Have read the book. Very interesting, the best baseball book I've read so far this summer. (Other books worth a look are "The Little Red (Sox) Book" by Bill "Spaceman" Lee and "True Believers" by Joe Queenan.)
David Kipen's review summed up the book quite nicely:
"But first, baseball. To paraphrase the Firesign Theatre, everything you know about baseball is wrong. Sacrifice bunts? Waste of an out. Stolen bases? Not worth the risk of making an out. Pitching? Overrated. Fielding? Overrated. What's underrated, according to Lewis and his central figure, Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane, is "the ability to control the strike zone." This means, in short, swing only at pitches one can hit well, and give those one can't the go-by. "
Basically, Beane's philosophy can be distilled as such:
1. The only way a small market team can survive is by "winning the draft" -- signing players to long term contracts while still in the minors while they're still cheap, enjoying their initial success, and selling them when they get too good and ask for more money. This means that player scouting must be put on a scientific foundation, since every dollar counts.
2. Draft players out of college, never out of high school: high school players are generally busts, and they're a waste of a draft pick. College players face a better caliber of competition.
3. Pay big attention to OBA (on-base average) as a statistic; it's the stat that demonstrates what kind of control the player has over the strike zone.
4. Don't stay away from short right handed pitchers and overweight catchers (those guys "with titties" if you want to stay on top. Scouts looking for lean guys who LOOK like baseball players get heaps of Beane's abuse. "You guys would never have signed Babe Ruth, then", is one of Beane's comments.
5. If there's ANY chance whatsoever that a player won't make it in the big leagues -- personality problems, questions about commitment to the game, run-ins with the law -- then ditch him. The money is so big and so few players pan out that one can't afford to draft ANYONE who looks like he might not make it.
6. Listen to what James and the stat crunchers have to say. Ya might learn something.
7. Closing pitching isn't what it's cracked up to be. Find someone who can get the ball over the plate with some speed and sign him cheap.
8. Fielding? Who gives a damn? Fielding statistics are crap anyway: a slow guy who doesn't have the wheels to get to a fly ball gets no penalty, the young stud who dives in the dirt for it and misses gets tagged with an "E7".
So what did I think of it? Well, I always thought stolen bases were overrated. You have to have about 75% success before it becomes a bonus for your club, and Lee and Pierre are the only guys who have that kind of success. Luis Castillo with his 13 SB and 9 CS only takes the Marlins out of innings. When the idea was that Jeff Torborg was going to lead the league in stolen bases, I just rolled my eyes. Another dumb-a** Marlins idea. Note that we've advanced to, what, 38 and 39 since we changed managers? Of course, having a young pitching stud helps out a bit.
I really don't know much about the success rate of high school pitchers. I'm sure you can name a few guys who were drafted out of high school who made it to the majors. It was funny that while I was reading the book that the Marlins drafted, who, Jeffrey Allison, a high school guy? After reading the book even I doubt that Allison will ever pitch an inning of big league ball. And the Marlins signed him for what, $1.7 million?
Of course, me with my massive, incredible knowledge of baseball (which you could fit into a thimble and still have room for an agent's heart), I decided to put Beane's theories to the test on...Baseball Mogul 2003. Choosing cheap, young guys with high OBAs, I led the Florida Marlins to a record of...62-100. I did, however, have the cheapest payroll and the highest profit in the majors.
I suspect that Beane's theory about the Role of the Closer is just wrong. As for whether his ideas have any adherents, Toronto has built the club around a Beane philosophy and there was talk about Beane becoming GM of the hopeless Mets. So you never know.
I really enjoyed the book. It seems like Beane takes his theories a bit to the extreme. I like his thought process regarding college players, however I can not fault the Marlins pick of Allison in the first round. It seems like Beane's theories will begin to spread throughout the league - his success and the success of his followers (JP & Theo) will breed a new way of scouting and drafting.
I love the part about John Mabry. Great stuff.
Also based upon the book, there is virtually no chance Beane will keep Tejada next year.