Oakland’s GM, Billy Beane is Better than Babe Ruth


Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane (left) and shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima (right) address the media during a press conference announcing Nakajima

A few months ago, I published a quick piece arguing that Billy Beane will be enshrined in Cooperstown when all is said and done. In an article published on FiveThirtyEight.com, and written by Benjamin Morris, Billy Beane is covered in glowing terms, and shows what the A’s GM is truly worth.

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The article itself, linked above, is full of fancy numbers that prove that Billy Beane has a huge impact on the wins and losses that have been accrued in Oakland. Each piece is woven together to create a new point in favor of Billy Beane, and the Oakland A’s. The main comparison in the article is how much Beane was offered by the Red Sox, to how much they could have actually paid him with their deep pockets and still had it been worth their investment.

According to Morris, Beane would be a steal at $25 million a season. The only player that makes more than that amount in 2014 is Zack Greinke at $26 M, and equaled by both Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard.

He arrives at this conclusion by comparing the A’s with Billy Beane, and how the Athletics could have expected to fair with a typical GM and their payroll. Using lots of Calculus-based math, Morris arrives that the conclusion that Beane is responsible for 180.2 wins more than would be expected from a typical GM. Divided by the 15 seasons he’s been in office, that’s 12 a season! This is what Morris calls “Wins above expectation,” or essentially WAR for the front office.

“The most WAR earned by any batter over his entire career was 163 by Babe Ruth. In fact, if you assemble the top 15 position player seasons of all time, they still trail Beane’s 15 seasons as GM, with 180.1 WAR combined versus Beane’s 180.2 wins above expectation.” -Benjamin Morris

After some further calculations, Morris explains that the chances of such an increase in wins cannot be considered plain luck. In fact, the chances this all just being “lucky” are 1 in 13 trillion. Funny, because I remember a lot of players (Frieri) and opposing fans saying how lucky the A’s have been this season. Apparently there is zero chance that’s the case. Thanks Benjamin Morris!

The article goes on to explain how integral Billy Beane has been in delivering success to Oakland. Not only have his strategies kept the Athletics in contention year after year, but his impact has been Ruthian. And that’s putting it lightly.

Beane has always been considered an innovative thinker, and it is arguably because of him that Sabermetrics are widely embraced today. In Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball, Beane’s secrets became known to the baseball public. Since that time he has come up with new ways to acquire talent and stay competitive a decade later.

Lately, Beane has been trading away his once cherished prospects in exchange for big-league players that are set to contribute, ready to deal with potential consequences later. Assistant GM/Director of Baseball Operations, Farhan Zaidi, has a background in economics. Grady Fuson (the character that was fired in Moneyball) is now a Special Assistant to the GM. Fuson has been a scout since 1982. While his leaving the A’s was very real, the portrayal in the movie was pure fiction.

Using both Fuson and Zaidi as examples of the entire staff, Billy Beane has surrounded himself with different styles of thinking about how to win. With Zaidi, there is a business approach, a scientific approach. Fuson brings an old-school style of scouting into the mix. Numbers can put a player on your radar, but they don’t measure intangibles. Together, these two provide more informative data for Billy Beane to work with.

Even with a farm system that isn’t projected to produce until 2016 or 2017, the Athletics and Billy Beane will continue to find ways to win. It may take another reinvention by Beane and his staff, but if anyone has proven they are up to the task, it’s them. In Billy we trust.