Scouting pitchers is simpler, though there are still several factors in play. Movement can make a slow pitch play up, and a straight fastball can be hit hard even if it touches triple digits. Some players succeed with unorthodox tactics, but the bureau believes that there is an ideal way to do things. However, some present impropriety can be corrected; above all else, a scout values athleticism, a quality that makes it easier to fix flaws. The players who improve are the ones who make their actions look easy.
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As they walked us through each topic, the instructors told us the best places to stand when we put our book and lecture learning into practice at the park. You have to see a pitcher from behind home plate to rate his movement, but you also have to see him from the side to tell how his arm action is. On Monday, we got a good theoretical grounding; on Tuesday, we took it outside, riding a bus to the Peoria Sports Complex for an Instructional League game between Reds and Mariners minor leaguers.
This was the deep end, but our water wings were on: Our instructors were with us, and they gave us some guidance. Circulating in small groups, each one shepherded by an instructor, we watched the teams take infield practice, then observed both players from a few vantage points once the game got under way. In this context, tunnel vision was something to strive for.
An experienced scout might form a holistic picture of a player and derive the details from there, but a scrub has to start by collecting clues until the pattern becomes clear.
As we committed the two players to memory, we focused on their tools, or particular talents. Tools hitting ability, hitting for power, fielding, running, and throwing are rated on the standard or scouting scale, where 2 is poor, 8 is excellent, and 5 is major league average. On bureau reports, everything from pitch types to instincts to aggressiveness gets graded on the same spectrum. The system is understood by all scouts, but some of its quirks can make it confusing to those outside the industry.
For one thing, not all 8s are equally rare: There are more 8 runners than there are 8 hitters. Some grades loosely correspond to big league performance: Someone with 7 power, for instance, can hit 27 to 34 homers at the major league level.
For scouts, average is everything, the benchmark that all evaluations are based on. Before long, it began to sink in. The Seattle starter, a right-hander with impressive poise for his age, had a decently paced delivery, an arm action free of red flags, and made some adjustments after getting hit hard in the first.
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But his control was inconsistent and his stuff was somewhat limited. His fastball ranged from 88 to 92, sitting at ; it was an average pitch without a ton of projection. It was a 3 pitch, with a 4 future projection. And his changeup appeared to be in the early developmental stages.
To calculate the Overall Future Projection OFP for a pitcher, you add the future grades for the fastball, curveball, slider, and fourth pitch, add a zero, and divide by the number of categories used. Fifty is average, so a 45 OFP put him somewhere between the bullpen and the back of the rotation — possibly a swingman.
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The Reds shortstop was tall and lean, with a projectable frame but little present power. He ran from home to first in 4. The most important tool for a position player is the hit tool; without that, only a defensive wizard has any hope of occupying an everyday role. And the position player in question had a fringy hit tool at best: He was hyper-aggressive on fastballs early in the count, which suggested that he was hoping to avoid breaking balls.
His OFP the sum of his five future tools times two was 46, also below average. This is Diamondbacks draftee Jimmy Sherfy, a college righty who made it to the Midwest League after his professional debut:. And look how far apart the hands get once they do break apart: He brings the one with the ball way back behind him. But look at the stuff. The fastball is mids with a lot of life, varying between boring in on righties and cutting to the opposite side of the plate.
And the nasty slider starts out looking like the fastball, then drops off the table and gets hitters to chase.
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Every hitter looks uncomfortable. Scouts are experienced in the sport, usually having been players or coaches. Rigorous statistical analysis had demonstrated that on-base percentage and slugging percentage are better indicators of offensive success, and the A's became convinced that these qualities were cheaper to obtain on the open market than more historically valued qualities such as speed and contact.
These observations often flew in the face of conventional baseball wisdom and the beliefs of many baseball scouts and executives. Because of its smaller budget, Oakland had to find players undervalued by the market, and their system has proven itself thus far. The approach brought the A's to the playoffs in and Lewis explored several themes in the book, such as insiders vs. The book also touches on Oakland's underlying economic need to stay ahead of the curve; as other teams begin mirroring Beane's strategies to evaluate offensive talent, diminishing the Athletics' advantage, Oakland begins looking for other undervalued baseball skills, such as defensive capabilities.
Moneyball also touches on the A's' methods of prospect selection.
Sabermetricians argue that a college baseball player's chance of MLB success is much higher than a traditional high school draft pick. Beane maintains that high draft picks spent on high school prospects, regardless of talent or physical potential as evaluated by traditional scouting, are riskier than those spent on more polished college players. Lewis cites A's minor leaguer Jeremy Bonderman , drafted out of high school in over Beane's objections, as an example of the type of draft pick Beane would avoid.
Bonderman had all of the traditional "tools" that scouts look for, but thousands of such players have been signed by MLB organizations out of high school over the years and failed to develop.
Lewis explores the A's approach to the MLB draft , when the team had a run of early picks. The book documents Beane's often tense discussions with his scouting staff who favored traditional subjective evaluation of potential rather than objective sabermetrics in preparation for the draft to the actual draft, which defied all expectations and was considered at the time a wildly successful if unorthodox effort by Beane.
Moneyball traces the history of the sabermetric movement back to such people as Bill James now a member of the Boston Red Sox front office and Craig R. Lewis explores how James's seminal Baseball Abstract , published annually from the late s through the late s, influenced many of the young, up-and-coming baseball minds that are now joining the ranks of baseball management.
Moneyball has entered baseball's lexicon; teams that value sabermetrics are often said to be playing " Moneyball. Nevertheless, Moneyball changed the way many major league front offices do business. When the Mets hired Sandy Alderson — Beane's predecessor and mentor with the A's — as their general manager after the season, and hired Beane's former associates Paul DePodesta and J.
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Ricciardi to the front office, the team was jokingly referred to as the "Moneyball Mets". Lewis has acknowledged that the book's success may have hurt the Athletics' fortunes as other teams accepted sabermetrics, reducing Oakland's edge. Since the book's publication and success, Lewis has discussed plans for a sequel to Moneyball called Underdogs , revisiting the players and their relative success several years into their careers, although only four players from the draft played much at the Major League level.
Moneyball has also influenced and been influenced by other professional sports teams including European club association football soccer. Beane has held discussions with Wenger, former Manchester United F. Henry didn't trust public opinion so he looked for a mathematical method similar to the one used for Boston Red Sox in guiding them to three World Series wins which he also owns via Fenway Sports Group. Moneyball also covers the lives and careers of several baseball personalities. The central one is Billy Beane , whose failed playing career is contrasted with wildly optimistic predictions by scouts.
Beane assembled a list of twenty players they would draft in a "perfect world"; meaning if money was no object and they didn't have to compete with the other twenty-nine teams. Richard H. Sunstein of the University of Chicago Law School described the book as a "sensation Lewis has a wonderful story to tell, and he tells it wonderfully Lewis also raises some serious puzzles that he does not resolve, and his account has some large and perhaps profound implications that he does not much explore.
David Haglund of Slate and Jonah Keri of Grantland have both criticized the book for glossing over key young talent acquired through the draft and signed internationally.