM.

Read the rest of the article- it has a lot more garbage that will make you laugh. Or smirk. That's what Buzz would do if someone else wrote this and he read it.

7 comments:

Tonus said...

Jeremy Brown retired for personal reasons, a family issue that he wanted to take care of. Because Lewis made a big deal about Brown, people use his retirement as a shot against Beane. But he didn't quit because he sucked.

People also ignore that one reason why the A's are struggling is that other teams with more money (Red Sox, Yankees) have taken the lessons of Moneyball to heart. Between better talent evaluation and more money to spend, it's no surprise that they're doing better than the A's.

And nice job focusing on the Beane disciples that have fared badly (DePodesta, Ricciardi) while ignoring the success stories (Theo Epstein). Oh wait... you mean a Moneyball enthusiast WON THE FUCKING WORLD SERIES... TWICE????

Then again, Buzz is one of a long line of people who do not understand the idea in Moneyball. It wasn't all about OBP. It was about finding skills that were being undervalued by most teams, and getting those on the cheap. OBP is the stat most closely related to run scoring, so it's no surprise that now that the rich teams are taking it into account, the A's are having trouble keeping up.

Buzz uses the same old tired and inaccurate bullshit to challenge a point that Lewis never made.

Biggus Rickus said...

Is there some kind of contractual obligation forcing every sportswriter to devote at least one column a year to trying to debunk "Moneyball?"

Also, how does he square this with his contention that Beane didn't change baseball:

"Without the money necessary to compete, all Beane can really do now is churn. It is a terrible position to be in no matter how astute you are. Market inefficiences are harder and harder to find, one of the ironies of Beane's brief but successful reliance on on-base percentage from 2000 to 2002 is that it has made players with such skill far too expensive for his pocketbook."

Why are inefficiencies harder to find? Because Beane changed the way other GMs thought about building their teams.

Adam said...

"But he is not the man who changed baseball, and Lewis's Moneyball did not chronicle the revolution. Since Beane has compared himself to J.D. Salinger, just wanting to fade away, maybe the best thing for him to do is retire and write a book about how, in the end, it all really didn't work."

Wow Buzz, bitter much?

He also conveniently fails to mention that other low payroll teams were in the playoffs this year and each has had sucesss in recent years. Cardinals (18th), Rockies (19th), and Twins (24th).

Nobody denies that having a huge payroll is an advantage, but why can't sportswriters ever give credit to teams who are smart managers and continue to have sucess without large payrolls?

pnoles said...

Joe Blanton is fat.

Also, I'm sure Beane would love to go back in time and never allow that book to be published. The reason that he seems so "overrated" is because thanks to that blasted book, other GMs understand that Adam Dunn is good. Incorrect valuation of OBP wss the absolute biggest inefficiency in the market. Although Beane continues to find inefficiencies (bad reputation players like Frank Thomas and Milton Bradley), it's not possible anymore to build a consistent winner out of inefficiencies. You need cash. If Moneyball was never published, there's a good chance that the A's might still have a stranglehold on the AL West.

Chris W said...

I will say this--it is a little silly to read Moneyball these days given how much time Lewis spends detailing Beane's draft strategy. Let's face it: all things considered Beane didn't have a very good success rate with those 7 first round picks, especially since it's not like Swisher wasn't on a lot of GM's radar....


Of course, that's not...like...the only point of the book....but it's just a little hard to read the 50+ pages devoted to that draft with a straight face with how ho hum that draft (and the majority of the A's subsequent drafts) turned out

Sean D said...

Also noted in the book was the amount of money that Beane DIDN'T spend on those draft picks, and that his strategy was to make a deal ahead of the draft pick for a much lower amount than a player who was projected at that pick.

Chris W said...

Me and Larry had a long gchat about this and we came to the conclusion that the fact that Beane refused to draft Prince Fielder and Zach Greinke in 2002 proves that baseball isn't played by computers and that Beane never should have written moneyball