Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Moneyball...The Movie

So this is one of the first "detours" I plan to write.  As a quick note, a detour is going to be anything I feel should be on the list that isn't either due to being released after the book or it was just left out.  Moneyball, the movie at least, falls into the first category.  

The family and I went and saw Moneyball on Monday and I must say its quite possibly one of the best baseball movies I've seen in a long time.  In a nutshell, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the GM of the Oakland A's, along with the help of Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) put together the 2002 Oakland A's based solely on getting runs after their team was gutted from losing their top 3 players..  Brand, who is actually Paul DePodesta in real life, convinced Beane that by buying players that have high On-Base Percentage (OBP), the A's would get the necessary amount of runs needed to win.  As portrayed in the movie, these weren't the most talented players in baseball, but what Brand saw in their on-base stats got them a contract with the team. 

The methods used by Brand to evaluate players for Beane at the time was a slap in the face to baseball tradition.  Like the preview said, it was ignoring the work that scouts had done for 150 years.  In the movie, the talent scouts seemed more interested in the athletic ability, the look, and the "big" stats (HR, RBI, AB).  If the round table discussions that took place in the movie are any semblance of truth to how baseball scouts really work, then I'm shocked by the inner workings of baseball.  Although I would also be upset if the true reason Billy Beane tried out this method was to get back at the scouts who recruited him.  Beane was a great prospect, a real "5-tool" player.  But after floundering in the big leagues a subsequently in the minors he gave up playing to become a scout.  In truth, after losing their main talent from 2001, the A's had to replace these players.  The Oakland A's are one of the numerous "small market" teams in MLB.  They don't have the capital like the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox have, so clubs like Oakland have to develop talent in their farm system to get players.  By doing this, you get players for cheap early in their careers and possibly longer if they don't become an amazing player.  It's always a cyclical system for these teams to put their "best" players on the field.  Teams like the Yankees have enough money to buy any player they think will get them to a championship (A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher). 

The year after Beane implemented this method of building a team, the Red Sox employed the same system, one that won them a championship in 2004 (That's what the movie says, but I call shenanigans.  They had a ton of money wrapped up in Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez, and Johnny Damon among others).  Oh and Boston yanked Damon away from the A's following their improbable run to the playoffs in 2001.  From what I can find the payroll for the 2002 Oakland A's was $ 40,004,167 broken up like this among it's roster.  They had 2 players making $7 mil that year, but for David Justice's salary, the Yankees were paying half.  The 2004 champion Red Sox team's payroll was $127,298,500 broken up like this.  They were paying more money to Ramirez than the top 2 of the A's were making.  So to say the Red Sox used the same system to create that championship team is a lie.  They had 11 players making under a million dollars that year compared to 17 players making under a million for the A's.  On a side note, about half of those 17 went on to have pretty good careers in the majors.  

I would recommend this movie to anyone who wants to get a glimpse of the inner workings of a baseball team.  Once I get the book read, I'll compare the two in another post.

Oh and this isn't on the list, so I guess it doesn't count. 

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