The first game of the 2013 baseball season was in Houston, hosted by an Astros team that had finished in last place the previous year and was going to finish in last place again. It was nationally televised -- the Astros had just moved from the National League to the American, earning them baseball's showcase time slot -- and in the sixth inning the booth called down to ESPN's Buster Olney for an interview with GM Jeff Luhnow.
"I've heard from some of your peers," Olney said, "that the Astros probably are the purest form of implementation of statistical data. Tell me, in a nutshell, what your philosophy is." "Well, it's pretty simple," Luhnow began ...
What do you think Luhnow said? What, in a nutshell, was the Astros' "pretty simple" philosophy? When, two years later, ESPN's analytics report named the Philadelphia 76ers the most analytical team in any major sport, what do you think made GM Sam Hinkie "the NBA's most ardent analytics master"? After the NFL's Cleveland Browns hired Moneyball superstar Paul DePodesta to be chief strategy officer, how would you define the strategy he has been chief of? What holds these three exemplars of "pure" analytics together?
1. The Astros went 162 -- 324 from 2011 to 2013, the worst three-year stretch by any team since the expansion Mets in the early 1960s.
2. The 76ers went 47 -- 199 during Hinkie's three seasons, the second-worst three-year stretch in NBA history.
3. The Browns are 1 -- 31 since hiring DePodesta, the worst two-year stretch. The common denominator? It's losing a lot -- a lot -- of games, without trying very hard not to.
In 2018, using "data" or "statistics" is so commonplace and obvious that it can hardly be called a strategy anymore. Even teams that do invest more extensively in analytics are likely to find only tiny advantages that dissipate quickly against like-minded GMs' prying eyes. "The old days of getting something for nothing are over," Billy Beane told the New York Daily News in 2003. "There are too many good [GMs] out there now. The art of the deal isn't ripping off the other guy; it's giving up something to get something that makes you better."
Modern teams across all sports do that by playing to win a different game -- not a figuratively different game but literally different games, games that are years away instead of the game right in front of them. "Moneyball" is now synonymous with the willingness to lose games, without shame, for years at a time, to build something far off in the future. This is perhaps fitting, as the first lesson most of us learn about money is how to save up: how to collect interest, how to wait for deals, how to pool money for greater purchasing power -- buying 5 pounds of gum balls at Costco instead of spending a quarter at a time at the machine.
This is how baseball found itself in this strange place this offseason, where roughly a third of the league's teams were totally uninterested in winning games in 2018 -- a place agent Scott Boras described this winter as "destructive to our sport." "We have to get rid of the noncompetitive cancer," [url=http://www.officialraysshop.com/authentic-10-corey-dickerson-jersey.html]Corey Dickerson Authentic Jersey[/url] he complained. "We kicked people out of the game when they tried to not win." In the past, that might have been true. But one of the sabermetric movement's greatest legacies is less a tactic or a strategy than a major shift in philosophy: It has reinterpreted what counts, redefined what it means to be successful and [url=http://www.raidersfootballofficialonline.com/Nike-Jared-Cook-Jersey.html]http://www.raidersfootballofficialonline.com/Nike-Jared-Cook-Jersey.html[/url] dramatically changed baseball. Which means it's changed us too.
The Pirates had been a sturdy, top-tier team for the first quarter of the century. But they hadn't won the NL pennant since 1927 and [url=http://www.hockeyofficialonline.com/T-Shirts/Los_Angeles_Kings.html]http://www.hockeyofficialonline.com/T-Shirts/Los_Angeles_Kings.html[/url] were coming off their first last-place finish since 1917. Just as Cubs GM Theo Epstein would six decades later, Rickey announced that his plan was to build a winner ... later. "We're pointing toward 1955," he said. "That's when the bells will start ringing and the red wagon comes down the street. That's when Pittsburgh folks will shout, 'By George, this is it.'"
Rickey proceeded to field a team that was beyond despair. The Pirates finished seventh out of eight teams in his first year, then eighth in the next four, averaging 100 losses. In 1952, they went 42 -- 112, at the time the fifth-worst season in modern history, after which their one star -- Ralph Kiner, who led the league in homers -- asked for a raise. "Son," Rickey told him, "we can finish last without you." The next season, he traded Kiner away.
Rickey's last-place Pirates were probably the purest form of implementation of statistical data in baseball. He used a formula for offense that was the most advanced metric in existence. He tripled his scouting staff and persuaded ownership to give him $500,000 to sign dozens of prospects his first year. He expanded the Pirates' farm system by adding new affiliates. He integrated the team. By 1954 he had added 450
players to the organization, according to Andrew O'Toole's book Branch Rickey in Pittsburgh. He carried bonus babies and Rule 5 picks -- who were required to spend full seasons on the roster or be given up -- even when they were [url=http://www.cavaliersproshop.com/Channing_Frye_Jersey]Channing Frye Jersey[/url] way too young, way too inexperienced and badly overmatched. "I do not believe he can possibly do a major league club any good in 1955," Rickey lamented of one Rule 5 pick, but he gave the outfielder -- Roberto Clemente -- 501 rough plate appearances anyway. The big league club became the first to fly on road trips so players could spend more time sleeping [url=http://www.officialcowboysfootballauthentic.com/COWBOYS-KAVON-FRAZIER-JERSEY]Authentic Kavon Frazier Jersey[/url] in hotel beds. He flirted with a five-man infield in certain situations. [url=http://www.authenticcheapjerseys.us.com]cheap jerseys[/url] [url=http://www.nbajerseystobuy.com]wholesale jerseys[/url] [url=http://www.wholesalenfljerseysworld.com]wholesale nfl jerseys[/url] [url=http://www.jerseyspecialized.com]cheap jerseys[/url] [url=http://www.elitecheapnfljerseyswholesale.com]cheap nfl jerseys[/url]
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