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SHOW ME THE MONEYBALL, PT IV
2004-12-28 01:37
by Mike Carminati

Parts I, II, and III

It seems that Dan Haren won a Cy Young or two since last season. That is, if the response I am getting regarding my criticism of his being traded for Mark Mulder is any indication. I am just not that high on Haren but that's why the play the games. There's nothing left to do but watch they play in actual games next season.

The other argument that I made against the strategy of dumping all but one experienced starter (Barry Zito) drew one response from the cryptically named "voxpoptart". To wit:

I know your concern (understandable) is that Billy Beane has kicked away the A's chances for 2005.



Still, what struck me about your least-experienced-staffs list is how _most_ of those teams were early in a process of last-to-first transformations. The '77 Tigers, '96 A's, '96 Mariners: those were soon to be outstanding teams, 100+ victory teams. The '82 Twins, '78 Braves, '81 Mets, those were soon to be champions too. The Whirlpool Principle states that bad teams are drawn towards .500, not towards championships: those young-staff strategies suddenly look pretty good to me. And no, I didn't have any advance bias in that direction.

So does this strategy help in the long run, say within five years? Let's take a look. I researched are all the teams that qualified for the previous study with their record over the next year and then the subsequent four years, or five years in total. On average their winning percentage fell 11 percentage points the first year, but improved 28 points, on average, over the next four.

So maybe vox is onto something. But wait, a good number of those teams stunk before the jettisoned the bulk of their staff. The A's just missed the playoffs last year.

I narrowed my query to just those teams with a .500 or better record in the previous year. They improved on average by 48 points in the first year and then fell, on average, 66 over the next four years.

As a matter of fact, of the 42 teams that had a record equal to or better than the A's last year (.562 winning percentage) who then went on to pursue this strategy only four had any improvement whatsoever in years two through five, and two of those improved by an average of one percentage point. Those teams are the 1882 Chicago White Stockings (1-point improvement), 1885 St. Louis Browns (54 points), 1952 Brooklyn Dodgers (13 points), and 1978 Baltimore Orioles (1 point).

For the record, here are the teams with the greatest improvement overall:

YrTmLgPCTNext 4 yrs PCTPrev Yr PCTDiff 1st yrDiff yrs 2-5
1885Detroit WolverinesNL.380.619.250-.130.369
1898St. Louis BrownsNL.260.497.221-.039.276
1910Washington SenatorsAL.437.531.276-.161.255
1962Philadelphia PhilliesNL.503.543.305-.198.237
1915Cleveland IndiansAL.375.561.333-.042.228
1916Cleveland IndiansAL.500.598.375-.125.223
1885Pittsburgh AlleghenysAA.505.497.278-.227.219
1883St. Louis BrownsAA.663.677.463-.201.215
1918Pittsburgh PiratesNL.520.542.331-.189.210
1886Detroit WolverinesNL.707.576.380-.328.197
1984New York MetsNL.556.616.420-.136.196
1885Brooklyn GraysAA.473.578.385-.089.194

And then the best improvement for teams in the last 50 years:

YrTmLgPCTNext 4 yrs PCTPrev Yr PCTDiff 1st yrDiff yrs 2-5
1962Philadelphia PhilliesNL.503.543.305-.198.237
1984New York MetsNL.556.616.420-.136.196
1968New York MetsNL.451.544.377-.074.167
1967Chicago CubsNL.540.529.364-.176.165
1966Boston Red SoxAL.444.543.383-.062.160
1994San Diego PadresNL.402.532.377-.025.155
1989Baltimore OriolesAL.537.490.335-.202.155
1968Baltimore OriolesAL.562.626.472-.090.154
1976Detroit TigersAL.460.509.358-.101.150
1987Pittsburgh PiratesNL.494.545.395-.099.150
1970Montreal ExposNL.451.467.321-.130.146
1956Baltimore OriolesAL.448.511.370-.078.140
1993Cleveland IndiansAL.469.606.469.000.137
1981Toronto Blue JaysAL.349.549.414.065.135
1950Washington SenatorsAL.435.459.325-.110.135
1987Oakland AthleticsAL.500.602.469-.031.133
1966Kansas City AthleticsAL.463.496.364-.098.132
1955Baltimore OriolesAL.370.478.351-.019.127
1976Houston AstrosNL.494.519.398-.096.122
1953Pittsburgh PiratesNL.325.391.273-.052.119
1971Kansas City RoyalsAL.528.519.401-.127.118
1983Minnesota TwinsAL.432.485.370-.062.114
2000Florida MarlinsNL.491.508.395-.096.113
1972Cleveland IndiansAL.462.480.370-.091.109
1978Atlanta BravesNL.426.486.377-.049.109

You'll note that none of those teams had winning seasons in the year prior to the adopting strategy similar to Beane's.

So will what the A's did pan out? I guess it could. But history isnít really on their side.

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