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Moneyball II: Oakland Strikes Back

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#1 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 06:39 AM

http://www.nbcsports...mlb/oakland-way

A pretty interesting article on the return of Oakland to dominance. One snippet that I believe Twins fans should keep in mind:

But here's the point: That A's try not to believe in fuzzy concepts like the Quad-A player. True, some great Class AAA hitters failed multiple times in the Major Leagues. But the A's think many more were simply written off too soon. "Billy has us ask one question all the time," Zaidi says. "In this case: If Josh Donaldson were on another team, would he be the sort of player we would really want to trade for? The answer was yes."


I see too many write off a player before he gets a legitimate shot at succeeding in the majors. Patience with prospects is a virtue. We've seen the failings of multiple Twins prospects who later shined in the majors: Trevor Plouffe, Brian Dozier, Carlos Gomez, etc.

A good thing to keep in mind when talking about the likes of Aaron Hicks and Chris Parmelee. Oakland has become the best team in baseball by not succumbing to knee-jerk reactions. We should all encourage the Twins to do the same.

#2 mike wants wins

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 06:49 AM

The also don't sign crappy SP to save money, they signed an expensive Cuban, they deal for guys closer to the majors when dealing good players, they aren't afraid to bring guys up from the minors berfore they spend a year at every level, they sign medium priced guys at obvious positions of need, they don't throw away the 25th spot on the roster, they don't bring back old RP when they have guys in their system that are ready, they don't play SS in the OF, they are basically the anti-Twins, imo.
Lighten up Francis....

#3 GCTF

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 07:00 AM

Great read.

There is no May and Mayer. They're made up.


#4 big dog

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 07:22 AM

The also don't sign crappy SP to save money, they signed an expensive Cuban, they deal for guys closer to the majors when dealing good players, they aren't afraid to bring guys up from the minors berfore they spend a year at every level, they sign medium priced guys at obvious positions of need, they don't throw away the 25th spot on the roster, they don't bring back old RP when they have guys in their system that are ready, they don't play SS in the OF, they are basically the anti-Twins, imo.


The A's current 25-man roster includes three catchers and Jeff Francis, new addition, 33 yrs old. Last 3 yrs ERA+ average is 79. Plus they grabbed Little Nicky. So maybe not the complete anti-Twins, but they definitely do some things differently, and really well.

#5 mike wants wins

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 07:23 AM

lots of money quotes in there, backing up my note:

"The A's went through a five-year struggle from 2007-2011, but perhaps the most important point is that none of those teams lost 90 games. The A's never stopped trying to win. They struggled with injuries and they made some mistakes, but Billy Beane refused to let the A's collapse for the high draft picks or to save what little money they could"

"No team uses its bench quite as much as the Oakland A's"

It talks about how they SENT DONALDSON DOWN, not how they kept him in OAK to struggle.....

"Everybody around baseball knows that players peak from ages 25 to 31 or so. The A's live by the rule. The A's are giving 86 percent of their plate appearances to players in that age group --"

"Everybody around baseball knows that teams are probably hurting themselves by going with strict bullpen roles that are followed to the exclusion of logic. And yet, what team is probably most versatile in the way they use their bullpen? Right. The Oakland A's."
Lighten up Francis....

#6 nicksaviking

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 07:25 AM

A good thing to keep in mind when talking about the likes of Aaron Hicks and Chris Parmelee. Oakland has become the best team in baseball by not succumbing to knee-jerk reactions. We should all encourage the Twins to do the same.


I'm sure Parmelee will get plenty of chances to shine sitting on the bench in favor of Jason Kubel.

I'm all for emulating the best aspects of teams like the A's. The problem is that the A's are very good at identifying, drafting and developing young pitching to fill the top and/or middle of the rotation. Perhaps adhering more to the A's philosophy would help the Twins, but there's probably a strong chance it's less about philosophy and more about baseball accumen. The A's just may have the personell to find these pitchers and the Twins perhaps do not. Hard to overcome that if personell change is not an option.

Edited by nicksaviking, 03 June 2014 - 07:32 AM.


