Billy Beane: The math, money and mastermind behind the Oakland A’s “Moneyball” success

The 2014 season for the Oakland Athletics was full of ups and downs. The A’s got off to a great start, achieving a 59-36 record, which was the best in baseball by the All-Star break. Oakland also had the best run differential in all of baseball and had six players selected to the All-Star game, more than any other club.

However, A’s general manager Billy Beane made a blockbuster trade on July 31, sending Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox for pitcher Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes. The move turned out to be costly. The A’s struggled in the second half. They lost the American League (AL) division to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and went 29-38 to finish the season. Despite this, the A’s finished the season with an 88-74 record and made the postseason in spite of having the 27th ranked opening day payroll.

In the end, the eventual AL World Series representative, the Kansas City Royals eliminated the A’s from the playoffs in the Wild Card play-in game on September 30. As a result, this offseason Beane has been aggressively rebuilding his team for the upcoming 2015 season. He’s made nine trades involving a total of 28 players – traded five of the A’s All-Stars and five of the team’s top 10 prospects.

Whether A’s fans love or hate Beane, one thing is for certain – they have learned to respect the man who’s goal has always been not to build a roster of favorites, but consistent winning clubs.

This project is about Beane’s tenure as the A’s general manager, which began in 1998. From 2007 through 2011, Oakland failed to make the playoffs. But since 2012, the A’s have won back-to-back AL West Division titles and made the playoffs three straight years.

The two major statistical categories that the team values the most is on base percentage (OBP) and earned run average (ERA). OBP is a measure of how often a batter reaches base. The last two seasons, the A’s have been in the top 10 in OBP. ERA is one of the most important statistics used to measure a pitcher’s effectiveness. The fewer runs a pitcher allows, the lower his ERA will be. Since 2010, the A’s have been in the top 10 in ERA four times. Last season, Oakland had the lowest rotation ERA in the AL and ranked second in bullpen ERA.

The data used in this project comes from three sources: Lahman’s Baseball Database, MLB.com and Baseball-reference.com.

To view the A’s average wins per money spent, OBP per millions spent, and ERA per money spent, use the year sliders in the interactive display above by moving them from left to right and right to left. You can also check the league (AL and NL) boxes to see specific teams wins, OBP and ERA in comparison to the A’s.

 

2 Comments

  1. Raider Bong

    I dont think ERA is the pitching stat the A’s value the most, but rather certain peripheral stats that result in a pitcher having a low ERA. one of these stats which is common amongst all A’s pitchers is a low BB/9 rate (walks allowed over 9 innings). whereas other clubs love a pitcher who strikes out a ton, the A’s dont mind a guy who pitches to contact as long as he doesnt give up a free walk. since the A’s traditionally have one of the more elite defenses, even if the pitcher pitches to contact, the thinking is the defense wont allow the batter to get on base.

    so yeah, although im sure the a’s (like every other team) valuesa low ERA, i think what they really look for in a pitcher who may even have a high ERA, is whether they walk a ton or not. and strike outs is something the A’s dont really care for, as they routinely rank amongst the middle of the pack in that stat, but towards the top in walks allowed. many if not all teams pay a premium for pitchers who strike out a ton, but not many pay that same premium for a pitcher who doesnt give up walks, so this allows the A;s to get pitchers who are effective, on the cheap.

  2. What’s up, just wanted to mention, I liked this article.
    It was helpful. Keep on posting!

Post a comment

Oakland North welcomes comments from our readers, but we ask users to keep all discussion civil and on-topic. Comments post automatically without review from our staff, but we reserve the right to delete material that is libelous, a personal attack, or spam. We request that commenters consistently use the same login name. Comments from the same user posted under multiple aliases may be deleted. Oakland North assumes no liability for comments posted to the site and no endorsement is implied; commenters are solely responsible for their own content. For concerns about comments posted to this site, please contact us at staff@oaklandnorth.net.

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook

*
*