SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Friday, July 02, 2004

Moneyball and Money to Play Ball

Two baseball observations before the weekend, one global, one parochial:

1. One of the basic premises in the book "Moneyball", as far as offensive players were concerned, was that defense didn't matter all that much. The statisticians who seemingly have come up with an algorithm for all things in offensive baseball haven't been able to come up with any meaningful statistics, at least in SportsProf's recollection, that can prove that a defensive player with a bad OBP (read: Cesar Izturis) is really worth having on your team or, put plainly, that defense really matters. Of course, countering this group are the veteran baseball men, who would argue that guys like Izturis do things that don't show up in the box score and "win games with their defense."

With that background out of the way, SportsProf would like to point to one of baseball's premier "Moneyball" teams (although this team also has the bucks to spend on players the way the A's apparently do not), the Boston Red Sox. Why? Because they lead the majors in both errors and, not illogically, unearned runs allowed. And, to have watched them over the past 10 days, especially against the Phillies, was to see some premier butchery. So before the supporters of the Billy Beane school start defending Theo Epstein and his gang, ask yourselves one question: "Where are the Red Sox today?" Oh, about 8 1/2 games out of first place, and, get this, they're no longer in the lead for the wild card, Oakland is. SportsProf is all in favor of using mathematical theorems and statistics to make all teams better. But "Moneyball" supporters, your team does have to help cause the other team to make 27 outs, and all of those errors aren't helping any. In the majors, at least some defense is required.

2. On the Ivy League baseball front, only 1 of the 7 Ivy players drafted in the first 20 rounds of the MLB draft has signed. Five-tool OF B.J. Szymanski, the one-time Princeton wide receiver who the Reds took 48th overall (in the second round), has signed for $725,000. The remainder -- Dartmouth P Ed Lucas (8th round -- Royals), Columbia SS Fernando Perez (7th round -- Devils Rays) and the host of other Princeton players -- P Ross Ohlendorf (4th round -- D-Backs), OF Will Venable (15th round -- Orioles), IF Steven Young (16th round -- Tigers) and C Tim Lahey (20th round -- Twins) remain unsigned.

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