The actual holiday isn't until Sunday, but hundreds of thousands of party-goers are well aware that this holiday began Thursday night. Here are some of my thoughts on this spectacular holiday.
...Halloween is cool when you're young. Then from about 6th grade until the beginning of college it's lame. Once you get to college though it's awesome. Isn't that strange?
...I love how 99% of female costumes turn into the slutty version of clothing. Not a teacher, a slutty teacher. Not a nurse, a slutty nurse.
...What do goth kids wear on Halloween? I mean they're pretty much wearing a costume every day of the year? Is this the weekend when they decide to wear jeans and a t-shirt?
...The one fear for me on Halloween is that while being drunk I'll see a police officer and not be able to decipher whether he is an actual cop or not.
...Remember when SCOTT MITCHELL dressed up as his head coach WAYNE FONTES? Where is Wayne Fontes? That might not be a bad costume idea for next year.
All right everybody, enjoy the holiday, I'll be back on Monday.
BOSTON WINS IT ALL
The Red Sox erased the curse by sweeping St. Louis in this year's World Series. If the Yankees are the "Evil Empire" what is Boston? I mean, they do have the second-highest payroll in MLB.
Really St. Louis did overachieve all season. They had a good bullpen but a pretty weak starting rotation that played over their heads during the regular season. How is TONY LA RUSSA going to handle himself having to go a few months without double-switching? I'm worried about him.
It was nice to see my boy RAY KING have a good World Series, although it was on the losing end of things.
Boston came into the series on a roll, and I don't know if St. Louis had even played their best baseball if it would have mattered.
Okay, Boston wins the World Series and not ONE SHOT of Pedro's little friend NELSON DE LA ROSA? Come on Fox, you should be ashamed of yourselves.
Although the post-season didn't measure up to 2003 (and I don't think anything really could have), we were lucky to have some quality baseball. The Red Sox comeback over the Yankees was amazing. The St. Louis/Houston series was really good as well. We got to see the emergence of CARLOS BELTRAN (just like MIGUEL CABRERA in 2003) and some gutty performances by BRAD LIDGE, JOSE LIMA, DEREK LOWE, and of course CURT SCHILLING. I'm satisfied. But still I can't wait for spring training.
RED SOX ONE WIN AWAY FROM ENDING CURSE
The Red Sox won last night by a score of 4-1. They are now up three games to zero and the city of Boston is about to erupt.
PEDRO MARTINEZ was dominant last night. Of course, P wouldn't be P unless he turned all attention to his contract situation rather than the fact that Boston was one win away from winning the World Series for the first time since 1918.
Some would say "what can he do? he answered the questions the media asked?"
My response would be this...
"I'll worry about it in the off-season. My team is up 3-0 in the World Series."
Rather than the "if they lose me it'll be because they didn't try hard enough to bring me back" nonsense that he spouted after the game.
A combination of being out of town the past weekend and blogspot not working properly has made today the first time I have spoke about the World Series.
Those of you who check out this website on a semi-regular basis know that I picked Boston to win it all at the start of the playoffs. I see know reason why that won't come true, especially now that they are up 2 games to 0.
I think St. Louis has to win all three of the games at home in order to have a chance to win this series. I can't see St. Louis winning back-to-back games in Boston. The DH is a huge advantage for Boston. They get KEVIN MILLAR, St. Louis adds SO TAGUCHI.
MANNY RAMIREZ looked like he was playing left-field on rollerskates in Game 1.
Does anybody know why TONY LA RUSSA insists on wearing sun glasses under the lights? Dude, it's 10pm in Boston, the sun isn't coming out.
I really want this series to go more than four or five games. I think it will though, I don't think Boston is so much better than St. Louis that they'll sweep them or beat them four games to one.
Wouldn't it be amazing if Boston went up 3 games to 0 and then lost the last four to lose the World Series? If Boston wins tonight, you know that thought will be in the back of every Red Sox fan.
A TRIP TO VALUE VILLAGE
So I had to find some clothing for my Halloween costume (Borat from Da Ali G Show) and I found myself at "Value Village", which is a second-hand type store. Today though, I learned a valuable lesson...Never leave an article of clothing on the floor at a second-hand store.
I was trying on sportcoats and decided to take my hooded sweatshirt off so I could get a better idea of how the jacket fit. I set it on the floor and was trying on sportcoats. As soon as I turned around I saw a woman picking up my sweatshirt. That led to this exchange...
