Viewer Mail 3.11.2011

Books, Management, Players, Spring Training

Norm writes RE Moneyball and stat guys:

I have to support Paul here. The reason Billy Beane is his white whale or even bete noire is simple: the Moneyball sabermetric fans are taking over the sports business.


While I realize the dorks admit their stats are imperfect and are contantly trying to revise them, until they do develop the perfect stats, they should advance their cause with some humility. They should stop with the Joe Posnanski/Bill James shtick of ‘you thought the answer was A. Actually, the answer is B! Haha, you cretin!”
What it comes down to is this: if you were a team owner, would you trust a good squad of scouts to blanket a league and rate players, or would you save the money on scouts and just use ‘advanced analytics’ as they are currently presented?

And would you give Billy Beane any deference? In a post steroid world, where he cannot field an offence of slow white guys taking walks in front of juicehead sluggers?

Norm’s comment is exemplified in the visceral reaction to the new book that supposedly “blows the lid” off Moneyball. Such was the case with this snide posting from Rob Neyer in his new home on SBNation.

Neyer’s “best” shot?

“Anyway, I think I ordered this book months ago. Should be a hoot.”

Then, getting to the comments, you see the same reactionary, internet tough guy stuff that is always a hallmark of the last guy you want at your back in a dark alley. It’s weak and pathetic.

How about a cogent argument against their hypothesis without the snark?

Here’s a suggestion: read the book and come up with a detailed response rather than a vicious, mouthy retort based on something you haven’t read.

If Joe (Statmagician) ever contributed anything to this site, it was pointing out my constant harping on the phrase “stat zombie” creating an atmosphere of tension in which my own statements were secondary to my balled fists.

Calling names does no one any good.

Regarding that book “exposing” Moneyball, I doubt it’s of any use. There is a way to tear into Moneyball as it stands and it has nothing to do with disproving what Michael Lewis crafted, but taking the book and using it to destroy it in a calm, cannibalistic, point-by-point fashion.

Turn the tables and use Lewis’s own weapon to destroy Moneyball.

The men who wrote that new book can’t do it.

But I can.

And will.

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE me, Billy Beane and Moneyball:

I hope you know that nothing about my comment was meant to be taken seriously. Except for the bit about the white whale.

In what way hasn’t Billy Beane already failed? He’s still a GM, sure, but he’s never fielded a WS team and most of his time in office has been dominated by the Angels.

If I’m waiting for Beane to fail, I’ve been waiting too long.

I know you were kidding; people think I’m obsessed and I’m not; I’m trying to teach the same people who feel as if Moneyball allowed them to proclaim themselves as experts that there’s a true path to learning the game properly and it’s not through the eyes of a Michael Lewis, a man with an agenda and the writing skills to subtly twist the narrative in the direction he wanted it to go.

The other issue with Beane and the hardcore “stats above all else” advocates is that there’s always an excuse for the failure. Nothing is more idiotic than the “playoffs are a crapshoot” nonsense; it’s close, but not quite, on a level with the “card-counting in the draft”.

Only through me can you achieve a power great enough to learn the true nature of the Dark Side…

Joe (Dagodfather on Twitter) writes RE Zack Greinke:

I got good news for you. There IS a clause in a standard player’s contract that says that they are not allowed to participate in any activity where they can reasonably be injured that’s not associated with preparing for their game. The problem is can playing basketball be considered “preparing for their game”? I know that may sound strange but it’s a great cardio workout and helps with agility, leaping, and going side-to-side. It also helps keep up their natural competitive nature without doing anything illegal.

I’m aware of the contractual stipulation, Joe.

I doubt any team—barring a catastrophic injury—will give a player a hard time about playing basketball in the off-season.

A) there’s no way to stop them; B) they’re elite athletes who can handle an intense pickup basketball game; and C) it’s not a dangerous activity.

Greinke was unlucky. If I were paying him, I’d prefer he refrained from doing it, but it’s better than other trouble players tend to get into in the off-season.

My main thrust in the posting was that there’s an overreaction to a chance injury. Because it was Greinke and not a nondescript middle reliever, the club shrugged it off because they can’t do anything else.

One such overreaction came on MLB Trade Rumors in this posting.

First it’s straight reporting as to what the Rangers would’ve had to surrender to get Greinke; then there’s this:

“Now that Greinke has a cracked rib, the Rangers are probably glad they held onto their players.”

Where’s the connection?

I could see if he blew out his elbow pitching or had a recurrence of his off-field depression issues from early in his career; but because he cracked a rib playing hoops the Rangers are more pleased they didn’t gut their system to get Greinke?

They rejected a deal based on the price; the player was injured in an off-field incident that might not have happened had the trade been to the Rangers and not the Brewers. It’s a Terminator-style alternate reality, but maybe Greinke would’ve had a Rangers-related activity on the day he played basketball; perhaps he’d have been house-hunting in Texas; or whatever.

It’s a stupid assumption that the Rangers are “relieved” because of an accident.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Zack Greinke:

Put that way, I guess the teams don’t have much of a say in what their players do in the offseason. I recall (Ken Griffey Jr.) getting hurt “playing with his kids”… they certainly can’t ban that.

It’s all in context and depends on the player, his salary and value to the team. Greinke gets the vanilla reaction from the GM; if it was Wil Nieves, he gets released.

Joe (Statmagician) writes RE Moneyball:

Have you seen the movie ‘Pi?’ Moneyball is your “Pi,” Paul.

Pi, Darren Aronofsky’s first full-length film made on a shoestring budget in black and white—great movie.

You neglect to mention that the protagonist happened to be right in his attempts at exposing the truth.

Just like me with Moneyball.

Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon.