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Why Can't Billy Beane Win a World Series? (Or, Why Does/Did "Pure" Moneyball Fail?)

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  • Why Can't Billy Beane Win a World Series? (Or, Why Does/Did "Pure" Moneyball Fail?)

    The A's were really struggling in 1997. They'd been mediocre for years since most of the big players from the "Bash Brothers" quasi-dynasty of the late-80s/early-90s had left or retired, with Mark McGwire being the last, leaving for St. Louis in the middle of the season.
    Enter Billy Beane. A several-cups-of-coffee MLer, and an A's scout since 1990, he took over the GM job from Sandy Alderson. Sandy had trying for the past few years to slash payroll while remaining competitive under the demands of new ownership.
    What happened in the next 6-7 years is a mystery to most fans. Starting in 1999, the A's starting winning. Then they started winning A LOT. Their year-to-year rosters consisted mostly of cheap, young players, with others who Beane saw as "undervalued" by other teams, along with select veterans like Kevin Appier and Kenny Rogers to fill the holes. Beane's goal? Simple: get on base, score runs. He called the strategy "Moneyball".
    1999 was their first winning season in 7 years; 2000 saw the blossoming of big-boy first baseman Jason Giambi into an MVP and sophomore Tim Hudson into a 20-game winner. Giambi left to sign a fat contract with the Yankees after the next season, but the next two years saw SS Miguel Tejada (2002 AL MVP) and SPs Barry Zito (2002 AL Cy Young) and Mark Mulder became All-Stars as the A's won 100 games in back to back years. They even set the all-time win streak with 20 consecutive wins in August/September 2002 on their way to 103 wins and a third straight playoff appearance. A 96-win season in 2003 continued their reputation as a power in the AL.
    Here's the mystery: four years. three division titles. four playoff appearances; and four first-round playoff exits. How could a regular-season team be so good over and over again, only to fall flat immediately after calendar changed to October?
    By 2004, the top-3 starters of Hudson/Zito/Mulder remained, but they failed to reach the playoffs for the next three years. Hudson and Mulder were gone after 2004. So was Tejada. All that remained of the original core were Zito and stalwart 3B Eric Chavez. They reached the playoffs again in 2006, FINALLY winning a playoff series by sweeping the Twins in the ALDS, only to be promptly swept by the AL champion Tigers. The A's have been sporadic playoff contenders since, and Beane left the GM job to become Executive VP of Baseball Operations after the 2015 season.
    The A's are in a fierce race for the division/wild card spot with a few weeks left in the season. Beane still has just one playoff series win to his name as an A's executive, and it wasn't by any of the four "superteams" from 2000-2003. Other teams with wider margins for payroll, especially the Red Sox, adapted Beane's philosophy and achieved World Series success. The tenets are almost mainstream in the baseball world.

    So, how and why did Moneyball, in its original incarnation, fail so miserably at winning the big prize, when the team was churning out All-Stars and studs year-in and year-out and laying waste to the American League from April to September?
    Last edited by pedrosrotatorcuff; 09-15-2018, 06:50 PM.

  • #2
    Winning it all in baseball is a crap shoot once the post season starts, and Beane's teams have just not rolled sevens much in the post season. But MONEYBALL has been, and still is, an overwhelming success. These teams have done much better than just about any other franchise when it comes to wins per team salary.

    Beane has had to make adjustments since every team now has analytics and understands the MONEYBALL concepts.

    Maybe this will be the year. The A's have been great over the last 3 months or so.
    .


    19th Century League Champion
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    Comment


    • #3
      Well, the 2014 WC game certainly was a crapshoot (as every WC game has been and will be for long as they stay around. Consider me not a fan of those in the slightest.) But other than that...

