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February 10, 2009

"Moneyball" Being Made into a Movie, Starring Brad Pitt

Could be funny.

Is Brad Pitt good-looking enough to play Billy Beane?

Yes, that was a blatant suck-up. Please send job offers and/or spring training tickets to us.

E! Online reported Friday that Pitt and Steven Soderbergh, who teamed for "Ocean's 11" and its sequels, are discussing reuniting for "Moneyball," centering on Beane, the real-life Oakland Athletics' general manager who used complex statistican analysis to draft a playoff-caliber team.

I say it could be funny because drafting in baseball, at least if Moneyball was telling the truth, had been ludicrous.

I thought the book would be about math geeks demonstrating that some stats -- say on-base percentage -- were more important than the stats actually being looked at, like batting average or RBI's.

And that the book would be about proving these other stats were more predictive than the more attention-getting stats.

That's not actually what it was about at all. Most baseball scouts didn't look at stats at all, preferring, in their mind, to see "the man who could be" instead of the man who actually was. They actually rated baseball players according -- not exclusively, you understand; but this was a major consideration -- whether they had athletic bodies and looked good in a uniform and whether their faces had a "baseball look."

They also checked stuff like how fast a guy could sprint and the like... but while these are hard numbers and are indeed predictive, they're nowhere near as predictive as looking at a guy's actual, real-life, as-applied-to-the-actual-game stats. A man's gross speed is a secondary concern; your primary concern is how often he beats the throw to first base and how often he steals a base and how often he gets caught stealing a base. Maybe the fast guy has poor judgment and gets thrown out a lot, while the slower guy is cagier and manages to get bigger leads before making the attempt. Speed, while important, isn't really the stat you care about.

Beane's "innovation" was actually just looking at basic statistics and drafting (for example) an overweight college catcher who despite not having a "baseball look" or filling out a uniform nicely was, you know, hitting the ball consistently and blasting a lot of home runs. The scouts didn't like him just because he was fat. Billy Beane liked him because the stats showed he could hit.

Now, I'm sure this wasn't all scouts and I'm sure stats played some part in a scout's evaluation. However -- again, if Moneyball is to be believed -- scouts were fairly determined that they were not going to just look at stats (which anyone could do) but get a fuller picture of "the man who could be" by, not to exaggerate, judge how handsome a guy was and how built he was.

I thought it was jaw-dropping that scouts resisted drafting a chubby slugger who had a solid statistical record to judge him on based on such nonsensical irrelevancies.

So, anyway: Could be funny. Would love to see a filmed version of those drafting arguments where a guy hitting .320 is denigrated for failing to have a "baseball look."

I'm telling you, the impression I got was that scouts weren't drafting for baseball, but drafting for Chippendales. I might be overstating it, but I don't think I am.

I guess the word I'm avoiding here is that baseball scouting was incredibly, incredibly gay.

Thanks to DavidR.

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posted by Ace at 05:43 PM

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