Where is the next Moneyball for small market teams like the Brewers?

Everyone loves the Billy Beane inspired Moneyball story but what hope is there for the Milwaukee Brewers stuck in small market purgatory now that all teams are leveraging off sabermetrics?

There is a girl in my office that follows Burton Albion in the English Football Championship and it occurred to me that small market Football teams have the same issues that small market Baseball teams have. Is there any outside the box thinking that will give these guys an edge to exploit to level the playing field?

For those of you not familiar with the Moneyball story (if for instance, you have been on a long range mission to Mars) per Allen Barra of the Atlantic “Beane is credited with adapting baseball analyst Bill James’ statistical concepts into practical application. James, a lucid and witty writer with a refreshingly iconoclastic view of baseball history, had argued for years that on-base percentage (OBP, which measure a batter’s ability to reach base by hit or walk) was much more significant than mere batting average (BA, which only measures hits). James also stressed the relative value of slugging average (SLG, which measures a batter’s total bases per at-bat) and dismissed the more traditional baseball stats such as stolen bases and bunts.” Interestingly, that article by Allen Barra also points out that small market teams have always had to look for a competitive advantage not afforded those with comparable financial clout. He argues that Oakland Athletic’s owner Charles O. Finley through shrewd judgement of talent and consequent stocking of the farm system led to much of the success of the Oakland Athletics prior to the Beane era.

Allen Barra also points out that “Injuries, bad luck, front-office stupidity, sentimental weaknesses that result in signing older players to multi-year contracts, and just plain dumb luck have always been among the reasons why just pouring money into a major-league team doesn’t automatically result in winning a pennant.”

At any rate, that brings me to the point of this exercise. Where is the next edge?

R.J Anderson from CBS Sports thinks it is the Cleveland Indian’s penchant for turning internet writers into prospect scouts. Mike Zavada thinks that forward thinking sports execs should look at history as a way of getting the next edge.

Ironically, while I was racking my brain and trawling the internet for ideas, Eric Thames started raining down fire from heaven to the tune of the following:

Games – 25, Home runs – 11, RBIs – 20, BA – .341, OBP – .463 and SLG – .795.

For those of you not familiar with Baseball statistics, despite such a small sample size, that is torrid with a capital T.

Thames who is 30 made the big leagues to little effect from 2011 to 2013 and then spent the next 3 seasons in the KBO which is the Major Baseball League in Korea where he posted the following numbers:

2014 37 HRs 121 RBI .343 AVG .422 OBP .688 SLG
2015 47 HRs 140 RBI .381 AVG .492 OBP .790 SLG
2016 40 HRs 121 RBI .321 AVG .427 OBP .679 SLG

Needless to say, that is ‘crushing it’ whether you say that in English or Korean. That being said, many judges of the game thought the Brewers overpaid when they took a flyer on Thames handing him a 3-year $16M contract to play first base. That contract is looking like a bargain now. Brewer’s scouts thought, despite the difference in quality between the MLB and the KBO, that Thames’ increased production could translate to the Bigs. Once again, it is a small sample size, but it certainly seems they were right.

Which brings me to my hypotheses. Is overseas scouting the next Moneyball?

Stay Tuned

Next exciting episode will be on Wednesday, 10 May 2017 titled ‘Warriors vs Cavaliers III – Will it be behind closed doors like Rocky vs Apollo III?’.


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