Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Dao of Strategic Assessment (8): Assess the Big Picture, Moneyball Style!

Professionally, one is only as good as their last performance.

Every smart business decision maker plays their own form of "Moneyball." "Getting the most bang for the buck" is the the goal of all good strategic decisions. It starts by understanding what are the active variables. Then defining the positive and negative situations in terms of the grand picture. The key is to see if one's grand picture has the positive leverages set for that marketplace.

The objective of Billy Beane, the Oakland A's general manager is to always look for low cost players who can do many things well.

Some of my favorite "moneyball" players were Jason Giambi and Nick Swisher. They generated numerous walks and possessed a high OPS (On-base plus slugging (OPS) is a baseball statistic calculated as the sum of a player's on-base percentage and slugging percentage. ...). Both Giambi and Swisher also had great hitting power. When the price got too expensive, it was for them to move to Yankeeland.

In terms of baseball, the "Moneyball" process is about leveraging market efficiencies in building a competitive MLB roster" while minding what are the market in inefficiencies. It is not about "waiting for a 3-0 count or a 3-1 count".

With the right data, the Moneyball thinkers assessed the grand picture, position themselves with the the right process and implement with precision and conciseness.


Beane's latest strategy has A's in the chase again
Bruce Jenkins

Monday, March 9, 2009

(03-08) 19:13 PST -- As we enter the 42nd season of a nonexistent Bay Area baseball rivalry, the A's and Giants drift yet farther apart, different in most every way. That goes for the stadiums, the payrolls, the philosophy, the fan base, the future and the specific nature of this year's lineups.

The Giants have undergone a significant change, abandoning their Bondsian obsession for an emphasis on pitching and the draft. As for the A's, it's nice to see one of the most tiresome catch-terms in sports, "Moneyball," get tossed onto the shelf - forever, if we're lucky.

"Moneyball" was a compelling book about a specific period of Billy Beane's stewardship, but people have spent the ensuing years trying to package Beane's strategy in a nice little box - and they've been hopelessly wrong. Beane reacts to the climate he has been given, and this year's program marks a dramatic departure.

Regrettably, for A's fans passionately devoted to the team, one factor remains the same: You'll barely get to know "your guys." While the Giants build a future around Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and a bunch of prospects they wouldn't trade for the world, the A's revolving door knows no favorites. With very few exceptions (Mark Ellis comes to mind), they're all just passing through. But few general managers have been as sensitive to the economic crisis, while still improving his team, as Beane.

You can't get too upset about the Giants' overly generous pursuit of Edgar Renteria, Jeremy Affeldt and Bobby Howry. They targeted some needs and addressed them with haste. But it was fascinating to watch Orlando Cabrera and Nomar Garciaparra stroll into a conference room together for a news conference at Phoenix Stadium the other day. These are quality veterans with a mural of postseason history, and Beane's strategy - waiting until he could sign each man at a one-year bargain - was masterful.

He might not be through, either. The A's draw ever closer to a team capable of passing the Angels in the AL West ("We want to take over," as Cabrera said), and another starting pitcher or two just might do the trick.

Beane was frankly disgusted as he watched his lineup perform last year, and who wasn't? Around the infield horn, each man had the lowest batting average at his position. Daric Barton, heralded as the essence of Beane's preoccupation with on-base percentage, consistently produced the most tedious at-bats in either league. Now he's piling up injuries and losing status, although he's young enough to have some trade value.

Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi are two guys who go up there hacking, not looking to run a 3-1 count. There's another such slugger in the minor leagues, Chris Carter (39 homers at Stockton last year), and two of the A's best infield prospects, second baseman Jemile Weeks and shortstop Corey Wimberly, are flashy, speed-burning types.

Frustrated A's fans tend to focus on Beane's mistakes, and like any general manager, he's had some beauties. Perhaps they don't give enough thought to the A's dated stadium, dreadful attendance, low-rent payroll or the very real speculation in baseball that they're on some sort of "contraction" list. That would take years to actually execute, but believe this: If you're stuck in a repulsive ballpark, while consistently failing to get a new one built, Commissioner Bud Selig and his cronies wouldn't mind wiping you off the map.

It's abundantly clear that we've watched the likes of Carlos Peña, Andre Ethier, Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, Rich Harden and Carlos Gonzalez leave town too quickly. We also witnessed a run of five postseason appearances in seven years (2000-06), a feat most of Beane's fellow general managers consider to be miraculous. If there's a difference in this year's A's, it's that the future isn't so much in play. Beane is making a run for the playoffs right now, with a collection of hitters infinitely more watchable than those across the bay. Any time there's a chance both teams could reach October, please, stash the complaints.

E-mail Bruce Jenkins at


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