#7 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 07:25 AM

The also don't sign crappy SP to save money, they signed an expensive Cuban, they deal for guys closer to the majors when dealing good players, they aren't afraid to bring guys up from the minors berfore they spend a year at every level, they sign medium priced guys at obvious positions of need, they don't throw away the 25th spot on the roster, they don't bring back old RP when they have guys in their system that are ready, they don't play SS in the OF, they are basically the anti-Twins, imo.


I think it's a bit more complicated than that. From 2007-2010, the A's lost 86, 86, 87, 81, and 88 games. As we're seeing with Tampa, it's *really* hard for even the smartest teams to sustain more than 5-6 winning seasons on a tight budget. Baseball is a cyclical game even for the big budget teams.

Did I like the Twins picking up the likes of Kevin Correia two years ago? Absolutely not. But in the grand scheme of things, it probably didn't impact the team's record much from 2011-2013. It would have taken piles of money to make those teams competitive, as they were pretty terrible from front to back with little/no help from prospects to improve.

In short, the Twins do some things wrong but really, it seems that they do a lot more right, at least when Ryan is at the helm. This team is semi-competitive after a three year slump and only looks to improve as the season progresses.

#8 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 07:28 AM

The problem is that the A's are very good at either identifying, drafting and developing young pitching to fill the top and/or middle of the rotation. Perhaps adhering more to the A's philosophy would help the Twins, but there's probably a strong chance it's less about philosophy and more about baseball accumen. The A's just may have the personell to find these pitchers and the Twins perhaps do not. Hard to overcome that if personell change is not an option.


It's pretty hard to make that argument right now, as the Twins have quite the assortment of pitchers at almost every level of the game. I'd put May, Meyer, Berrios, Thorpe, and Stewart up against almost any team's minor league system.

Have the Twins failed in the past to acquire quality arms? Absolutely, but something has changed in recent years and they've targeted power arms who look to be difference-makers in MLB.

#9 mike wants wins

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 07:31 AM

Except, Brock......it isn't. The A's actively move players around their system. They send under performers down. They platoon. They use their entire bench (not always well). They went and signed an expensive Intl FA. All of those things are things the Twins could do, and not spend more money, and not change what they claim they want to do.
Lighten up Francis....

#10 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 07:37 AM

Except, Brock......it isn't. The A's actively move players around their system. They send under performers down. They platoon. They use their entire bench (not always well). They went and signed an expensive Intl FA. All of those things are things the Twins could do, and not spend more money, and not change what they claim they want to do.


Excepting the international free agents point, I don't disagree with anything here. The Twins could certainly do some things better and I find their refusal to platoon effectively, carry two catchers that both play, and demote players who need it incredibly aggravating.

But in the grand scheme of things, those are smaller points to the large point of "acquire and field above average players", which they have stockpiled for the past few years. Ryan has done a fantastic job of acquiring and drafting solid talent in the minors, which will ultimately lead to far more wins than an effective platoon (though the two things are certainly not at odds with one another).

As for international free agents, I do not understand the griping over how the Twins have spent in recent years. It looks like they absolutely stole Lewis Thorpe just two years ago. The guy looks to be a beast of a pitcher - remember that he is over one year younger than Kohl Stewart.

#11 nicksaviking

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 07:45 AM

It's pretty hard to make that argument right now, as the Twins have quite the assortment of pitchers at almost every level of the game. I'd put May, Meyer, Berrios, Thorpe, and Stewart up against almost any team's minor league system.

Have the Twins failed in the past to acquire quality arms? Absolutely, but something has changed in recent years and they've targeted power arms who look to be difference-makers in MLB.


No disagreement, I'll give the staff a chance to let the next wave prove them right.

One thing that is concerning though, while I like that they have traded for what looks to be two quality power arms in Meyer and May, they still have been pretty terrible in identifying and developing their own. It's not surprising that Boer, Boyd, Summers, Bashore, Melotakis etc haven't panned out yet, what is surprising is that none of them could miss bats and/or maintain the velocity that was expected of them. That aspect of their game should have been somewhat predictable even if overall success was a long shot.

Hopefully Berrios, Thorpe and Stewart also prove them a changed team in that regard.

Edited by nicksaviking, 03 June 2014 - 08:02 AM.


