Hey Scan: Has “Moneyball” hurt the Padres?

Q:  Hey Scan….outside of Headley should the Padres start looking to swing on 1st pitch?  We are leading the league in walks and we are in last place…..has moneyball hurt our offense?  -  Ras


A: Hey Ras – Interesting question.  Of course, one of the philosophies of “Moneyball” (totally misnamed in my opinion, but that is a different article), is to be patient, take pitches, work the count, take the walk if it is given to you, but swing if you like the pitch.  Those who ascribe to this philosophy in its purest form like to see batters either walk, or hit home runs.

Chase Headley, who you mentioned, is considered by many to exhibit the quintessential Moneyball approach to hitting with his extreme patience at the plate.  In fact his 4.10 average pitches seen per plate appearance are tied for 7th most in the N.L. (tied interestingly with teammate Nick Hundley).

Furthermore, the Padres as a team seem to be practicing their Moneyball approaches at the plate by leading all of MLB with 132 BB’s so far.  There is nothing wrong with this in and of itself.  It’s great to get runners on base, and good to force opposing pitchers to throw a lot of pitches.

However, if you are not driving those runners in, it is all for naught.  That is where the Padres have fallen short.  So short, in fact, that they are second to last in runs scored, and dead last in all of MLB in batting average with runners in scoring position at an anemic .181.  To put that in perspective, the lowest average for a team with RISP since 2000 is .221, stumbled to by the Brewers 2004.

So, has “Moneyball” hurt the Padres, despite the fact that it was effectively flushed out with the departure of Sandy Alderson, Grady Fuson, and the rest of the draft and development department that left upon Jeff Moorad’s arrival ?  That is probably a debate that would have to take into account how having that philosophy preached throughout the organization influenced draft picks, determined development philosophies, and shaped young Padres players’ indoctrination into professional baseball, and whether the affects of those influences (good or bad) are still rippling under the surface of the organization.

The bottom line is this:  You can walk all you want, but if you can’t swing the bat and drive guys in when they are in scoring position you will probably end up in a similar place as the 2004 Brewers – dead last in your division.

Scan

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394 Comments

  1. Rich Metteer via Facebook
    May 11, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    Post game personalities make the games better. period.


  2. Dave Crowell via Facebook
    May 11, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Bigger doesn’t mean better. We won last year with a small pocket book.

    I don’t have a fancy cable package.. just basic.. which gets me the Padres… the new deal will lose me my games… gone will be my motivation for my 21-game ticket package.

    I know this won’t hurt the club. But it will sting me… and I doubt they offer anything that will match the down-home, neighborly goodness that is PostGame.


  3. Bob Scanlan
    May 11, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Jeff – I don’t recall saying the book was about the A’s. I think we agree it was about their philosophy (somewhat unique to them at that time, but tested by more teams since) of what in their opinion made a team successful on the field, and how to maximize the use of their financial resources to construct and organization (area scout to MLB manager and everyone in between) to win using those tenets. I think we are saying the same thing.

    I respect your loyalty to sabermetrics, but I do think my ball players definition of BABIP is much more fun…and more practical ;)

    Thanks for the input on the blog and thoughtful exchange.


  4. Jeff
    May 11, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Hey Scan,

    I appreciate your response.

    I think you are again making an incorrect inference that Moneyball was about the A’s org, when in reality it was just bringing a strategy to light by using a real world example. Same as Jonah Keri has done in the Extra 2% and the same as every other author that uses imagery to make an underlying point.

    I never questioned that the Padres org teaches – and puts a premium on – getting on base by hit or BB…I would hope that every org would. But if you take a look, just about every Padres player is currently taking BBs above their career norm. Obviously they didn’t learn this skill in the offseason. In addition, considering that there are 5 new position players vs last year’s club comparing stats year over year doesn’t really hold much weight anyway.

    And as far as your BABIP definition goes, I’ll have to disagree as a loyal sabermatrician.


