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September 19, 2012 at 5:39 pm ET
3 Comments
The Last Game of the Season

I used to be the B&C Yankees writer, but I am actually an Angels fan. 2012 has been a disappointing season for the Angels.  Adding Chris Iannetta, CJ Wilson, Zack Greinke and Albert Pujols should have been enough to put the Halos over the top, and back into the playoffs. They still have a legitimate chance of making the postseason, but these days I find it hard to really care too much if they make it to October.

If you haven’t noticed I’m a big fan of sabermetrics. I write about sabermetrics all over the place. It’s pretty much what I do.

For most their only idea of sabermetrics is that of Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt yapping back and forth about how Scott Hatteberg is awesome at getting on base, in some movie.

There is also a perception that “Moneyball” doesn’t work, mainly because the Oakland Athletics haven’t reached the postseason since 2006.

Billy Beane was praised as a genius by many but also critiqued by some during the early 2000’s. Then he pretty much became an afterthought for most baseball fans in the latter half of that decade.

Coming into this season, Beane was trying to rebuild Oakland’s roster for about the gazillionth time.

The Beane model essentially was:

Trade away stars who are due for a raise in exchange for cost-controlled prospects.

This offseason, Beane traded away Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey. These moves led many (including myself) to predict another losing season for Oakland, in 2012.

I assumed, like many, that Moneyball and the application of sabermetrics would not have a shot at resulting in great success for Oakland until at least 2014.

Yet, I stare at today’s standings, and despite the fact that Oakland lost 12-2 last night, they still have the second-best record in the American League.

What?

Oakland has a better record than the Yankees… again? Just like that Oscar-nominated movie about a baseball team who didn’t even win the World Series?

How is this possible?

Well to be honest, it’s happened for a lot of reasons.  The main three reasons for Oakland’s success are starting pitching depth, above-average defense and good bullpen performances.

That’s right. Oakland isn’t winning because of the all-hallowed OBP (on-base percentage) that people seem to think Moneyball, or more broadly sabermetrics, is all about.

Getting on base is a huge part of run production and on-base percentage has a stronger correlation with runs scored than batting average. But Oakland’s team OBP is only .308, which is much lower than the league average, .319. Although Oakland does play in a ballpark that suppresses offense, their OBP is still below-average.

Run prevention is obviously as a large an aspect of baseball as run production, and Oakland has done a phenomenal job of keeping runs off the board.

The goal of this post is not to explain why Oakland is winning or why their success still has something to do with sabermetrics.

Instead, I would just like to admit that it’s almost possible that my love for sabermetrics has caused the diehard Angels fan in me to root for Beane’s Athletics.

I want Beane to win it all. I want him to win it all in Oakland. Many teams have found success by using sabermetrics, even my beloved Angels have hired a statistically-inclined general manager. But I think I’ve fallen in love with the Hollywood story.

In Moneyball, Pitt (Beane) says “It ultimately doesn’t matter how many games you win if you lose the last game of the season.”

2012 has been a crazy season and maybe this is the year that Beane will finally win the last game of the season.

And for me, that would be something special.

 

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3 Responses to “The Last Game of the Season”
  1. O's fan in NY says:

    Kudo’s….Do the O’s rate as playing BillyBeanBall too?

  2. Glenn DuPaul says:

    Billy Beane ball is simply getting something out of little. The Orioles payroll is much higher than Oakland’s. At the same time, Brian Roberts makes up over 10 percent of their payroll. When you factor Roberts out the O’s take a large stop closer to what Beane is doing.

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