Contrary to popular belief, the book “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis was not so much about ‘sabermetrics’ as it was about the process of attempting to determine a competitive advantage by exploiting inefficiencies in the way Major League Baseball teams evaluate talent.
The Oakland A’s, being one of the poorest (a term I use with a heaping helping of irony) clubs in the Majors, still have the best record in baseball at the All-Star Break.
This got me to thinking.
Our church league softball team won a game this season, but we’d like the wins to multiply like fishes and loaves and such, so on the way to the field last week, I put my A’s hat on and started thinking of some advanced metrics to apply to make us a contender for 2015.
1. VORS (Value Over Replacement Shirts): If there’s one thing that I’ve learned on the diamond, it’s that the team with matching T-shirts (or at least color-coordinated ones) seems to have its stuff together.
Our group has always prided itself on a historical approach: In the 19th century, some teams actually outfitted each player in a completely different color based on their position. It didn’t go over well back then, but it appears to have made a comeback.
Even the Tigers, as staid as they come in matters sartorial, have worn special hats and/or uniforms for Memorial Day and Independence Day and Negro Leagues Tribute Weekend and Fiesta Tigres! and such.
I’m told that in honor of Russian heritage, they’re going to change the Old English D to an Old Cyrillic D. Then again, I may have made that last one up. The Brewers, meanwhile, have worn nine different uniform tops since the beginning of the season and lead the NL Central. Coincidence? I think not.
2. Running Created: The concept of ‘Runs Created’ is familiar to the advanced metric crowd. No, not Runs Batted In, which according to my readings, is a heathen statistic only slightly more predictive of offensive success than a Ouija board.
I’m more interested in the ‘Running Created,’ which is to say, times players on my team have made me try to score from first base on a double. Once calculated, I will put these players in other places in the lineup.
Station-to-station softball, that’s for me. After all, if Christian fellowship is one of the goals of the league, shouldn’t I be aiming to take a break to chat at each base. I can’t ask “How is it with your soul?” if I’m out of breath.
3. Park Effects: Does playing on Field 4 at the Michigan Tech complex, a diamond I occasionally refer to as “Mosquito Junction” due to its proximity to the woods on three sides, affect offensive output? Does high bug density make it harder to hit the ball far or does it improve our offensive statistics since Deep Woods Off! makes their hands slippery?
4. Parking Effects: Does one’s car’s proximity to the field correlate with offensive output? I know I play worse if I have to worry about someone hitting a 350-footer off my windshield. Does the fact that my opponents have nothing to fear when I step up to the plate change the dynamics? If I arrive too early for my 7:30 game and the 6:15 cars haven’t moved yet, will the increased CO2 emissions brought about by circling around impact the numbers or park effects?
5. Reality-Independent Pitching Statistics: I’m the No. 2 man on our pitching staff, and this season toeing the slab has come with mixed results. Unlike in Little League, no one has hit me in the face with a line drive.
But I do find myself doing the whiparound all pitchers have done when giving up a long ball quite often.
Since 29.8 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot, I’m searching for a metric that will evaluate my pitching abilities regardless of actual outcomes, adjusting for the knuckleballs that don’t and the wacky backspin balls that end up going back back back back and being chased around Houghton County by our intrepid defense.
The playoffs start this week, and as general manager Billy Beane said, “my (methods) don’t work in the playoffs.”
So we’ll be shelving these for 2015 – but I’m encouraged. With my A’s hat on last week, I drew a walk for the first time all season. And if this works, maybe they’ll sign Brad Pitt up to play me in “Moneyball 2: Holy Cow.”
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/redveale.