Me "excuse me, that's my sweatshirt"
Lady "No it's not. I found it first"
Me "well actually It's mine. My last name is on the back of it. I can show you my drivers license if you'd like"
Lady "whatever, I don't want it that badly" (as she throws the sweatshirt back on the floor)
Now my sweatshirt is covered in dust and all kinds of unrecognizable dirt.
Also, I can't help but feel bad when I shop at places like that. I feel like I'm giving the impression that I'm making fun of the people that actually have to shop there. What people don't know is that I ACTUALLY DO have to shop there.
THE FORGOTTEN SERIES
In case you haven't noticed, and odds are you haven't, the Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals have been playing a hell of a series in the National League. The last two games were decided by walk-off homeruns and it will all come down to a seventh game, pitched by ROGER CLEMENS and JEFF SUPPAN tonight.
If you haven't really noticed the NLCS that much, I don't blame you. Think of how Fox has treated this series. They rarely even broke into the ALCS to give updates. They just threw the NLCS on FX after Nip/Tuck or on Fox Sports Net between episodes of 5,4,3,2,1 and I, Max. I think they actually pre-empted the start of one of the games because The Sports List was on, but that may just be a rumor. Either way, this has to be one of the most underappreciated playoff series in recent memory (well, the 1997 World Series is up there too).
As for my prediction for tonight? Before the playoff started I predicted Boston over Houston in the World Series, and after what the Red Sox did, maybe my prediction coming true is some how fate. I'll go with Houston tonight. An all wild-card World Series, yet again.
WAS IT ALL A DREAM?
How many Red Sox and Yankees fans are asking themselves that very question this morning? What a series. The time Boston finally gets the best of New York is in a series when they were down 3 games to 0. It really is remarkable. But, as I said when the series was at 3-1, if any group of players would be unphased by what had happened so far in the series, it was this Boston group. Now give-way to the curse of A-Rod. Will ALEX RODRIGUEZ's bush-league arm-flailing slap at BRONSON ARROYO spell 100-odd years of bad luck for the Yankees? Probably not, but it's interesting to think about.
In regards to Boston, if they lose in the World Series this improbable comeback won't really mean too much.
What happens to the Yankees now? Does BIG STEIN go crazy and fire BRIAN CASHMAN? Does he fire JOE TORRE? Do they trade away some of their players that slumped this year? JAVIER VAZQUEZ? JASON GIAMBI? KEVIN BROWN? It will be interesting to see how New York reacts to finally losing to the Yankees.
A WONDERFUL NIGHT FOR BASEBALL
My how things can change...Less than a week ago we all "knew" that St. Louis and New York would be squaring off in this year's fall classic. Since then, the Red Sox and Astros have won three in a row...Unbelievable
I love Game 7's. I love the playoffs in general. How great is it to see a starter come back on two-days rest and throw out of the pen? The desperation of it all makes it so compelling.
I think people should give a lot of credit to TERRY FRANCONA for the way he has managed in this series. He began to treat the 7th inning like the 9th a lot of times and since then has put his team in a position to win. You can't manage in October like you do April-September. PHIL GARNER seems like he has finally figured that out after watching his middle relief blow a few leads earlier in the playoffs.
Back to the Boston/New York series...Just how unbelievable would that be if the time the Sox finally took down the Yanks it was after coming back from a 3-0 series deficit? Maybe this is just the baseball gods' way of further tormenting the Red Sox fans by making them believe in the improbable only to have their hearts ripped out yet again.
Before the umpires reversed the call last night, while that ball was trickling down the right field line and DEREK JETER was rounding third, I was thinking these things...
1) This could ONLY happen to the Red Sox (well, maybe the Cubs)
2) I wonder how Sox fans are reacting to this right now
3) Did the ghost of BABE RUTH knock that ball out of BRONSON ARROYO's glove?
Of course, the umpires discussed what had happened and got the call right, just as they had done early in the game when MARK BELLHORN's homerun was at first incorrectly ruled a ground rule double.
It is nice to see the umpires discuss close calls as a group. Many of you may remember in the 1995 World Series when OMAR VIZQUEL dropped a ball at second and everybody in the stadium saw it. BOBBY COX came out to ask the second base umpire just to ask for help and the umpire refused.
