Unemployment-ball?

I guess there won’t be a sequel to Moneyball written about Paul DePodesta and the Los Angeles Dodgers. After a 71-91 season,
DePodesta was abruptly fired this week.

Diehard readers of this blog know that I have been a longtime skeptic of the stories in Moneyball (see, for example, here, here, and here). There is, however, a new academic paper written by some good economists arguing that at least in the early years there were inefficiencies that DePodesta and Beane successfully exploited.


zenlarson

I enjoyed the book and have enjoyed the blog, keep it up. I've also followed the Moneyball debate here for some time and had just one comment.

Is it possible that the assumption underlying this whole discussion--i.e., that the definition of "success" for a baseball team is wins--is false? It seems that in baseball, as in any business, profits are the measure of success. So attracting more fans--whether in the ballpark or on TV--will lead to more revenue and, thus, more success. Celebrity players, homeruns, hits, and strikeouts are funner to watch than batters working a walk and pitchers getting lots of groundball outs.

While I consider myself an avid baseball fan, I have to admit that watching a batter hit a line drive up the middle is more entertaining than watching a walk, even if the results are the same in terms of impact on a team's chances of winning. There are clutch hits, but not clutch walks. So perhaps owners are right to place more value on a high batting average than on a high OBP since the former will bring in more fans and more money.

I certainly don't have any quantitative data to support this hypothesis, but I would bet that ticket sales spike more when Barry Bonds is in town than when, say Todd Helton (highest OBP) is.

Read more...

RotoAuthority

Zen, I like the idea you present here, but the players you used are a bad example. Barry Bonds walks more than anyone. He owns the single season walk and on-base percentage records. Most superstars in baseball take a lot of walks; plate discipline correlates well with home runs.

A better comparison would be: Who would fans rather see at second base?

Alfonso Soriano, who got on base 31% of the time (a poor rate) but hit 36 exciting home runs

OR

Brian Roberts, who got on base 39% of the time (very good rate) but hit half as many home runs?

Roberts was worth about two full wins more than Soriano and cost his team $7MM less.

Are those 16 extra homers really worth putting a worse player on the field and paying him a lot more money?

There is a point where a few more wins can increase attendance dramatically. Baseball Prospectus has done research on this. It's somewhere around 87 wins, where five more wins might mean the playoffs.

If the Royals somehow signed Paul Konerko, the best free agent position player out there, they would add 6 wins at most. But going from 56 to 62 wins wouldn't really change much.

Read more...

rafelon

I am interested in reading why you have been a "longtime skeptic of the stories in Moneyball". the link you provide took me to a 404 error.

Even as a skeptical statistician I find it hard to believe that beane has just been lucky. check out this plot. the plot is just 2002 and 2003, but oakland has won many more games than expected (given there payroll) in 2004 and 2005. LA on the other hand did have bad luck this year look at the players that were hurt.

zenlarson

I enjoyed the book and have enjoyed the blog, keep it up. I've also followed the Moneyball debate here for some time and had just one comment.

Is it possible that the assumption underlying this whole discussion--i.e., that the definition of "success" for a baseball team is wins--is false? It seems that in baseball, as in any business, profits are the measure of success. So attracting more fans--whether in the ballpark or on TV--will lead to more revenue and, thus, more success. Celebrity players, homeruns, hits, and strikeouts are funner to watch than batters working a walk and pitchers getting lots of groundball outs.

While I consider myself an avid baseball fan, I have to admit that watching a batter hit a line drive up the middle is more entertaining than watching a walk, even if the results are the same in terms of impact on a team's chances of winning. There are clutch hits, but not clutch walks. So perhaps owners are right to place more value on a high batting average than on a high OBP since the former will bring in more fans and more money.

I certainly don't have any quantitative data to support this hypothesis, but I would bet that ticket sales spike more when Barry Bonds is in town than when, say Todd Helton (highest OBP) is.

Read more...

RotoAuthority

Zen, I like the idea you present here, but the players you used are a bad example. Barry Bonds walks more than anyone. He owns the single season walk and on-base percentage records. Most superstars in baseball take a lot of walks; plate discipline correlates well with home runs.

A better comparison would be: Who would fans rather see at second base?

Alfonso Soriano, who got on base 31% of the time (a poor rate) but hit 36 exciting home runs

OR

Brian Roberts, who got on base 39% of the time (very good rate) but hit half as many home runs?

Roberts was worth about two full wins more than Soriano and cost his team $7MM less.

Are those 16 extra homers really worth putting a worse player on the field and paying him a lot more money?

There is a point where a few more wins can increase attendance dramatically. Baseball Prospectus has done research on this. It's somewhere around 87 wins, where five more wins might mean the playoffs.

If the Royals somehow signed Paul Konerko, the best free agent position player out there, they would add 6 wins at most. But going from 56 to 62 wins wouldn't really change much.

Read more...

rafelon

I am interested in reading why you have been a "longtime skeptic of the stories in Moneyball". the link you provide took me to a 404 error.

Even as a skeptical statistician I find it hard to believe that beane has just been lucky. check out this plot. the plot is just 2002 and 2003, but oakland has won many more games than expected (given there payroll) in 2004 and 2005. LA on the other hand did have bad luck this year look at the players that were hurt.