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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
this approach.

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
prospects’ butts.

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

Pos

MLB debut

Career WAR

Active in     MLB?

Jeremy Guthrie RHP 8/28/2004 19.6 Yes
Joe Blanton RHP 9/21/2004 9.6 No; in Class AAA
Jeff Francis LHP 8/25/2004 10.5 Yes
Luke Hagerty LHP None No
Ben Fritz RHP None No
Bobby Brownlie RHP None No
Steve Obenchain RHP None No
Bill Murphy LHP 9/3/2007 0.2 No
Nick Swisher 1B 9/3/2004 24.1 Yes
Russ Adams SS 9/3/2004 0.0 No
Khalil Greene SS 9/3/2003 8.4 No
John McCurdy SS None No
Mark Teahen 3B 4/4/2005 2.4 No
Jeremy Brown C 9/3/2006 0.1 No
Steve Stanley OF None No
John Baker C 7/9/2008 1.3 Yes
Mark Kiger SS 10/13/2006 0.0 No
Brian Stavisky OF None No
Shaun Larkin 2B None No
Brant Colamarino 1B None No

Top 20 picks from high schools

 

Pos

MLB Debut

Career WAR

Active in MLB

B.J. Upton SS 8/2/2004 14.7 Yes
Chris Gruler RHP None No
Adam Loewen LHP 5/23/2006 0.5 No; at Class AA
Clint Everts RHP None No
Zack Greinke RHP 5/22/2004 39.1 Yes
Prince Fielder 1B 6/13/2005 23.2 Yes
Scott Moore SS 9/4/2006 -0.8 No; at Class AAA
Jeremy Hermida OF 8/31/2005 2.7 No; at Class AAA
Scott Kazmir LHP 8/23/2004 19.6 Yes
Cole Hamels LHP 5/12/2006 36.1 Yes
James Loney 1B 4/4/2006 11.7 Yes
Denard Span OF 4/6/2008 20.5 Yes
Jeff Francoeur OF 7/7/2005 7.0 No; at Class AAA
Matt Cain RHP 8/29/2005 33.0 Yes
Sergio Santos SS 4/8/2008 2.7 Yes
John Mayberry OF 5/23/2009 1.5 Yes
Greg Miller LHP None No
Matthew Whitney 3B None No
Micah Schilling 2B None No

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