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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Dayton Moore Isn't Stupid

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Last week NPH's affliction of a baseball team made a trade for a free swinging, power hitting first baseman. News of the trade had hardly hit cyberspace before the army of Royals bloggers were on it, decrying it as a meaningless, if not foolish move (I'd link to the posts, but they're long on letters and short on nuance). I don't let the ability to publish on a blog delude me into thinking I know a durn thing about this business, and I have no reason to doubt that people like Rany Jazayerli know exactly what they're talking about. But they've reduced the game of baseball to a mathematic equation in which the correct compilation of digits--percentages! percentages!--will automatically churn out a playoff team.

The surprising low budget success of the Oakland Athletics and Billy Beane, as chronicled by Michael Lewis' engrossing book Moneyball, has spawned a generation of stathead baseball fans who have a higher reverence for Bill James than for Babe Ruth. I'm fascinated by what Beane was able to do in Oakland. It heralded a new era in baseball, really, one in which a player's performance is seen less in terms of potential and more in terms of the raw data of his production. And there's a new statistical formula for assessing that production engineered every day: VORP, OPS, OBP--take your pick.

So when Dayton Moore said that the Royals' offense needed to address its very, very bad On Base Percentage (OBP), the bloggers shouted in acclamation. It shan't be long, they opined, before Kansas City has its own wonder of calculus on the diamond. But then he traded for Jacobs, a player who's OBP is really terrible. Out came the torches.

Moore became the GM of the Royals in the middle of the 2006 season, and I've already chronicled the team's improvement since his arrival. That, to me, buys him a lot of credit, because the teams he's run out there every summer have been different from one another in minimal respects (add a Gil Meche and Jose Guillen here, take away an Angel Berroa there). And yet they're getting better.

What blogger-dom seems not to perceive is that Moore is trying to build an excellent organization, not simply a feel good story of unappreciated talents mined for their maximum potential. So given the chance to acquire a raw, power hitting first baseman who never walks but who could hit 30 homers a year for well into the team's future, he'll scrap the stat and nab the player. Then he'll address On Base Percentage some other way; just maybe he's got a plan to improve Jacobs' OBP.

Beane's A's won lots of games and a few division titles. But they barely sniffed the World Series for all those wins. That, for Moore, is not a model to emulate. After all, Moore cut his teeth in Atlanta, where the Braves won 14 consecutive division titles, a span in which they went to the World Series five times.

I'm operating from a different assumption than the one animating bloggers' twitchy fingers: Dayton Moore knows more than they do.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 4:03 PM

2 Comments:

Completely agree. I've always liked Jacobs...and I think the guy could do a better job at the plate OPS-wise with some focus and work.

He's got a lot of talent...and heaven forbid we look at talent.
commented by Blogger Scott, 6:49 AM  
There's a guy in my church who's a well-respected baseball guy in these parts and who knows a lot of front office personnel around MLB. I asked him about the Jacobs deal, and he sort of grimaced and said, "I think they could have done better."

That dampens my mood a little bit. I wasn't saying, though, that I was thrilled with the deal, only that I'm not lighting my funeral pyre over it.
commented by Blogger Not Prince Hamlet, 12:35 PM  

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