Moneyball redux

I reread Moneyball this weekend. You may recall that Moneyball is the story of Oakland A's GM Billy Beane and his quest to build a winning baseball team on the cheap by going after players whose skills (primarily on-base percentage) were undervalued.

Anyway, I ran across this passage again:

"Power is something that can be acquired," says Billy quickly. "Good hitters develop power. Power hitters don't become good hitters."

"Do you see [prospect Mark Teahen] at third base or shortstop?" asks another old scout, like a prosecuting attorney leading a witness.

"Let's forget about positions and just ask: who is the best hitter?" says Billy.

Paul [dePodesta] looks up from his computer. "Teahen: .493 on base; .624 slug. Thirty walks and only seventeen strikeouts in only one hundred ninety-four at bats." It's hard to tell what the scouts make of the numbers. Scouts from other teams would almost surely say: who gives a shit about a guy's numbers? It's college ball. You need to look at the guy. Imagine what he might become.

Everyone stares silently at Teahen's name for about thirty seconds. Erik says, "I hate to say it but if you want to talk about another Jason Giambi, this guy could be it." Giambi was a natural hitter who developed power only after the Oakland A's drafted him. In the second round. Over the objections of scouts who said he couldn't run, throw, field, or hit with power. Jason Giambi: MVP of the American League in 2000.

Well, we all know now how it is that Jason Giambi and other baseball players "acquire" power. If I were Billy Beane, I'd persuade the A's owners to cough up an extra $16 million per year to sign David Ortiz as soon as his contract is up. In recent years, the A's have been one big slugger away from making the playoffs.

On second thought...scratch that. David Ortiz is an undisciplined, free-swinging out machine. The A's shouldn't touch him with a 10-foot pole.

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