Moneyball, Yet Again

The A’s have extending their losing streak while attempting to eliminate a playoff opponent to an amazing 9 games. Here in the Tri-State area (NY, NJ, CT), this is taken as proof that Billy Beane and his statistical approach to building a team are a crock. This might be a side effect of watching the abysmal Mets and their bloated payroll. Or it just might be a misunderstanding of the limits of statistics.

Because the statistics are based upon the full season. No one believes that the regular season is representative of the playoffs. Why would they that think that regular season statistics apply to the playoffs? The playoffs are different from the regular season. The teams are better, the games are closer, the pressure is more intense and managers change their patterns of play.

The Diamondbacks won the 2001 World Series by running Schilling and Johnson out to the mound as many times as it took. They would never be [ab]used like that in the regular season. But their presence makes the playoff Diamondbacks significantly different from the regular season Diamondbacks.

The regular season closer is a fraud. If you can’t earn the save with a 3 run lead in the ninth, then you aren’t a major league reliever.

You could take a slightly above average pitcher and drop him into the closer’s role, let him accumulate some gaudy number of saves, and then sell him off. You could, in essence, buy a stock, pump it up with false publicity, and sell it off for much more than you paid for it.

Michael Lewis

But the great playoff closer is a thing of beauty. If you’ve got Mariano Rivera at the top of his game, then you’ve got baseball’s equivalent of the ultimate weapon. We’ve seen regular season closers wilt under the bright lights of the playoffs but the great playoff closers demand the ball and deliver the victory.

Beane needs to comb playoff statistics for a financial edge, calculate what an ALCS apperance would bring the A’s, and make a pitch for some extra money to take him over the top. He’s still got the Big Three of Mulder, Hudson and Zito. And he needs to break through before free agency takes them away.