Another day, another article that makes me want to bang my head against a wall. Today the guilty party is Sky Andrecheck (don't you just hate him already?) writing for SI.com. I'll do my best to break this down FJM style, although we both know I won't match their lofty standards. Sadly, the anger inducing column is only about 10 years late to weigh in on the topic.
The start is promising, unlike the actual Joe Morgan, Sky actually appears to understand that "by scooping up undervalued players on the cheap, Oakland was able to compete with the big-market clubs despite suffering major monetary disadvantages." Unfortunately, after that things pretty much go to shit.
"Traditionalists wondered, if all teams adopted Beane's thinking, emphasizing patience and drawing walks, wouldn't the game's aesthetic appeal be ruined?"
Really? Because I can't recall a single article or conversation about that. People were too busy heaping praise on Billy Beane's new approach to worry about whether or not the game would look like a slow pitch softball game, as Andrecheck frets about.
Andrecheck goes on to show this graph, pointing out that walks peaked before Moneyball was even released and that walk rates in class A has also decreased slightly. So. fucking. what. 1. Anyone with half an understanding of statistics would take a look at that graph and easily determine there is no trend. 2. Working a walk is a skill, just like running the bases, fielding, or hitting for power. Do you think that with the success of the big sluggers in the late 1990's other players decided, "You know what I should do? I should hit more home runs. I'm going to do that!" (On second though, maybe you shouldn't answer that question). 3. Who knows what other covariables there were - maybe class A players were getting younger? On top of that, if the new approach to coaching is supposed to be a big difference maker, why are you showing me the YOUNGEST league?
"Another element of the Moneyball approach was its disdain for the speed game."
Again, just flat wrong. The entire baseball premise behind Moneyball is that outs are precious. If you run like crazy with moderate success, you're hurting your team. It isn't that stealing bases is bad, getting caught it.
"Though stealing is down from its peak in the 1980s..., the fact remains that teams are stealing... with a 72% success rate, and are doing so more efficiently than at any time in the game's history."
And he makes my point for me! This is getting easier and easier.
"Regardless of current statistical thinking, the variety of types of players that populate the major leagues has not and will not change significantly."
And again? Really, that is too kind.
As best I can tell Andrecheck doesn't really understand Moneyball, but thinks he does. Sprinkled throughout the article are little tidbits of knowledge that are correct, but when an attempt is made to synthesize them together he ends up with something incoherent. Things like defense is the new Moneyball and that Moneyball was about OBP players being undervalued are both correct, but hideously twisted around into some vision of a Billy Beane beer league softball show (although does anyone walk in beer league softball?). Either he's totally missed the point or he's constructed a marvelously flimsy straw man to break down in his last paragraph.