The Forgotten Moneyball Heroes

Every baseball fan has at least heard of the term “Moneyball.” The low-budget Oakland Athletics had to find a way to compete with the big boys. After losing to the Yankees in the ALDS in 2001, the A’s had to get creative with how they built their team. They lost Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, and Jason Isringhausen all in free agency. General Manager Billy Beane knew he was in for one tough off-season.

Scouts vs. Computers

Scouts used to have the final say in players. Every decision was based on a player’s scouting report that was built by simply watching them. Beane himself was a failed prospect because of this. Every scout said he was a can’t miss prospect but he ended up failing at the big league level. Between 2001 and 2002, Beane started to diverge from the norm.He began to use computers and numbers to value players rather than believe every word his scouts said. He strongly valued a player’s on-base percentage (OBP). Therefore, he heavily targeted players that historically had a high OBP.

In the movie version of Moneyball, this led to the focus on players like Scott Hatteberg, Jeremy Giambi, and David Justice. Hatteberg had a decent season with the A’s in 2002. He hit 15 homeruns, batted .280, and drove in 61 runs. But the reason he was on the team to begin with, his OBP, was one of the highest of his career. His OBP was .374, showing exactly why he was on the team.

Forgotten Heroes

There are four main players that the movie does not even mention by name. These four were really why the A’s were so good that year. Yes it was a team effort, but when you have both the American League MVP and Cy Young, you are bound to be pretty good. Miguel Tejada won the MVP as the A’s shortstop and Barry Zito won the Cy Young. Accompanying Zito in the rotation were Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder. Those 3 went a combined 57-21 as the top 3 in the rotation. They had an average ERA of 3.06. Tejada had an OBP of .354 as well as 34 home runs and 131 RBIs.

Final Thoughts

Those 4 were critical to the Athletic’s success in 2002. They, along with Hatteberg and David Justice, led the Athletics to a 103-59 record that also included a 20 game win streak. They ultimately lost to the Twins in the ALDS, but their methods took off across the league. Many teams adopted similar scouting and player identification methods. The A’s led a revolution in the way player’s are viewed and valued across the MLB. Beane received and offer from the Red Sox to be their GM. He turned it down and is still trying to win the final game of the season with Oakland.

-Pete Chatterton (@Pchat12)

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