#12 JB_Iowa

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 07:49 AM

[SIZE=3][FONT=verdana]Lots of thought provoking assertions from Posnanski, as always. A few things that caught my eye:[/FONT][/SIZE]

[COLOR=#000000][FONT=Arial]..[P]erhaps the most significant point of Moneyball II -- the A's do not take anything for .granted. They do not go into the season believing that ANYBODY will get 600 plate appearances or make 35 starts or will have as good a year as last year. Billy Beane makes it clear: They will not make decisions based on what they hope will happen. Optimism is not a strategy.

[/FONT][/COLOR]
[FONT=verdana][SIZE=3][COLOR=#000000]Over the last few years, it seems as though this has been one of the Twins' biggest flaws, e.g. going into the last 2 seasons without true plans for CF. Yes, there were injuries and yes, we all hoped Aaron Hicks would thrive but it really does seem like it was based on optimism. Same thing with the rotation before this off-season .... really seemed to be built on a wing and a prayer.

[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][COLOR=#000000][FONT=Arial]Everybody around baseball knows that players peak from ages 25 to 31 or so. The A's live by the rule. The A's are giving 86 percent of their plate appearances to players in that age group

[/FONT][/COLOR]
[SIZE=3][FONT=verdana][COLOR=#000000]Contrast that with what the Twins did this off-season in adding Kubel, Suzuki and Bartlett. Admittedly, it worked with Suzuki but it is also a position of more scarcity (and we really don't know what would happen with Pinto getting a larger percentage of PT). It makes the Kubel and Bartlett decisions seem even more bizarre. I have much less problem with the Twins giving chances to players who haven't yet reached 25 because it means that they may be better able to take advantage of their peak seasons in a year or two.

[/COLOR][/FONT][/SIZE][COLOR=#000000][FONT=Arial]Zaidi talks about how manager Bob Melvin is the best in the business at using the entire roster while managing to keep the team together mentally and emotionally. That is trickier than it sounds.[/FONT][/COLOR][SIZE=3][FONT=verdana][COLOR=#000000]

When we talk about Josmil Pinto languishing on the bench, I wonder about Gardenhire's roster use but I do think that in the past keeping the team running on all cylinders was one of Gardenhire's strengths. I'm just not sure he's as willing/able to do that when he has a number of relative unknowns on the team.

[/COLOR][/FONT][/SIZE][COLOR=#000000][FONT=Arial]The stadium crumbles in real time, attendance is bottom five as usual, and there's little to no money to spend on salaries. Status quo.[/FONT][/COLOR][SIZE=3][FONT=verdana][COLOR=#000000]

I also wonder if Oakland gets a new stadium and bigger budget (a la Target Field) if they will lose their way temporarily. (Same question I have about Tampa). I have always felt that part of the Twins' problem was that they took their eye of the ball as they approached the opening of TF. Their corporate focus seemed to be much more on the fan experience than on the product on the field. Part of that was probably Bill Smith but a bigger part of it was probably group think.[/COLOR][/FONT][/SIZE]

#13 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 07:50 AM

It's not surprising that Boer, Boyd Summers, Bashore, Melotakis etc haven't pan out, what is surprising is that none of them could miss bats and/or maintain the velocity that was expected of them.


Yep. There was a time when the Twins simply did not do a good enough job acquiring arms. That led to the 2011 collapse more than anything (and was compounded by Smith trading away the one good arm they did have). Couple that with bad luck on the injury front in Liriano and Baker and you have a recipe for disaster, which is exactly what we saw in 2011.

#14 Willihammer

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 07:53 AM

A good thing to keep in mind when talking about the likes of Aaron Hicks and Chris Parmelee.


I'm not saying Parmelee's career's over, but Parmelee was put on waivers, and the A's passed on him.

#15 Monkeypaws

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 07:58 AM

Sounds like they'd be all over Nola.

#16 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 08:00 AM

I'm not saying Parmelee's career's over, but Parmelee was put on waivers, and the A's passed on him.


The A's do not have the time nor roster space to take on every work in progress. Them passing over Parmelee doesn't mean he'll never be an effective hitter (for the record, I'm not much of a Parmelee fan at this point).

