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Friday, January 09, 2004

The Cubs and Moneyball

While at my parent's house over Christmas I got a chance to read the latest Vine Line, the official publication of the Cubs. In an article titled "Scout's Honor", the author profiled Cubs midwest scout Stan Zielinski. Nice article but I was interested in the comments relating to Moneyball. In one of the most interesting sections of the book, Billy Beane revamps the scouting organization for the A's, firing longtime scouts and taking the direction that college players and statistics are better predictors of future success than the 5 tool evaluation and "makeup" of high schoolers.

In the article the author notes that "the Cubs are skeptical of that philosphy" and that "the Cubs don't put too much stock in statistics, but they do agree with the A's in that building a strong pitching staff is the cornerstone of any ballclub's future." Finally Andy MacPhail, Cubs President and CEO scoffs at the use of statistics in the amateur ranks "because the spectrum of talent that you're going against is way too broad."

In response I would argue that not putting too much stock in statistics is what has produced an offense that has had a lot of trouble putting runners on base over the past few years and overpaying for replacement-level players (or worse) like Alex Gonzales and more recently Jose Macias. I do agree that pitching is the cornerstone and both the A's and Cubs have drafted well. Prior, Zito, Mulder, and Hudson were all drafted out of college while Wood and Zambrano were drafted out of high school. In regards to the stats themselves, although you can't take them all at face value (for example homeruns since aluminum bats play a large role) one of the places where they would be good indicators is in the strike out to walk ratio, precisely where Beane et. al. concentrate.

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