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Friday, March 19, 2004

Beware The Man of One Book

Those claiming to be sabermetricians sans understanding of actual statistical principles amuse me. It reminds me of this Emo Phillips bit:
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said "Stop! don't do it!"

"Why shouldn't I?" he said.

I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!"

He said, "Like what?"

I said, "Well...are you religious or atheist?"

He said, "Religious."

I said, "Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?"

He said, "Christian."

I said, "Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?"

He said, "Protestant."

I said, "Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"

He said, "Baptist!"

I said,"Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"

He said, "Baptist Church of God!"

I said, "Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?"

He said,"Reformed Baptist Church of God!"

I said, "Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?"

He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915!"

I said, "Die, heretic scum", and pushed him off.

The point being that owning exactly one book leads to interpretive zealotry, and this is what we've seen with Moneyball. What makes me laugh -- or gets under my skin, depending on who's doing it and whether or not they're wishing I would just die or just accusing me of simple illiteracy because I did, in fact read the book without coming to the same conclusions they did -- is that book is nowhere near a complete guide to running a baseball team. In fact, even Beane himself says in this Baseball America roundtable that he would probably operate differently if he were running the Braves, say:

TOWERS: I always used John and the Braves as the model organization. They could develop a Rafael Furcal or a Javy Lopez or a Chipper Jones every year. They got to the point where they could draft high school players and wait. We’ve been in the mode now we needed to build our system up and have more of an instant return. If we get good, by God, if people are taking college players, I’m going to go pop some high school guys.

BEANE: Don’t kid yourself—we were waiting for some of those high school guys this year to fall down to us. There’s a few we were going to take.

BA: Not pitchers, though.

BEANE: Well, yeah—but that’s because of the business we’re in.

TOWERS: The risk.

BEANE: If I’m in Atlanta, I might operate differently. I’m looking at Baseball America today, seeing all the prospects the Braves have, a lot of them high school pitchers. The fact of the matter is, it’s the risk that you’re allowed to absorb. They’ve been very good for a long time. They can wait four-to-five years. I know I’m going to lose a player once a year, a premium player. My feeder system has to be a little quicker.

But don't let that mislead you, DK. Beane's fired all his scouts. It's just him and a laptop. Yeah, that's it. Dang, they're efficient!

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