Besides, a large point of that article points out how the A's aren't necessarily smarter than everyone else in baseball, they simply do a better job of "doing" and choosing their battles.

#17 Willihammer

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 08:19 AM

Nobody's in favor of jettisoning guys with option years (Dozier, Hicks). The guys out of option years - Worley, Parmelee, Escobar, Deduno, Plouffe - call them works in progress if you want. What's the attrition rate on these sort of talents? Certainly its higher than say, free agents.

The A's can use their 40 man roster as currency to hoard these types of players. To their credit, they've done a decent job recognizing the guys who might pan out (but they haven't been perfect either - see how Sogard and Reddick are doing?)

The Twins aren't in the A's position. They shouldn't be wasting many spots on these sort of players. Most will bust. When you carry a lot of them, you will probably have a lousy product.

#18 mike wants wins

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 08:26 AM

Brock, my issue with the Twins approach to Int'l FA is that they sign 16-18 year olds only....they can afford to sign legit AAA/MLB FAs from Cuba, on top of signing the Thorpes for a few million, and they don't. I have only a small issue to their approach re: how they manage the signings at the low level, I have a big issue with passing on guys that cost actual money, and are close to ready (or ready) right away. I hope that clears up any misunderstanding.....

(you know, like Puig, or Abreu, or Tanaka {they had no chance on this one}, or Cespedes, or.....).

Oakland, for their lack of money, did that.
Lighten up Francis....

#19 Dman

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 08:27 AM

I think it's a bit more complicated than that. From 2007-2010, the A's lost 86, 86, 87, 81, and 88 games. As we're seeing with Tampa, it's *really* hard for even the smartest teams to sustain more than 5-6 winning seasons on a tight budget. Baseball is a cyclical game even for the big budget teams.



Did I like the Twins picking up the likes of Kevin Correia two years ago? Absolutely not. But in the grand scheme of things, it probably didn't impact the team's record much from 2011-2013. It would have taken piles of money to make those teams competitive, as they were pretty terrible from front to back with little/no help from prospects to improve.

In short, the Twins do some things wrong but really, it seems that they do a lot more right, at least when Ryan is at the helm. This team is semi-competitive after a three year slump and only looks to improve as the season progresses.


I see quite a bit of TR in that article but the A's take things to a whole other level with Platoon splits, statistical analysis, and overall philosophy.

The more interesting thing to me about the article is that many of the things the A's do have been discussed here at TD as solutions. Granted not all of us agree but Platoon's and better bench management have been discussed here multiple times. Giving up on or not giving up on players has been discussed as well as age and its impact on performance. I am sure I could go on and on.

The one fatal flaw with Money ball though is it hasn't produced a WS champion. Overall they might have the best team record wise but is that enough? It seems you still need a couple of ace pitchers and special bat or two to get you there. Maybe the A's have that team this year but I doubt it.

#20 Seth Stohs

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 08:36 AM

One thing that is concerning though, while I like that they have traded for what looks to be two quality power arms in Meyer and May, they still have been pretty terrible in identifying and developing their own. It's not surprising that Boer, Boyd, Summers, Bashore, Melotakis etc haven't panned out yet, what is surprising is that none of them could miss bats and/or maintain the velocity that was expected of them. That aspect of their game should have been somewhat predictable even if overall success was a long shot.

Hopefully Berrios, Thorpe and Stewart also prove them a changed team in that regard.


To be fair, they're all relievers, and either injury or the fact that they have been starting effected their performance.

Bashore was left-handed and throwing 97 at Indiana. Sounds like a pretty good pick in the supplemental first round. He got hurt. What do you do?

Boer has a chance. Boyd is still very young.

Summers was just moved back to the bullpen at AA. He was tremendous as a starter last year in Ft. Myers. As a reliever, the velocity should bump up and so should the strikeout rate.

Ditto for Melotakis, who is now in the bullpen for the Miracle. As a reliever, he'll throw harder, and the slider will be sharper. He still could move fast now that he's been moved.

Berrios, Thorpe and Stewart are starters. Hopefully they can continue to start as they move up. But, those three are in a different category than the first ones you mentioned.

#21 mike wants wins

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 08:52 AM

If we all knew they were relievers, why were they starting?

