Thursday, March 4, 2010

The New Moneyball

"The new Moneyball player looks a lot like Boston's new centerfielder: fast, athletic, a slick fielder who even at age 37 and for $8 million a year is a bargain. 'Mike Cameron played on two of the 10 best defensive teams of all time [the 2001 Marlins and the 1999 Reds],' says [Tony] Blengino. 'Every team he's played for has gotten better. Every team he's left collapsed when he left. No, Mike Cameron's not a Hall of Famer. But he's clearly a winning baseball player.'" -p. 67, Sports Illustrated (March 1, 2010)

Hello skeptics! I know you're out there: you Red Sox fans who scoff at Theo's newfound love for run prevention and predict a downfall of epic proportions. I disagree with you. The players disagree with you. The front office (obviously) disagrees with you. But I know that won't sway you, so maybe this will: Sports Illustrated recently ran a six page article [in the Olympic issue, no less!] on the "new Moneyball," which, in case you were wondering, is defense and run prevention.

I'm guessing there's a lot of overlap in the "doubt Theo" and "Moneyball is all about OBP and Billy Beane is a failure" demographics, so before I start, I'm going to make some clarifications. Moneyball was not about OBP, but rather the exploitation of undervalued commodities within baseball. In the early days of the last decade, OBP was all but ignored, and so those who paid attention to it (Hey there, Billy Beane) reaped the benefits. Now, of course, on base percentage is quoted just as often as the old standby, the batting average, and it's displayed on scoreboards and television screens across the country. OBP is no longer undervalued by the market, and so teams looking for an edge no longer prioritize it as the Holy Grail of statistics.

According to SI's Albert Chen, defense is the new byword, and the movement is being spearheaded by the Seattle Mariners, who, despite scoring fewer runs than anyone in the American League, won 85 games last year, overcoming a pitching staff that essentially boasted Felix Hernandez and no one else. These same Mariners went 4-2 against your very own Boston Red Sox, on the back of a defense and run prevention strategy.

Theo's not stupid. He saw what we all saw: a stacked lineup (and bottomless pockets) to the south, and a team out west with a small payroll but good results. He put two and two together, added Cameron, Adrian Beltre, and Marco Scutaro, and as a result, Sox fans are about to be treated to a parade of defensive gems from April to [hopefully] sometime in October. This offense will be just fine, and the defense promises to be one of the best New England has seen. Let's all just take a deep breath and relax... and if you really feel the need to worry about something, I suggest you fret over the state of Beltre's balls.

1 comment:

  1. Anyone who says Moneyball is dead clearly has not read Moneyball. In the steroid era the HR was the most sought after form of production. Since the HR rate has clearly diminished, it would be foolish to continue playing a game focused around home runs. Less home runs = more balls in play, which means defense will be increasingly important. Since very few clubs currently value stellar defense, Theo is able to get two of the best defenders in the game on the cheap side. Add that to the fact that Boston has (arguably) the best pitching staff in the game and you will see that the rest of the league is in trouble.