      One early loss is a crapshoot. Two early losses is a coincidence. Three (and then four) early losses is a year-to-year pattern.
      Those four teams performed about equally well when managed first by Art Howe, then Ken Macha, so it can't be that. The 1991-2005 Braves had the bullpen as their one general, significant year-to-year weakness–could it have been the same for the A's? Or maybe it's just something about Billy Beane as a person and general manager.
      There HAS to be a single factor (other than payroll, of which the Yankees and Red Sox obviously had a much larger amount to spend on) that made the 2000-03 A's into October pushovers.

      Comment


      • #4
        The playoff structure now is that anyone of 10 teams can win it all. The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals had the worst record of all 8 teams and no one expected them to win the first round let alone the World Series. Late season changes such as making Wainwright the closer helped but as I recall, Eckstein and Pujols played huge rolls in the playoffs that year. The Cardinals had a good team but they were the weakest of the playoff contenders. So weak that the Tigers went into the WS saying they would take it in 3 games.

        I agree with SavoyBG but I also see the playoffs have to be managed differently than one would manage the season getting there. It helps to have experienced players to handle the extra hype that goes with the playoffs and series. There are some average players who seem to excel to that pressure and there are great players who have little success in the series. After playing out 162 game season just to be eligible for the playoffs, now a team has to figure out how to win one series at a time just to advance to the next.

        But, yes, it is a crap shoot.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by SWCBaseball View Post
          The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals had the worst record of all 8 teams and no one expected them to win the first round let alone the World Series. Late season changes such as making Wainwright the closer helped but as I recall, Eckstein and Pujols played huge rolls in the playoffs that year. The Cardinals had a good team but they were the weakest of the playoff contenders. So weak that the Tigers went into the WS saying they would take it in 3 games.
          Don't remind me. They were (and still are) the worst World Series-winning team since 1900. Seeing Beltran at the height of his powers take strike 3 after a well-pitched game by Oliver Perez and an all-time-great HR robbery by Endy Chavez is one of the saddest things I've seen as a baseball fan.

          Comment


          • #6
            I've found an almost perfect analogy to describe them: the 2000-2003 A's are the 1990-1993 Buffalo Bills of baseball.
            Last edited by pedrosrotatorcuff; 09-15-2018, 08:45 PM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by pedrosrotatorcuff View Post

              Don't remind me. They were (and still are) the worst World Series-winning team since 1900.
              I'd go with the 1987 Twins. They had a negative run differential. They scored 20 fewer runs than they allowed for the season.
              .


              19th Century League Champion
              1900s League Champion
              1910s League Champion

              1930s League Division Winner
              1950s League Champion
              1960 Strat-O-Matic League Regular Season Winner
              1960s League Division Winner
              1970s League Champion
              1971 Strat-O-Matic League Runner Up
              1980s League Champion
              All Time Greats League Champion

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by pedrosrotatorcuff View Post
                I've found an almost perfect analogy to describe them: the 2000-2003 A's are the 1990-1993 Buffalo Bills of baseball.
                Nah. The Bill got to 4 straight super bowls. Beane's A's have not gotten to the world series. They're more like Corleone's Chargers.
                .


                19th Century League Champion
                1900s League Champion
                1910s League Champion

                1930s League Division Winner
                1950s League Champion
                1960 Strat-O-Matic League Regular Season Winner
                1960s League Division Winner
                1970s League Champion
                1971 Strat-O-Matic League Runner Up
                1980s League Champion
                All Time Greats League Champion

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by SavoyBG View Post

                  Nah. The Bill got to 4 straight super bowls. Beane's A's have not gotten to the world series. They're more like Corleone's Chargers.
                  It's Coryell, but yeah, that's a good one too. The Chargers did eke out 2 playoff wins between their 4 playoff years in a row, so I guess that could equate to the single ALDS the A's finally ended up winning...

                  As a side note, NFL Films did a "Lost Rings" series on, well, great NFL teams that almost won a Super Bowl, and the '81 Chargers were the first to be featured. I get that it's because they were the highest-scoring team of the four great Coryell teams, but they never had a chance because their defense was god-awful. They should have done the '79 team that had the 2nd-ranked offense AND defense in the NFL (who ironically did the worst of the four by losing 14-17 to the Oilers in the divisional round after winning 12 games in the regular season).