  5. Bob Scanlan via Facebook
    May 11, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Byron – Not sure what you find funny about our comments. I am losing my job as a result of the new media deal, yet I still feel that it will benefit the team and ultimately the fan base. Not sure what’s amusing, or why I would defend a move that potentially negatively impacts me other than just sharing an honest opinion.


  6. keepinthefaith80
    May 11, 2011 at 9:23 am

    hey scan, just wanted to add, i see alot about Ted, but lets all remember padre fans. Mr. Padre was the greatest 2 strike hitter ever. Tony would get himself into that situation to make the pitcher pitch more then needed, to wear them out for the next guy. In his situation there were guys like Cami and Vaughn to back him up, along with a McGriff and a Sheffield in there to. Last year we had Adrian and eck to pull off the 1,2 punch we needed to be successful, this year we have a few guys to set up in Ludwick and Cantu, but no Adrian to fill in the clean up spot. Not to mention, Clayton and Mat totally pulling a 180 on us. thats what i hope improves, we have hitters, and they show us they can, but without pitching…I like Harrang, Stauff, and Moseley, but think maybe latos and richard need a lil more exp down below..or in the bullpen for a bit. A solid cean up hitter wouldnt hurt.


  7. Byron Lovelace via Facebook
    May 11, 2011 at 12:23 am

    Haha you two crack me up. I applaud your optimisim though; and I hope you’re right.


  8. Bob Scanlan
    May 10, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Jeff – I will copy and paste here a response i gave to a similar challenge about my perceived misunderstanding of “Moneyball”:

    Yes the book “Moneyball” was about exploiting market inefficiencies, but that is not what the emailer was asking about. His question was regarding the hitting philosophy of those on whom the book was created – Billy Beane, Paul Depodesta, and the godfather of that style of team management and baseball philospohy Sandy Alderson. One of their beliefs IS that walking and hitting home runs is the best way to produce offense and win games. If you don’t believe that, then your eyes and ears must have been closed during Sandy’s tenure as CEO of the Padres. It was openly expressed, internally mandated, and taught to every player in the system. This is not something that was kept a secret, and Sandy would openly acknowledge it today if you were to give him a call. The emailer’s question was based exactly on the philospohy of the leaders of the organization, who also happen to be the subjects of the book. It was a valid question, and clearly the asker has a perfectly clear understanding of what the beliefs were of the previous Padres leadership.

    As an aside, I did make the comment in the article that in my opinion the book is misnamed, and I still believe that to be the case. There really is no such thing as Moneyball in my opinion. There is however a philosophy of how the game should be played and managed based on Sabremetrics and statistics, and believers of this philosophy will look for “inefficiencies” that undervalue what they believe to be important based on their statistically based belief system. Taking advantage of perceived inefficiencies is not a new trend to baseball teams, but what was unique about the subjects of that book was WHAT they valued. And make no mistake, the purest form of that belief system lies in the core of its founder Sandy Alderson, and it was implemented in San DIego during his tenure as CEO of the Padres.

    One final note…BABIP stands for Babes And Beers per Innings Pitched, and nothing more.


  9. NWhite
    May 10, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Scan

    I do not see them taking money from the TV deal to pay off Moores. If they were to take money out to do that 51% of anything they took out would go to Moores, so they would have to take out twice as much as they needed. That and they would have to get a lot of the money up front, which would eliminate the benefits of the deal.


  10. William Bibaeff via Facebook
    May 10, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    From standpoint of the Moorad group owning the Padres outright that much sooner, I’m thrilled to hear that! I’m sorry in a way to see that Channel 4 loses out, as it has always had a nice “hometown” feel to it, but maybe the deal with Fox (I presume) will allow for some expansion on Padres programming as well as San Diego area sports. And hopefully we’ll see you and most of the Channel 4 crew continue on!


