Amazin' Avenue Book Club: Moneyball, Chapter Seven

After a brief hiatus, the AA Book Club is back to continue its discussion of Moneyball. And just in time for the release of the film adaptation later this week! In case you missed it, here are the first six chapter discussions:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

On to "Chapter Seven: Giambi's Hole".

The cheeky sounding chapter title refers to the giant chasm left in the A's lineup after Jason Giambi departed Oakland to sign with the New York Yankees before the 2002 season. Giambi led the AL in OBP and SLG in 2001 as the A's scored 884 runs. Due to well-known payroll constraints, the A's could not sign a player anywhere near Giambi's caliber. So Billy Beane turns to -- say it with me now -- undervalued players to fill the void, specifically David Justice, Scott Hatteberg and Jeremy Giambi. These three are adept at working counts and laying off pitches outside the strike zone. Their approach at the plate -- their process -- is what Beane and co. are looking for in a hitter. Paul DePodesta provides a quote about this in the chapter that captures one of Amazin' Avenue's favorite concepts:

"It's looking at process rather than outcomes," Paul says. "Too many people make decisions based on outcomes rather than process."

DePo blogged about this a few years back, creating the often-cited process vs. results matrix:

Processvsresults_medium

The chapter devotes many words to the value of plate discipline, OBP, working counts, etc. cementing in the minds of many fans the idea that Moneyball = OBP. That perception still seems to exist today.

Beane's control of managerial strategy is discussed. An anecdote is relayed in which A's manager Art Howe confirms with outfielder Adam Piatt in the dugout that the sacrifice bunt he laid down was his own doing. Howe wants to avoid the wrath of the puppet master Beane, who decides when the A's are to bunt and steal. Much was made about this during the Mets manager search last fall. Would the new Mets skipper be a slave to Sandy Alderson and his win probability matrix? Would there be a direct phone line from the front office to the dugout? It appears the answer to both questions is no.

Mets-centric appearances/mentions in Chapter Seven:

  • David Justice, member of the Mets organization for one week, traded to the A's in December 2001

Discussion questions:

1. Pick some Mets-related events/signings/trades and determine which quadrant of the process vs. results matrix they would fall in. Example: signing Oliver Perez for 3/36 was Poetic Justice (that's a gimme).

2. General discussion of Terry Collins' in-game strategy as manager. Approve? Disapprove? What are his strengths? Weaknesses? Do you think the front office has much say in his decision-making?

3. Of Sandy Alderson, Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi, who would you most want to have a beer (or soda) with and why?

4. David Justice has a cool last name. If you had to change your last name, what would you choose? For our purposes, it also has to double as a common noun, like "justice" or "hose".

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