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What is the Moneyball Strategy?

The Pakland A's Athletics.

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The Pakland A's Athletics.

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The Oakland Athletics have always had less funding than other teams in the MLB. Franchises like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Los Angeles Dodgers seem to have all the money in the world which gives them the clear advantage in trades, draft picks, and other team transactions over teams like the A’s. However, the A’s have had some of the best seasons in the history of baseball including 2001 and 2002 highlighted by when they won 102 and 103 games. Despite their lack of wealth, the A’s front office led by General Manager (now executive vice president of baseball operations) Billy Beane, created the Moneyball Strategy, which is the sole reason why the A’s have had tremendous success in the past. Currently, this strategy is used by almost all teams, which shows the effectiveness of this tactic.

Billy Beane was selected with the 23rd pick of the 1980 MLB draft. In high school, Beane was one of the most sought out baseball players in the whole world. Colleges like Stanford and many MLB teams were constantly scouting him. After pondering for a good amount of time, Beane declared for the MLB and entered the draft. Unfortunately, the prospect everyone was so hyped about, ended up being a huge bust, who only had 3 home runs in his career. Despite his disappointing MLB career, Beane wanted to stay in the professional baseball industry and attempted to continue his career in the front office. In 1997, Beane’s front office dream came true as he became the general manager of the Oakland Athletics. Soon after, Beane met Paul Depodesta, who played college baseball and football at Harvard University. Like Beane, Depodesta wanted to take a more statistical approach to baseball. At Harvard, he earned a economics degree yet decided to become a MLB scout. A couple of years later, Beane and Depodesta joined forces and created the famed Moneyball.

So what exactly is the Moneyball strategy? The foundation of this entire approach is the statistic on base percentage, overvalue, and undervalue. The Moneyball thesis is to get players from other teams that are undervalued and to get rid of players who demand high payment and/or are overvalued. Their theory is that if a player has a .350 OBP (on base percentage) along with an outstanding average of .310 they are just as valuable as another player who has the same OBP and an average of around .255. Also, speed is a non-factor for the Moneyball strategy as a slow first baseman who has a high OBP will hit leadoff rather than a speedy outfielder who can’t seem to draw walks. At the time, other teams and their front offices were making fun of this tactic and declared that it made no sense whatsoever. The Oakland A’s “nerd” background made other people question their “baseball IQ” which resulted in a lot of disdain. However, Beane ignored all the criticism and led the A’s to a 102-60 record in 2001- all because of his shunned tactics. This tactic produced some of the game’s greatest stars including slugger Jason Giambi, who had one of the best plate approaches the MLB has ever seen. The next year, Beane had to get rid of his three most talented stars, Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, and Jason Isringhausen. As a result, Beane and Depodesta acquired lots of no-name players and old veterans who fit the guidelines of Moneyball. Some of these players include Scott Hatteberg, a former catcher who could no longer throw, David Justice, a former star who was getting old, and Chad Bradford, a relief pitcher who was overlooked because of his awkward release.This season ended up becoming one of the best in A’s franchise history and the book and the subject of the movie Moneyball based on this “miracle.” At mid-season, the Athletics were below .500 for the year and it seemed as if their strategy wasn’t panning out. However, the A’s ended the season with a 103-59 record.

Today, nearly all franchises use the Moneyball strategy. Prior to Moneyball, OBP was an overlooked statistic with almost no significan

ce. Today, it is one of the major categories in baseball and is never ignored. Beane and Depodesta ended up changing the dynamics of the league and left a permanent impact on the game they love, now greatly impacted by the Moneyball strategy.

 

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What is the Moneyball Strategy?