Not so very long ago, a book — and then a movie — titled Moneyball celebrated the ascendance of the Oakland Athletics and their general manager, Billy Beane.
The Beauty of Short Hops
It seemed Beane had figured out how to build a winner from parts other teams had discarded by using a statistical analysis strategy developed by members of the Society for American Baseball Research known as "sabermeterics. Today, the A's are closer to last place than first and a very long shot to make the playoffs, even with MLB's newly- expanded post-season format. It's been nearly 23 years since Oakland last won the World Series. In an article about Moneyball, Haglund wrote, " the numbers are good, but the story is still bunk.
Really, the truth is that Eric Chavez , Miguel Tejada , Tim Hudson , Barry Zito , these guys turned Oakland into a contender and they weren't really the product of Bill James inspired sabermetric analysis. Equally important, the obsession with statistics and vision of the game as wholly predictable obscure baseball's spectacular improvisational quality. It is the game's unquantifiable and relentless capacity to surprise—the source of wonder so central to its greatest stories and personalities—that informs any real appreciation of baseball.
The book's been panned in the on-line reviews, but I'm going to have to read the book to obtain my own impressions. I will say that Bill James has been fairly clear-eyed about the limitations of purely statistical-based decisionmaking in sport, and voiced his concerns in Moneyball and other publications.
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