Monday, October 10, 2011

When you have to sell something...

Alan Hirsch has a piece on FrumForum about the accuracy of Moneyball. Since he's written a book that was critical of Moneyball (writing a critique of a book 10 years after it's focus to say it did not work in recent years - how does that teach us anything of what happened when it was applied?) In it he brings out all of the usual tired canards about how Moneyball failed - Jeremy Brown failed so Billy Beane couldn't draft, the A's success was driven by the top three starters Beane inherited, etc. But Hirsch took another usual line a bit too far:

One exception, the Minnesota Twins, has succeeded for the better part of two decades while explicitly disavowing the tactics trumpeted by Moneyball.

While I'm sure he chose the two decades time range to include the 1991 World Series champions, it doesn't help the argument too much. Here's the yearly record for the Twins from 1991 to 2000:

1991: 95-67 (win World Series)
1992: 90-72
1993: 71-91
1994: 53-60
1995: 56-88
1996: 78-84
1997: 68-94
1998: 70-92
1999: 63-97
2000: 69-93

What's also lost in this is that in 1991, the Twins signed Jack Morris as a free agent, acting decidely as not a small market team. Using the Twins as a proxy to show that the "old fashioned way" of constructing a team works is a normal reaction; pointing to the 90s as an example of this is just baffling.

(The Twins would not make the playoffs again until 2002, which is the focus of the Moneyball movie and book. That year the Athletics tied for the best record in the American League.)



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