Gleeman: The Meaning of ‘Moneyball’

From SABR member Aaron Gleeman at The Minnesota Post on September 28, 2011:

“Moneyball” is about finding value where other teams don’t see it and at the time getting on base was an undervalued skill. That is no longer the case, as front offices across baseball have embraced statistical analysis and the concepts employed by Beane and the A’s ceased being unique. And when small-payroll and big-payroll teams alike increased their focus on acquiring players with excellent on-base skills, the penny-pinching A’s could no longer compete for those skills on the open market.


Much of the analysis and many of the concepts that are now associated with modern-day sabermetrics actually date back to the 1940s and 1950s, when Hall of Fame Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey hired Allan Roth as a full-time statistician and wrote an article in LIFE magazine entitled “Goodbye To Some Old Baseball Ideas” that extolled the virtues of on-base percentage and introduced a metric called “batting rating” that was a precursor to the now widely used OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage).

Rickey was Beane well before there was a Beane and had far more success than Beane ever will, but Oakland during the “Moneyball” days embraced statistical analysis more thoroughly and publicly than any team before them and ultimately led to the rapid expansion of sabermetrics throughout baseball. Now nearly every MLB team has a statistical analysis department — yes, even the Twins — and sabermetrics is light years ahead of where it was in 2003, tackling more complex issues and going mainstream.

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Originally published: September 28, 2011. Last Updated: September 28, 2011.