Pryor Inquires: Goodbye, Moneyball

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Moneyball. Photo courtesy of google.com.

By Richard Pryor III, Executive Staff

Q: Richard, you’ve been a fan of weird and interesting statistics for years. What do you think about Moneyball?

– Hoping for Homers in Hunter

A: Thanks for that question, Hoping. Like pretty much everything else Michael Lewis has written, I love Moneyball. For those of you who haven’t read it (and you should), Moneyball tells of the 2002 Oakland Athletics, whose general manager Billy Beane brought the team to the Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs by getting players who were cheap and had a high on-base percentage (OBP) and/or slugging percentage (SLG).

That year, despite having the third lowest salary total in MLB, the Athletics had the 7th best team OBP and the 8th best SLG. They had the second highest record in the American League but lost in the Division Series to a team who had spent almost double of what they had in salaries.

The seven small-market teams (Arizona, ChiSox, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Oakland, San Diego, and Tampa Bay) have an average OBP and SLG lower than that of the MLB as a whole. The same goes for wins as well. Moneyball is dead. There are clear correlations between winning and having high stats like OBP and SLG. But because of Moneyball, the entire concept of “Moneyball” is gone. No more can the enterprising Billy Beanes of the MLB create playoff teams with a payroll of less than $40 million.

This is not going to end up as one of those articles you see every season about whether the MLB should have a salary cap or not. Let the angry folks on the internet kvetch over that. But let me be perfectly clear: Moneyball is gone, and it’s all Michael Lewis’s fault, unfortunate as it may be to say that, it is what it is. By publicizing this method, everyone’s using it. And as such, baseball is back to the classist system it always has been.

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