Thursday, July 15, 2004

Why I hate the A's & Billy Beane!

The sabermetric fans out there are going to hate me for this one. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big reader of Bill James, Rob Neyer, Baseball Prospectus and many more sites out there but the A's have gone from underdog team you want to root for to annoying juggernaut. (I guess that comes with winning but for some reason I don't have that same feeling with the Red Sox or the Giants or Twins and they've been winning almost as much lately).

Moneyball sort of started it for me although it's quite hard to seperate truth vs. fiction there. But Billy Beane does come off as quite cocky in that book and I hate cocky people. Confident is great....cocky is downright annoying. I know Billy Beane has done amazing things with a low-budget, revolutionized small-market baseball strategy, could sell salted peanuts to a man stranded in a desert, GREAT! (By the way, Terry Ryan is winning with less of a budget in Minnesota...where's his book...sure weaker division but winning is winning)

Why would you be so silly to shut your team options by force-feeding a philosophy through an organization. What do I mean? Well I think it's well known that the A's dont' sacrifice bunt much, don't steal much, don't BELIEVE in the productive out, and basically believe in taking lots of pitches, station to station baseball and wait for the extra base hit. And it's a wonderful philosophy and when you were the only team practicing this philosophy you had a distinct advantage over many of the other teams in the league and it was a BRILLIANT choice to move the organization forward with. And if they win a World Series I'll be utterly AMAZED!!

I know, I know, the regular season is a truest way to tell which teams are the best and the playoffs are pure luck(especially 5 game series). The A's losing the last 4 years in the first round is an anomaly and eventually their turn will come. For the playoff haters out there, would you prefer the BCS? Let the writers vote who the best team is. I mean really, nothing is more exciting than playoff baseball, some of it's luck and I'd like to see the divisional round go to 7 games and definitely don't add anymore teams but playoffs are a GOOD THING!!!

My honest belief is that the A's thrive on bad baseball teams, thus struggle against the better teams. I know many of you will say don't all teams do this? They might I don't know. It's a huge research project and I need to check it out but here's my theory:

Okay the A's philosophy from what I gather is load up on guys who take lots of pitches, get walks, hit the ball for power, and defense is not as important as offense (although I think Beane is changing his mind on the last one). Well during the regular season you're probably seeing bad pitchers more often than you're seeing good pitchers who are bad cause they give more walks and more extra base hits and Voila! your offensive philosophy works. Here come the playoffs, runs are harder to get by, the pitching is much better, guys throw strikes and you have to hit the ball and maybe just occasionally manufacture a run here or there especially late in games. But your the A's, we don't believe in sacrifice bunts or steals and we won't change that just cause it's the playoffs. Not only that but by not encouraging stolen bases you're telling your team not to be aggressive, never put pressure on the defense. NEVER a good idea in sports! And the big unwillingness to allow all facets of the game into your playbook is just silly, stolen bases can be helpful, sacrifice bunts can be helpful, hitting the ball to the right side with a man on 2nd and nobody out can be helpful. There's no reason to banish these things from your game when they may be useful in certain situations and that is basically what the A's are doing. And if you don't do it much in the regular season, you're going to do it a lot less in the playoffs, because in pressure situations you tend to play the conservative hand and the conservative hand is not a good idea especially in the playoffs.

So what's the research project, well I'm not starting it anytime soon but you'd have to get the A's records vs. well above .500 teams, well below .500 teams, near .500 teams and see how they compare to the rest of the league. It may not show anything, it may show something, but it's something I'm going to try and do someday.


At July 20, 2004 at 6:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Posted by Jon Fellows (

Bill James in the 1984 Abstract said that the White Sox aggressiveness on the bases hurt them in the 1983 ALDS vs the Orioles, on the grounds that taking the extra base was more likely to succeed against teams that were weaker on the fundamentals. Whereas against good teams like the Orioles (remember this is 1983), aggressive baserunning led to killing rallies by being thrown out on the bases.

That being said, I agree that it is useful to see whether there are kinds of playoff teams that tend to play better against good teams/pitchers and others that make the playoffs by beating up on the patsies.

At July 20, 2004 at 10:37 AM, Blogger RobG said...

That would be another interesting study to see how playoff teams have fared during the regular season vs. certain types of competition and then how did they fare in the playoffs.

Don't know if you read the rest of the blog, but Hardball Times had a good article on playoff baseball:

My overall point on the whole matter was that I think it's very short-sighted for Beane to adopt a policy where the A's will NEVER do certain things no matter the situation. He's pretty much set a set of rules and standards and does not want to deviate from those no matter the situation. And I think we can agree that playoff baseball is different than regular season baseball and you have to be pretty much willing to do anything at anytime to gain that small competitive edge when playing the best of the best. I'm not saying always take an extra base, don't always try to hit and run on 2-1 counts, don't always try and sac bunt, but there may be a time where those do come in handy to win A game. During the regular season those strategies may not be the best to win the majority of games, but during the post-season winning A game means all the difference and one of those strategies might just work for that game at that particular time.

Beane has already done the hard part and that's getting his team to the playoffs just about every year, now is he smart enough to see that his "s*** doesn't work in the playoffs" (as he famously said in Moneyball) and back off a little and let Macha manage a little more during the playoffs.

We'll see.

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