#22 Brandon

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 08:58 AM

Nobody's in favor of jettisoning guys with option years (Dozier, Hicks). The guys out of option years - Worley, Parmelee, Escobar, Deduno, Plouffe - call them works in progress if you want. What's the attrition rate on these sort of talents? Certainly its higher than say, free agents.

The A's can use their 40 man roster as currency to hoard these types of players. To their credit, they've done a decent job recognizing the guys who might pan out (but they haven't been perfect either - see how Sogard and Reddick are doing?)

The Twins aren't in the A's position. They shouldn't be wasting many spots on these sort of players. Most will bust. When you carry a lot of them, you will probably have a lousy product.


As I recall the Twins have used their roster for these types of players. Presley was a rule 5 pick up. Florimon was a waiver claim, Escobar was part of a salary dump, Burton was a minor league free agent signing, Fuld was a waiver claim. Lots of examples of how we do this all of the time.

#23 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 09:03 AM

If we all knew they were relievers, why were they starting?


It was a gamble by the Twins. They drafted several college relievers in an attempt to convert a couple into starters. I thought it was a shrewd move, even if it doesn't pan out.

#24 Seth Stohs

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 09:04 AM

It is interesting to read how teams do what they do. I read Moneyball in a weekend after it came out and found it very interesting. It wasn't more than about a year after that the the A's changed their strategies and they continue to change it.

The Rays get a lot of credit as well, and deservingly so. They also have a method.

All 32 teams are different, think different, etc, but at the same time, you can find examples in every organization of different philosophies at work.

Most important, there is no one absolute correct way to run a baseball team. A team can win in many different ways.

If the A's or Rays would have signed Matt Guerrier, it would have been lauded on the Twins Daily forums for the wise decisions those teams made in signing successful big leaguers coming off of injury. Both of those teams have used that strategy many times.

It's just, and I apologize for this, some on these forums are going to disagree with 95% of what the Twins choose to do, be it the ownership, the front office, or the manager.

#25 Seth Stohs

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 09:07 AM

If we all knew they were relievers, why were they starting?


For a variety of reasons. 1.) to add pitches and to work on pitches. That's fairly important, even for a big league reliever, to have 2-3 good pitches. 2.) starters are more valuable than relievers, so why not try it? Maybe you catch lightning once. 3.) There are generally only one or two or three relievers in a big league bullpen that will only work one inning, so why not develop guys who can go 2-4 innings if needed.

There are just plenty of good reasons.

#26 mike wants wins

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 09:11 AM

Fair enough. If you want to make the majors and make money......wouldn't a player want the more likely route? I am curious if you have ever discussed that with a prospect.

#27 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 09:13 AM

It is interesting to read how teams do what they do. I read Moneyball in a weekend after it came out and found it very interesting. It wasn't more than about a year after that the the A's changed their strategies and they continue to change it.


It seems that a lot of people confuse Moneyball: The Book with Moneyball: The Strategy.

Moneyball: The Book was about how the A's returned to contention by spotting an analysis deficiency: walks and OBP were massively undervalued in MLB scouting analysis. The A's then exploited that weakness in analysis.

Moneyball: The Strategy is about spotting and exploiting analysis deficiencies. Walks were only a temporary blip on the radar and Beane has since moved on to other things.

And too many fail to realize that the Twins played their own version of Moneyball (quite successfully) for years. They simply took a different path than Beane and they continue to try new things here and there (such as drafting a potential analysis deficiency, college relievers, and turn them into MLB starters, a much more valuable commodity).

#28 Seth Stohs

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 09:21 AM

Fair enough. If you want to make the majors and make money......wouldn't a player want the more likely route? I am curious if you have ever discussed that with a prospect.


I have, and you get different responses. First and foremost, they want to be the best they can be. Some that have been encouraged to start have done so because they get the big picture. Some have said they preferred bullpen, and that has generally happened more quickly then. Some just want a chance to start. There's more money for starters than reliever, though no one will ever admit that's what they think.

#29 mike wants wins

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 09:25 AM

Thanks, Seth.

#30 DJL44

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 09:36 AM

If we all knew they were relievers, why were they starting?


To get them innings. Better question is why they spent high picks on relief pitchers.