After the second reversed call Yankees fans began raining debris onto the field. A classless move by a usually respectible (although tough) group of fans. Why do you think they reacted that way? The obvious reason would be that they were drunk and frustrated...But fans are drunk and frustrated all the time over the course of a 162 game season, and even during the playoffs...The more exact answer I believe is that the fans are really feeling the pressure. Everybody in New York is. What do you think GEORGE STEINBRENNER has been doing during these past three games? He was probably the one who started throwing things onto the field.
Remember the celebration after AARON BOONE's walk-off homerun in Game 7 of the ALCS last year? People said that the celebration by the fans and players was more enthusiastic than any of the recent World Series or League Championship celebrations...Nobody wants to be part of the Yankees team that finally loses to the Red Sox...And imagine if that team was this year's $180 million squad, that had a 3-0 lead in the ALCS...Look out for the wrath of Big Stein.
Boston was down 3-0 and Houston was down 2-0. My how a series can change. First to the Boston/New York series....
The last three games in this series have combined for about 14 hours and 35 innings. Depsite JOHNNY DAMON still struggling at the plate, he managed to get on base and score the winning run today. With how poorly Damon has been playing I keep waiting for him to show up clean-shaven with a JOHNNY UNITAS style flat-top.
DAVID ORTIZ keeps getting big hits. The homerun to end the division series, the homerun to end last night's marathon and then a jam-shot single to win the game today (tonight?). Anybody who has pitched can attest to how frustrating it is to get beat on a jam-shot. You'd rather have a guy hit a 500 foot bizzle off of you before losing on a jam-shot. It's difficult to cope with knowing that you 'won' the battle but not the war.
Who is going to pitch Game 6 (and 7 if necessary)? Part of me is waiting for a puzzled JOE TORRE and TERRY FRANCONA to go over to BUD SELIG and inform him that they don't have any pitchers left. Maybe Bud will throw his hands in the air again in befuddlement. You know these teams could throw their BP pitchers out there and we might not see much of a difference. Do you think the Yankees would've scored much more against BP pitching Saturday night?
It's amazing how the momentum in this series has changed. Still though, history (and a lot of it) is on New York's side...Plus their going back to Yankee Stadium. No team in baseball (or basketball) history has come back from a 3-0 deficit. If any team could do it though, why not this Boston team? They are a laid back group of guys who aren't intimidated by the Yankees. If Boston can pull it out tomorrow can you imagine the scene in Game 7?
now to Houston/St. Louis...
BRANDON BACKE? Wow. He has a live arm and threw the game of his life in the biggest game of his life. It's hard to believe that this guy has only been pitching for three years. Chalk one up to the "he's a tall righty with a strong arm, lets make him a pitcher" school of thought. For every one guy it works for there are thousands that have failed. The one diamond in the rough is why teams still think that way I suppose.
PORN 'STACHE (a.k.a. JEFF KENT) hammered that game winning homerun. He was looking for a first-pitch fastball and he got it. Even though it backfired, I would have rather faced Kent than a red-hot LANCE BERKMAN. All a manger can do is put his team in a position to win, he can't throw the ball or field it or hit it (or whatever bad coaching cliches I've been exposed to in my athletic career).
I know some criticized the decision before, but I would throw CLEMENS and OSWALT on three-days rest again. Both of the pitchers threw good enough to win after three-days rest. It does expose Houston's terrible middle relief, but better to expose that bullpen for the 6th and 7th inning than innings 3-7 when some scrub starter gets knocked out of the game.
After a pretty weak beginning to both of these series, now we have some exciting baseball on our hands.
With Boston and New York rained out tonight I'm left with some time to contemplate what has happened thus far in the playoffs. Here are my thoughts...
Why didn't PHIL GARNER bring in BRAD LIDGE in a 4-4 game in the 8th inning last night? I mean, his bullpen sucks, we all know that. DAN MICELI, RANDY QUALLS, DAN WHEELER, CHAD HARVILLE, those guys just aren't getting the job done. They have a bullpen ERA of 7.50 so far in the post-season. You're down 0-1 in a tie game and you keep one of the best relievers in the bullpen? Why? Miceli promptly gives up back-to-back jacks and the Cardinals lead the series 2-0 now. Scrap Iron has been getting out-managed all post-season, but it seems that the bats have overcome some of his blunders. Now that Houston is matched up with a clearly superior team, his mistakes will no longer go without being punished by the observation.