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by SavoyBG View Post
                    Winning it all in baseball is a crap shoot once the post season starts, and Beane's teams have just not rolled sevens much in the post season. But MONEYBALL has been, and still is, an overwhelming success. These teams have done much better than just about any other franchise when it comes to wins per team salary.

                    Beane has had to make adjustments since every team now has analytics and understands the MONEYBALL concepts.

                    Maybe this will be the year. The A's have been great over the last 3 months or so.
                    It's more like the A's keep hitting a face card with a 12 on the table in Blackjack. From 2000-2014 The A's played in eight post season series and one Wildcard game. They lost seven of the eight post season series. Of the seven playoff series losses, six losses were in the ALDS and all six went the full five games. The A's also lost the 2014 AL Wildcard game 9-8 in 12 innings. The A's had so many close calls.
                    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by pedrosrotatorcuff View Post

                      It's Coryell,
                      I knew I did not quite have the name right, but I was too lazy to look it up, thanks. I gave him the Godfather name.
                      .


                      19th Century League Champion
                      1900s League Champion
                      1910s League Champion

                      1930s League Division Winner
                      1950s League Champion
                      1960 Strat-O-Matic League Regular Season Winner
                      1960s League Division Winner
                      1970s League Champion
                      1971 Strat-O-Matic League Runner Up
                      1980s League Champion
                      All Time Greats League Champion

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by pedrosrotatorcuff View Post

                        Don't remind me. They were (and still are) the worst World Series-winning team since 1900. Seeing Beltran at the height of his powers take strike 3 after a well-pitched game by Oliver Perez and an all-time-great HR robbery by Endy Chavez is one of the saddest things I've seen as a baseball fan.
                        It's all a part of the game, hope this is not another start of............what if.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by SWCBaseball View Post
                          The playoff structure now is that anyone of 10 teams can win it all. The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals had the worst record of all 8 teams and no one expected them to win the first round let alone the World Series. Late season changes such as making Wainwright the closer helped but as I recall, Eckstein and Pujols played huge rolls in the playoffs that year. The Cardinals had a good team but they were the weakest of the playoff contenders. So weak that the Tigers went into the WS saying they would take it in 3 games.

                          I agree with SavoyBG but I also see the playoffs have to be managed differently than one would manage the season getting there. It helps to have experienced players to handle the extra hype that goes with the playoffs and series. There are some average players who seem to excel to that pressure and there are great players who have little success in the series. After playing out 162 game season just to be eligible for the playoffs, now a team has to figure out how to win one series at a time just to advance to the next.

                          But, yes, it is a crap shoot.
                          Lets not get carried away with the post season being a crap shoot. Yes a lower ranked team can get some breaks or just get hot and beat better teams on paper.
                          The old adage still rules, the game is never played on paper.
                          Who plays the best in any playoff is the winner.
                          The old BS every so often pops up about the teams that should have won, should have means zero.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            OT, but I agree that the 79 Chargers are a better analogy, as their defense sucked in 1981 with Dean and Kelcher gone.
                            I'd love to make the empirical case that Moneyball cant win a short series, but those A's teams were also cursed with godawful luck, like Jeremy Giambi forgetting to slide. I have my doubts that they can win a 1-game playoff in Yankee Stadium.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by MattD1972 View Post
                              OT, but I agree that the 79 Chargers are a better analogy, as their defense sucked in 1981 with Dean and Kelcher gone.
                              I'd love to make the empirical case that Moneyball cant win a short series, but those A's teams were also cursed with godawful luck, like Jeremy Giambi forgetting to slide. I have my doubts that they can win a 1-game playoff in Yankee Stadium.
                              What luck. Thats not luck when the opponent makes a mistake.

                              Comment

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