Astros plan to use “Moneyball” theory
Last weekend proved to be a strange one as our weekly Netflix feature film was “Moneyball” with Brad Pitt which was very enjoyable for me, not only because it was about major league baseball, but also that it was based on a true story. Pitt was nominated this year for an Oscar for best actor.
What turned out so coincidental about the movie was the fact that two separate news stories, one by the Associated Press and the other by the Houston Chronicle both were based on the main theme of “Moneyball”.
The story is about Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, back in 2002, who was sick and tired about how the New York Yankees buy any talent they might need to defeat a small-market team like Oakland. And then to make matters worst, they obtained three of the A’s best players who have become free agents.
Beane, who was played by Pitt in the movie, hired a young nerd who is a computer geek who figured out how many games Oakland would have to win to get into the playoffs, based on how many runs would be necessary and how many players would have to get on base to make it all happen.
Beane traded off a few more of his best players and brought in low-salaried players who had the best on-base percentages, despite vehement opposition from Oakland’s scouting department. A’s manager Art Howe also fought Beane every inch of the way until his theory began to result in victories.
Oakland finished that season with a franchise-record 20 consecutive victories and another trip to the playoffs which gave Beane’s experiment considerably more validity.
Saturday’s Associated Press story was about using the “Moneyball” idea of building winners by thinking outside the box in any business that can not only shake up the status quo, but lead to breakthrough ideas that can revolutionize industries.
The new regime of the Houston Astros recently hired Sig Mejdal (pronounced my-dell) who used to work at NASA, where he was solving the mysteries of the human body in conjunction with those solving the mysteries of the universe.
Mejdal is the Astros’ new director of decision sciences who will be tasked with figuring out the mysteries of baseball’s worst team by using every piece of data within his virtual reach, according to Sunday’s edition of the Houston Chronicle.
“Nine years after the season chronicled by the 2011 movie “Moneyball”, the Oakland Athletics’ advantages on the surface have dried up as other teams have caught up. The thinking behind them, though, is still present, and the Astros hope to be the pioneers of the new advantage or inefficiency,” the article explained.
“All the pieces of information that you can imagine that we evaluate on an everyday basis to make decisions, we’re going to do that in a systematic way,” said new Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, who brought Mejdal with him from the St. Louis Cardinals where Luhnow ran the scouting department and Mejdal served as director of amateur draft analytics.
Their efforts in amateur scouting, blending the traditional with the numerical, produced several players who celebrated a World Series title four months ago.
In Houston Mejdal will be involved in amateur scouting and a host of other fields including salary evaluation, mechanics and medical sciences. If anyone has questions, Mejdal and his small team plan to find the answers.
Mejdal studied mathematical models of sleep patterns at NASA and plans to use a projection system to predict player performance based on past data. Trying to figure out how players will perform in the future is what scouts have been doing for as long as the game has been around.
And Mejdal believes their input is what separates the effectiveness of what the Astros will do from published statistical projections. “Certainly the big advantage is that we have a team of experts—our scouts—who are providing information,” Mejdal said.
“Many of the questions or hypotheses that we investigate or want to investigate are generated from the scouts. I’m on the phone with them every day,” Mejdal explained.
“I think there is still a debate (stats vs. scouts) going on, and I think some of that comes from the framing of “Moneyball”,” he continued. “You’re either going with your scouts or you’re going with the nerd in the room. I don’t think a progressive organization thinks that way.”
This year’s focus for the Astros is on the pipeline and specifically the amateur draft, where Houston has the No. 1 overall pick for the first time in 20 years.
Most of the Astros’ faithful followers hope it’s going to be the last time ever!!
KWICKIES…The high school basketball regular season has ended and the girls already have played their first-round playoff matches while the boys finished their regular season Tuesday, with the playoffs set for later this week and early next week. Orangefield’s Lady Bobcats and Vidor’s Lady Pirates qualified for the playoffs while Little Cypress-Mauriceville and possibly either West Orange-Stark or Orangefield will represent Orange County in the boys’ playoffs.
For the fourth straight weekend the third-round leader on the PGA Tour failed to win the tournament on the final day. This time Charlie Wi went into the final round sporting a three-shot lead and faltered. Phil Mickelson rallied from six shots down by firing an eight-under-par 64 to win at Pebble Beach Sunday by two strokes over Wi. Lefty’s playing partner, Tiger Woods, ballooned to a three-over 75 and finished nine strokes behind Mickelson.
No. 1 Kentucky (25-1), No. 2 Syracuse (25-1) and No. 9 Murray State (24-1) are the only Division I schools in the Men’s Top 25 Poll with only one loss. Murray State was the last undefeated school which suffered its loss last week.
In this week’s edition of USA Today Sports Weekly is an article that gives 100 Names You Need to Know, which is not necessarily baseball’s 100 best prospects, but rather the ones most likely to make a mark in the major leagues in 2012. To qualify, a player must have had more innings (for pitchers) or plate appearances (for hitters) in the minor leagues during 2011 than he has had during as all of his major league time. Listed at the top of the list is Texas Rangers right-handed pitcher Yu Darvish, while San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt of Lufkin Hudson is listed No. 31. Astros on the list include outfielder J. D. Martinez (No. 16), second baseman Jose Altuve (No. 24), right-handed pitcher Kyle Weiland (No. 45), third baseman Johnny Paredes (No. 61), shortstop Marvin Gonzalez (No. 91) and outfielder J. B. Shuck (No. 96).
JUST BETWEEN US…Usually by this time of the year most of the college football schedules are set and coaching staffs are already studying film of the upcoming opponents. But because of the Texas Aggies quest to “play against real Southern teams” in the Southeastern Conference, it disrupted two of our area Southland Conference teams-the Lamar Cardinals and our alma mater McNeese State. Our Cowboys were supposed to open the 2012 season at College Station and Lamar was set to play Louisiana Tech on Sept 1. But the Aggies decided they wanted to play La. Tech, which sent both McNeese and Lamar scrambling to find another opening day foe. Fortunately, Lamar found a road game at Louisiana-Lafayette against the Ragin’ Cajuns while McNeese was left out in the cold. The Cowboys, instead, used the buyout clause in their contract with Texas A&M and will collect $200,000 from the Aggies. Texas A&M will play Louisiana Tech on Thursday, Aug. 30 in Shreveport. Lamar will still play Louisiana Tech for the $175,000 payout, but that won’t happen until 2013. The Cards will receive $125,000 from the Ragin’ Cajuns.