CURT SCHILLING's ankle injury has been a weird situation. First of all we know that he has been hampered by a bad ankle for a few months now. Before Game 1 he states how he'd love to "shut up 55,000 Yankees fans" or whatever his quote was. His ankle is just sprained at this point. Somewhere between this and his Game 1 start they discover that he has a torn tendon in his ankle. I just don't get when that happened? Did he trip over JOHNNY DAMON's hair in the club house? PEDRO MARTINEZ's jerry-curl? I could go on and on. But either way, Schilling looked bad in Game 1 and is still questionable for the rest of the series.
If we do get a New York/St. Louis World Series, this will be the first time the best records from each league have matched up in the Series in a while. I am looking forward to watching the two best teams in baseball battle in the Fall Classic.
FLORIDA COACH ZOOK CONFRONTS FRATERNITY
So as the story goes, a few football players got into an altercation at a frat house on the University of Florida campus, so RON ZOOK, head football coach of a major division 1 program, decided to pay the frat house a visit.
Reportedly, Zook said to the frat members "I'm not going to let you take the [expletive] football team down. ... I will do anything in my power to take this house down."
Hmm...Football coach and players trying to take down a frat house? Where have I heard this one before?
REVENGE OF THE NERDS!!!
YANKEES DEFEAT RED SOX 10-7
Shouldn't we all hae seen this coming? How was I so stupid as to pick Boston to defeat New York? I know it was only Game 1, but with Boston coming into the series as the favored, doesn't everybody sense the complete shift in momentum?
CURT SCHILLING got shelled and will not be brought back on three-days rest in Game 4 and may not even be brought back on normal rest if his ankle does not heal properly.
PEDRO MARTINEZ is pitching an essential "must win" tonight, and as everybody has said a million times, he referred to the Yankees as his "daddy".
MIKE MUSSINA threw the ball extremely well. I know that's obvious given the fact that he was perfect for 6 1/3, but he was pounding the strike zone early and had good velocity and movement on his fastball. His knuckle-curve was nasty last night as well.
As a side-note, can I go two innings of playoff baseball on Fox without the Rebel Billionaire RICHARD BRANSON telling me to bring some "clean underwear"?
Can somebody put a hit out on "Scooter"? Please?
My only real criticism of either manager last night was when TERRY FRANCONA hesitated to bring KEITH FOULKE in. Why not bring Foulke in to start the 8th down 8-7? If you don't come back Foulke only throws one inning and can still be used in Game 2. Foulke hadn't thrown in a few days and with an off-day coming up on Thursday I don't think over-using him would be a concern. They ended up going to Foulke after MIKE TIMLIN gave up two runs, which made it a 10-7 game. If he was warming up in an 8-7 game why not bring him in in that situation? Why wait for it to become a three-run game?
Former Lakers coach PHIL JACKSON came out yesterday and said that he wanted KOBE BRYANT traded last January. Of course that never happened, and Kobe chased both SHAQ O'NEAL as well as Phil Jackson out of Los Angeles.
Last night in the Lakers pre-season opener Bryant scored 35 in a loss. I know it's only the pre-season, but Lakers fans get used to it. You're going to see that a lot in this upcoming season.
A lot of people seem to be criticizing PHIL GARNER for throwing both ROGER CLEMENS and ROY OSWALT on three-days rest. I know people are afraid to start guys on three-days rest in the post-season because of the struggles some guys have had, but again I think that a lot of this fear is unwarrented.
Pitching on three-days isn't a uniform thing. Different guys bounce back after starting at different rates. Anybody who has pitched can attest to this. Sometimes you throw 110 pitches and feel like you can throw the ball through a brick wall two days later, sometimes you throw 85 pitches and feel like you're throwing puss up there a week later. It really is a tricky thing.
I don't have all the numbers in front of me, but a lot has been made about how guys pitching on three-days rest in the post-season are 1-9 or something. Of course everybody remembers JOSH BECKETT absolutely dominating the Yankees on three-days rest last year. Some of games pitchers have thrown off of three-days rest were good enough to win. I remember MARK MULDER going 7 innings allowing 2 earned, BARRY ZITO giving up four runs in six innings. I mean a lot of times thats good enough to win. I don't remember anybody being absolutely rocked.
