Is “Moneyball” Still Relevant?


Entering the break with relatively no signs of life, the Oakland Athletics are slipping out of the AL West and are looking more and more like sellers.

General Manager Billy Beane tried to upgrade the offense—the team’s biggest problem heading into the season—but even with the additions of Josh Willingham, Hideki Matsui, and David DeJesus, the A’s find themselves ranking 28th in the majors in runs scored (315), and 28th in batting average (.233).

The Athletics have been a disappointment for some time now, and haven’t really been relevant since, well, since Michael Lewis wrote Moneyball. The A’s were a consistent playoff contender in the early 2000’s, but after getting swept in the 2006 ALCS, the A’s have gone four straight seasons without a winning record.

Following the 2007 season, Beane and the rest of the A’s front office sent a message to the team’s fan-base by trading away popular stars like Dan Haren and Nick Swisher in exchange for younger, cheaper players. It was the beginning of Oakland’s youth movement.

Entering this season, the A’s had high hopes, and rightfully so, as the team was coming off an 81-81 finish in 2010. Adding veteran leadership like Matsui and Willingham to the lineup, and reinforcing the bullpen with the additions of Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes, hasn’t been enough, and the A’s currently sit 12.0 games out of first.

The rebuilding process has been a long one, and probably a very grueling one for Oakland’s ever-thining fan-base. Nonetheless, the organization still expects its fans to stick with the team.

Lewis’ best-seller, Moneyball, seems like an after thought these days in Oakland. Beane’s approach to an unfair game hasn’t worked in years, and the A’s find themselves mired in yet another disappointing season and a cloudy stadium crisis.

Looking back at the 2002 A’s—the one featured in Lewis’ book—the team scored 800 runs, 205 home runs and collectively hit .261/.339/.432 as a team. In the book, Lewis explores how Beane and the rest of his front office was able to find a way to win baseball games despite having one of the lowest payrolls in the game.

Lewis takes note of Oakland’s attempts to find cheaper ways to find offensive production, and as most of you probably already know, the A’s of the early 2000’s valued on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

The A’s ranked 7th in OBP during the 2002 season and 8th in SLG, but fast-forward to 2011 and you’ll find the A’s ranking 29th in OBP and 28th in SLG.

Has Billy Beane lost his touch, or has Moneyball become irrelevant just like the A’s? Now that everyone in the baseball world has read Moneyball, Oakland’s unique approach towards finding cheaper and often undervalued players has been over-exposed.

The A’s have put together a solid pitching staff, something Beane should be proud of, but the organization hasn’t been able to put together a sound offensive attack for the last few seasons. The A’s of the early 2000’s had a mixture of great pitching (Hudson-Mulder-Zito, anyone?) and plenty offense.

But Beane’s recent teams haven’t been as balanced. Either the pitching wasn’t quite there, as was the case in 2009 when Matt Holliday came to Oakland, or the offense just doesn’t have enough “pop” to help support the pitching staff like this season.

This year’s squad is all pitching no offense. The A’s enter the break with the AL’s best ERA at 3.15, but are also last in the AL in home runs with 50. So my question is, has Moneyball run its course?

Was there really a need to make a movie about Lewis’ book? The A’s don’t get on-base anymore, and have strayed away from the whole “wait for the two-run homer” mentality. In fact, the A’s have sort of strayed away from the whole Moneyball approach. So, did Brad Pitt really need to sign on to the movie that’s due for release in September?

Probably not.

The A’s have dealt with various injuries to some of their starting players, have undergone a managerial change, and have watched their anemic offense fail to support one of baseball’s best pitching staffs. The A’s will probably begin to sell some of their remaining assets this month, so you can pretty chalk up 2011 as another year to forget for Oakland, and also as the year we burry the term “Moneyball.”

2002 seems so long ago now, doesn’t it?

What do you think, A’s fans? Was there really a need to make a Moneyball movie? Who’s to blame for the A’s current mess? Sound off below!