  11. Mike Pisciotta
    May 10, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Problem is Friars also lead the bigs in strikeouts. I would say working the count is not working very well.


  12. Bob Scanlan via Facebook
    May 10, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    William – New TV deal is expected to be announced soon, after which Moorad will be able to complete the sale about 2 years ahead of schedule. Presumably at that point there will be more resources and motivation to expand payroll and improve the team overall.


  13. Byron Lovelace via Facebook
    May 10, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Resources? This team is owned by an investment group. We rake off the higher paying teams, its all just profit. When this new tv contract rolls through our payroll wont change respectively. Itll pad some pockets while die hard fans die hard and root for the minor league deal to go through in escondido. As long as people show up and buy a few dogs and $9 coors lights, Moorads gonna point a finger down from Orange County and laugh his ass off.


  14. Jeff
    May 10, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Scan,

    I think you are misinterpreting the message of Moneyball. The book was not about taking walks. Not even close. It was about finding an aspect of business that is being undervalued (in this case the skill to get on base outside of a hit) and dominating that market.

    The A’s front office knew that they were never going to compete for the top FAs available, so they found that players who relied more on getting on base through the walk rather than putting the ball in play were being undervalued.

    The 2011 Padres are not a team built on taking a walk. They are a mixture of players who, more than anything, are known more for their defense than their ability to get on base.

    As far as your point about not hitting with RISP, please consider that this season Padres hitters are carrying a .213 BABIP in these situations after finishing 2010 at .303. While that .303 line probably had a lot of luck attached to it, the 2011 offense has been extremely unlucky.

    Would you rather they walked less and swung more?

    A team that does not rely on HRs can only score when men are on base. Just because the results have not been ideal does not mean that the logic is flawed.

    And the notion that Moneyball philosophies are gone with the new regime seems odd too considering Hoyer and Co are coming from an organization in Boston that is known as one of the most savvy in baseball for being on the cutting edge of what’s being undervalued in the game. Just because their payroll is big does not mean their approach changes.

    - Jeff


  15. William Bibaeff via Facebook
    May 10, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Well, it’s not like the ownership had overwhelming resources to try it the other way by throwing wads of cash at power hitting free agents. Speaking of which, when will Moorad’s group finish the layaway plan and own the Padres outright?


  16. Byron Lovelace via Facebook
    May 10, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Haha right, ask Halladay how scared he was when the Padres were swinging at pitches they liked. We K’d like 5 times in the first 3 innings yesterday. Micromanaging this team is as useless as Hawpes glove.


  17. Bob Scanlan via Facebook
    May 10, 2011 at 8:56 am

    I agree with Ted. I remember reading his book as a kid and remembering that he almost never swung a the first pitch of the first at bat against a pitcher. He new his strengths.


  18. Dave Crowell via Facebook
    May 10, 2011 at 8:32 am

    I commented on the blog… but the gist of it is that Ted Williams said the first rule of hitting was to get a good ball to hit.

    If it was good advice for Ted… seems good enough for the Padres.


  19. Eat2surf
    May 10, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Scan… you’ve certainly read Ted Williams’ Science of hitting.

    page 24.. “Three Rules to Hit By: … the first is something Rogers Hornsby originally impressed on me that spring long ago: To get a good ball to hit. The first rule in the book.”

    The second is proper thinking… know what they guy on the mound does.

    The third.. to be quick with the bat.

    still on page 24 “…Ty Cobb once said, ‘Ted Williams sees more of the ball than any man alive – but demands a perfect pitch. He takes too many bases on balls.’”

    If a guy like Ted Williams thought is was a good thing to get a good ball to hit.. and was willing to be walked while waiting for that good ball… well.. that’s good enough for me.


  20. NWhite
    May 10, 2011 at 8:13 am

    I do not see how starting to swing at bad pitches will make them a better hitting team. Good hitters punish pitchers for their mistakes, this team fouls mistakes off. Automatically swinging at the first pitch will not change that.


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