It is difficult to say how much the book “Moneyball” changed the game of baseball.
The best-selling book, later made into a movie, popularized the idea of sabermetrics
as a serious baseball talent evaluation tool and not just the province of nerds.
Michael Lewis’ story of Oakland front office honcho Billy Beane and how he attempted
to find undervalued players in the 2002 season was hit with the public. It was
definitely a talker among baseball people.
And a little more than a decade later, every club relies to some degree on analytics.
How much influence did “Moneyball” have with major league teams? I’m not sure. I am
guessing Boston, an organization that relied on data in winning the World Series in
2004, played a big role. And Red Sox owner John Henry was already a data freak — he
tried to hire Beane and then settled for Theo Epstein— before the book came out.
But in the wake of “Moneyball,” fans and media began questioning teams that lagged
on analytics why they weren’t getting on board.
So I think the influence of “Moneyball” goes beyond just letting the public know about
One of my favorite parts when I read the book was when Beane talked about his
preference for drafting college players over high school kids. His argument was you
have more data — and it comes against better competition — when you look at a college
kid. Also, you are dealing to someone who is closer to a finished product. It makes
sense to me.
Over the weekend, ESPN had a stat that 57 percent of the players on Opening Day
major league rosters were from four-year colleges. Players signed from high schools
made up 32 percent, with junior college players making up 11 percent.
I am not sure if this is an increase (it was implied that is was). If so, I hope it is not
based on the Moneyball story. Because in the famous 2002 draft, where Beane created
a list of 20 college players he wanted, the high school prospects kicked his college
Below are two charts: Beane’s dream list and the first 20 high school players drafted,
with their position, when they debuted in the major leagues, baseball-reference.com’s
career WAR (defined by the site as wins a player added to his team over what a
replacement player, such as someone in high minor leagues, would add) and if they
are still active.
Only 11 of Beane’s 20 made it to the majors; 15 of the high school kids made it.
Not surprisingly, more of high school kids, who were of course younger, are still
playing major or minor league baseball. All 15 who made the majors are still in
organized baseball. Only four of the college prospects are still playing
Total career WAR through June 5 for the college players: 76.2. Total career WAR for
the high school kids: 213.7
As a group, college players out-shined the high school in getting to majors faster. Six
college draftees were in the majors in 2003 or 2004. Only three of the high school
players had debuted by then.
A couple other things:
The college players listed were the ones Beane wanted, not the
first 20 chosen. Incidentally, he was not able to draft all 20.
And, of course, it’s only one draft.
Beane’s top 20
Active in MLB?
|Joe Blanton||RHP||9/21/2004||9.6||No; in Class AAA|
Top 20 picks from high schools
Active in MLB
|Adam Loewen||LHP||5/23/2006||0.5||No; at Class AA|
|Scott Moore||SS||9/4/2006||-0.8||No; at Class AAA|
|Jeremy Hermida||OF||8/31/2005||2.7||No; at Class AAA|
|Jeff Francoeur||OF||7/7/2005||7.0||No; at Class AAA|