I liked the decision, because I'd rather have Clemens and Oswalt on three-days each rather than Clemens on full rest, no Oswalt (except maybe and release) and then starting PETE MUNRO or somebody like that. The Astros rode a thin rotation (minus ANDY PETTITTE and WADE MILLER) down the stretch. In playoff time, I think you have to go with your best guys. Clemens through well, and the 'stros would have one minus a ADAM LA ROCHE bomb off of RANDY QUALLS. Oswalt pitched well and the bats ensured an Astros victory.
A lot has been said about the NHL-esque series ending handshake between the Cardinals and Dodgers on Sunday night. I have a few comments of my own. I know that the intention was right and I know JIM TRACY and the Dodgers were trying to do the classy thing, but it just didn't seem right. I mean, as a fan, I want my team to at least PRETEND that they're devastated by being eliminated from the playoffs. It wasn't that they were shaking hands, it was how most of the players were laughing and joking around about two minutes after they had been eliminated. On the other side of it, if I'm a Cardinals fan or player, I don't want a bunch of losers interferring with my team's celebration.
I think they did this because they got smoked in Game 4. I can't imagine them doing this as if they lost on a walk-off homerun or in any kind of a close game. Again, I know the intentions were good but it just didn't strike me as the right thing to do. I think we can guarantee that the Red Sox and Yankees won't be shaking hands with eachother after the series.
KEN CAMINITI DIES OF A HEART ATTACK AT 41
Former MVP KEN CAMINITI died of a heart attack on Sunday. The 41 year old was the NL MVP in 1996. Caminiti later admitted to using steroids during that entire season.
Whether or not steroids had anything to do with his premature death is not yet known. One thing is for sure right now, a lot of 'roid monsters in MLB are freaked out. All the guys with monsterous forearms and gigantic heads are terrified that this could be their fate. These guys are all just hoping that the autopsy reveals that it had nothing to do with steroids.
PLAYOFFS: DAY 2
...Can MLB just ban Atlanta from the post-season for a few years? They were eight-thousand shy of a sell-out for Game 1 of the NLDS.
...Is there anybody that doesn't think CARLOS BELTRAN was hit intentionally by JUAN CRUZ?
...The Yankees were almost dead, now the entire complexion of that series has changed.
...It's going to take a team with a solid pitching staff to beat Boston. Anaheim isn't that team. Is Minnesota or New York?
...So far my prediction of 'lots of blowouts' and 'high scoring' baseball has been true...I hope that eventually I'm wrong.
...The MLB Playoffs are just keeping my time occupied until the WNBA Finals between Connecticut and Seattle starts on Friday. Sorry, I had to be honest with everybody.
MLB PLAYOFFS: DAY ONE
I hope today wasn't a sign of things to come in the MLB playoffs. Although the Yankees/Twins game was good, today didn't come close to the excitement level of the 2003 playoffs. Maybe everything will balance out this year and there won't be any close games and all the series will be won 4-2 or something.
The Yankees/Twins game was well played. Minnesota turned five double plays and JOHAN SANTANA, while struggling with his control, still got the job done. He threw seven shutout frames. MIKE MUSSINA threw well, but took the loss while giving up two runs.
Both the Anaheim/Boston and Los Angeles/St. Louis games ended 8-3. Both games were close early but ended up being blow outs. Anaheim and Boston will go at it tomorrow while LA and STL will wait until Thursday.
In a best of five, Game 2 is a virtual "must-win" for the team that lost the series opener. Unless you're playing the Oakland A's, going down 2-0 in a best of five is a death sentence.
VICE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE
Before I get into the baseball of the day, I have some comments on the Vice Presidential debate tonight.
...First of all, was it just me or was this debate way better than the Presidential one?
...JOHN EDWARDS is a very good looking man.
...Do you think the GEORGE W. BUSH/DICK CHENEY camp is devising a way to have Cheney "pinch-debate" for Bush on Friday?
...I bet Edwards and Cheney were happy that they didn't have to deal with JIM LEHER and his freaky eyes.
Okay, lets get to baseball.
MLB PLAYOFFS BEGIN TODAY
I was trying to predict what would happen in the MLB playoffs and I realized that it is near impossible to predict. The only thing that came to my mind is the success of wildcard teams in the playoffs. Many people say that this is because "they have to play playoff like games down the stretch" but I don't know if that's the reason why they do well or if it's just because they were playing well before the playoffs start. Most wildcard teams have to peak right at the end of the season because there are so many teams within a few games, if a team hits a cold streak they won't make the playoffs. Boston is the first team to run away with the wildcard in a while from what I can remember. I'm going to operate on the theory that teams playing well down the stretch do well in the post season (much like the NCAA basketball tournament). With that said, here are my post-season predictions...
