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Neal Huntington And Moneyball: Let's Not Start This Debate

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Joe Starkey writes about Neal Huntington and the upcoming movie Moneyball, and unsurprisingly finds that Huntington and others in the Pirates organization want little to do with it. The fact is that, around baseball, that war has largely already been fought, and the terms of its treaty have already basically been decided.

Nearly every team has embraced statistical analysis to some degree. Teams know that on-base percentage is important. Most are doing something to try to quantify players' defensive value. They know that pitchers who strike batters out are important. They understand the concept of replacement level. To declare a team to be a Moneyball team is to use an incredibly outdated frame of reference. Baseball has taken most of the good stuff from Beane's philosophy and moved on.

At the same time, all organizations still recognize the value of scouts. Billy Beane's draft tactics - or at least his draft tactics as they were depicted in the book - have not caught on, and for good reason. The way Jeremy Brown is romanticized in the book is ridiculous, for example, and relying on college performance rather than projection when drafting is just an awful idea. Bold, yes. Creative, yes. But awful. Any GM who drafts like that today will be destroying himself.

(By the way, this is one reason I flinched a little bit at some of the arguments about Gerrit Cole not being the best pitcher on his team at UCLA. That doesn't matter. What matters is what he can be three or four years from now, and the chances he'll reach his ceiling. Those things might show up in the stats, and they might not.)

I don't think there's a GM in the game today who's a "Beane disciple." If one existed, he'd be as far behind the curve now as guys like Cam Bonifay and Chuck Lamar were behind Beane a decade ago.

This is, no doubt, still a fun topic for fans. And I'm excited about the movie. I think Beane is an important figure who probably deserves a place in the Hall of Fame. But I'm a little concerned that this movie is going to lead us into all kinds of culs-de-sac. Baseball, the industry, has already generally reached a consensus on Beane's methods, and Huntington's relationship to them should not be controversial at this stage.