Shamball by Phil Meyers
In the most simple of terms, that’s how the concept—commonly known as “Moneyball,” reveals itself. Ideally, Moneyball is a system that is predicated on emphasizing mathematical analysis, putting a premium on not conceding outs. Therefore, the process weighs its importance heavily upon on base percentage (OBP). Walks thus come to the forefront, as does a lack of desire to steal bases or sacrifice bunt—with a logic following that both acts do nothing but up the risk that a team commits an out, while decreasing their chance to score a run or more.
Defense neither is prioritized, for fielding is considered a skill that isn’t worth the money for teams which are viewed as situated in small or medium sized markets (economically speaking). And in reality, that’s what the essence of Moneyball is—a proposed way for lesser financially endowed teams to compete with “big-boys” like the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, and so forth.
See it’s that mathematic proposition which is supposed to serve a loophole bridging those economic haves and have-nots in Major League Baseball. In theory, the system should, or at least could work; though in reality, it’s just another endless desert oasis eyeing a mirage that never emerges into reality.
“Spahn and Sain, and pray for rain.” The 1906 “Hitless Wonder” Chicago White Sox. Koufax and Drysdale of the Los Angeles Dodgers. All three examples have one imperative baseline in common—as did why the Oakland Athletics seemingly had early “success” with their advent of Moneyball.
That’s outstanding starting pitching.
During the presentation of Michael Lewis’s book entitled Moneyball, and as with its contemporary movie namesake, the once fancied system takes little into account of how necessary quality pitching is for success on a baseball field. Sure, the book deals with pitching in some circles—though completely ignored in the film—offering that when assembling and/or drafting pitchers within a franchise, a club looks to college talent over high schoolers. The reason for this aim is certainty, knowing that collegians have a better track record than does that of a teenager who continues to grow, has questions with maturity, and faces competition which is thinner when compared against top college conferences.
But nevertheless pitching is what drives the sport of baseball—from its inception in the mid-1800’s, and through this present day.
As a result, one must not easily forget or overlook that Oakland—who featured as guinea pig for the innovative Moneyball—sported the likes of Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, and Mark Mulder—all three fantastic arms at the top of their craft for a good number of years. Nor must we turn a blind eye that the Athletics fielded Miguel Tejada (one who was very much not in the “Moneyball” mode, and widely considered the team’s best player), along with Jermaine Dye and very able Eric Chavez as well.
Yes the Athletics found regular season success for a string of five or so years during that early 2000’s heyday, sporting a payroll that hovered annually above or below $40 million, where the Yankees and others pushed a talent base that neared $100 million more per annum. But Oakland was a team that never won a playoff series, nor really stayed in contention following the departure of the aforementioned triumvirate pitchers Hudson, Zito, and Mulder.