LOS ANGELES over ST LOUIS
The Cardinals haven't been playing as well lately, playing about .500 since they clinched the division. Part of that would be because they were resting guys, but I think another part would be that their starting pitching has been shaky. With CHRIS CARPENTER out for the NLDS, I have the sense of an upset.
HOUSTON over ATLANTA
The Astros are the hottest team in the National League. Although Houston seems to be the only team Atlanta can beat in the post-season, I have a feeling that the Braves won't win this series. CHIPPER JONES and JOHN THOMSON being banged up doesn't help.
BOSTON over ANAHEIM
Anaheim has been playing really well, but so has Boston. Plus Boston has CURT SCHILLING and PEDRO MARTINEZ, while Anaheim's rotation is good, but still suspect. Anaheim has a good offense, but Boston has a better one.
MINNESOTA over NEW YORK
The Yankees mash. Their starting pitching has been poor for most of this season, and their bullpen has been in shambles most of the season minus MARIANO RIVERA. MIKE MUSSINA has been throwing the ball better but I just don't know where they can count on getting 6 or 7 solid innings from. The Twins have JOHAN SANTANA for two starts in this series and you would figure they can get a win from somebody else. The Yankees just have too many starters with ERAs over 4 to win in my opinion.
My prediction for the rest of the playoffs goes like this...
BOSTON over MINNESOTA
LOS ANGELES over HOUSTON
BOSTON over LOS ANGELES
That's right, at least one curse will come to an end this year. If the Red Sox win the World Series, Sox fans won't know what to do with themselves, they're so used to whining every year.
Overall I think that this is going to be a high scoring post-season, similar to 2002. I don't feel that there are a lot of dominant pitching staffs this season and there are a few high octane offenses. Either way it will be fun to watch.
HOUSTON WINS NL WILDCARD
The Astros just defeated the Colorado Rockies to win the NL Wildcard. Houston made an incredible comeback, being 14+ games out of the wildcard race in August. The Astros have just been rolling for the past two months and are now hoping that success carries over to the post-season.
Houston is now going to face the Atlanta Braves in their NLDS. The Braves have eliminated the Astros a few times, but maybe this year will be different.
One of the things I enjoy about baseball is that it is so difficult to make the playoffs. You can't have a bad year and make the playoffs like you can in the NHL, NBA or even the NFL. Think of all the solid teams that aren't going to be playing post-season baseball...Florida, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland...Some people use that as a reason to add more teams, I think it's a reason to keep it the same.
MONEYBALL VS. TRADITIONAL METHODS
The whole "Moneyball" philosophy covers many different facets of the game. The basic three are:
1) statistics superseding scouting when signing/trading players
2) statistics superseding scouting when drafting players
3) mathematical studies used to influence in-game decisions
I'll try to explain the benefits of the Moneyball (I'm going to stop using the quotes because I'll probably type "Moneyball" five-thousand times in the near future).
Statistics Superseding Scouting When Signing/Trading Players
Personally I think this is when the Moneyball philosophy is the most effective. The idea of on-base and slugging being valuable goes back as far as BRANCH RICKEY and his Brooklyn Dodgers teams of the 1940's and 1950's. People now understand that you want guys to get on base and hit for power. Remarkably this wasn't always that widely known. When the Oakland A's first started going after on-base oriented guys (SCOTT HATTEBERG types) that nobody else wanted, it created a huge advantage for them. Now every team realizes the importance of on-base, so you're not going to find too many .250 AVG/.370 OBP types out there for cheap.
Another advantage to statistical analysis is that it can help predict when a player will break out or when he will decline. It's usually a safe bet when a hitter is young and has high walk totals and low strike out numbers that he possesses a strong command of the strike zone and therefore is inclined to have future success, as opposed to a guy who strikes out three or four times as many times as he walks. Statistics would point to that hitter having many weaknesses that are just waiting to be exploited.
The weakness of relying on statistics is that the players are constantly changing. Maybe a player hit .280/.350/.430 in 2003 but hit only .215/.270/.285 in September of that year. Was the player slumping? Was he finally figured out? Since one month of stats (roughly 100+ at bats) is too small of a sample to really make a judgment on a player, this is where I think scouting is key. A good scout could see a player and say "He's trying to pull everything, he'll be fine" or "this guy can't hit a breaking ball and everybody has figured it out". Again, this might not be 100% accurate, but when dealing with human beings no one system is 100% because people are constantly changing.
Also, the idea that this is so black and white is a false dichotomy. It seems like people have this notion that it's either statistical analysis or scouting and that's it. The fact of the matter is that the gray area is much much larger than the black and white. It's not like scouts completely ignore statistics, just like the Oakland A's or Cleveland Indians or any other Moneyball team don't completely discount scouting.
Statistics Superseding Scouting When Drafting Players
The first part of Moneyball spends a great deal of time covering the 2002 Amateur Draft and how the Oakland A's valued statistics over scouting. I think a lot of this has been blown out of proportion. Guys like JOE BLANTON and NICK SWISHER were going to be first round picks. MARK TEAHEN was going to be drafted early. The other players would have been drafted a few rounds later. You can even say the same about MARK MULDER, JASON GIAMBI and BARRY ZITO. Even JASON GIAMBI was a second-round pick. The Athletics were bad for a long period of time and thus received lots of high draft picks. It takes five or more years to determine whether a team had a good draft or not, and I would say the jury is still out on the 2002 Moneyball draft.
The real big surprise of the 2002 draft was JEREMY BROWN, which the book made a big deal about. Brown has done well in the lower levels of the minors, showing good strike zone command, but Midland, TX is a long way from the big leagues.
If you're looking to draft solid players, I think statistical analysis is a good way to go. If you want to draft studs--franchise type players, I think that you might be better off going by scouting. It's going to be hit or miss, that's the nature of the game. For every JOSH BECKETT out of high school there are five TODD VAN POPPLE type guys, or even worse guys who flame out and never make it to the big leagues. From an economical standpoint it makes more sense to try to draft studs and try to sign utility players or hope that your lower round picks develop into that. It's better to have a young franchise-type player making $300K to about $2.5 mil for six years than to try to go out and sign that type of talent. I think this is what the Milwaukee Brewers have come to realize. Give MARK ROGERS a few million out of high school, if he doesn't pan out oh well. If he does, then you got a front of the rotation starter for cheap for at least two or three years (before arbitration kicks in). Look at BEN SHEETS, he's one of the best starting pitchers in baseball and he's making about $2.5 Mil this year. There's no way the Brewers could go out and sign a Ben Sheets-type player, thats why they have to develop it.
Mathematical Studies to Influence In-Game Decisions
You could include the ideas of on-base and slugging into this because it effects the lineup card and potential pinch hit opportunities, but I'm going to focus more on bunting because it gets a lot of attention in the whole Moneyball debate.
One of the biggest parts of the in-game Moneyball philosophy (and the most often criticized) is the use of the sacrifice bunt. Again, this is not a black and white issue. There is a large gray area here. I know that's not always fun for debates, but it's the reality of the situation.
Runner on second, nobody out. Should the manager call for a bunt?
Some of you might have read that and answered "yes", while some answered "no". My opinion is that you cannot make that decision without knowing the tons of factors that go into it...
What's the score?
What inning is it?
Can the batter bunt for a base hit?
Does the pitcher field his position well?
Where is the infield positioned?
Can the batter move the runner up without bunting?
Who is on deck?
...And there are a myriad of questions that I left out.
There have been studies conducted that said the chances of scoring a run decrease when a sacrifice bunt is laid down. The flaw in these studies is that they never consider when a bunt is beat out for a base hit or when an error is made. With that said, we simply don't know how much a bunt helps or hurts an offense.
The idea of Moneyball was to remove the subjective analysis from baseball and replace it with the objective. There are situations where objective analysis is the right way to make a decision, but a lot of times in baseball you have to be subjective. That's why the same general managers (WALT JOCKETY, BRIAN CASHMAN, JOHN SCHUERHOLZ, Billy Beane, TERRY RYAN) are on top year in and year out. There are teams with financial capital (Baltimore, Los Angeles, Texas, New York Mets) that have had no success or very little until recently (like Los Angeles and Texas). I know black and white are the way we like to see things, but the answer to what is the best way to run a baseball club lies in the shades of gray.