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Ken Macha Still Has Strong Ties to Moneyball Style

The Brewers have played well this year, leading the NL Central with a 30-21 record despite starting out the season slowly. They don’t have C.C. Sabathia or Ben Sheets, but they have a new manager in Ken Macha who has a pretty strong idea about how to run the team. Some of the former A’s manager’s principles include not running nor sacrifice bunting, and that’s brought on questions from the press:

[Macha] analyzed some statistics and came up with a few tidbits that support why he doesn’t let players steal more bases, and why he doesn’t sacrifice bunt as much.

Going into play Sunday, the Tampa Bay Rays were stealing bases at a success rate of 87% (82 steals in 94 attempts).

Macha and droves of other statistic gurus believe a team has to have a 75% success rate for steals to have a positive impact on an offense, but as Macha happily pointed out, the Rays were two games under .500.

If all that sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve read Moneyball — the book about the Oakland A’s. Macha maintains that his feelings on stealing bases and dropping bunts (he added that a team’s percentage of scoring is higher with a runner on first base and nobody out than with a man on second and one out) have also been referenced in Ted Williams’ book and essays by Branch Rickey. That may be the case, but I’m guessing all these notions were well-cemented into his consciousness by the A’s organization. Oakland may have altered its philosophy but it still sounds like some of the tenets of Moneyball are alive and well in Milwaukee. I’ve always felt that teams should play a style based on their abilities, and it seems like Macha’s way of thinking is working out with the Brewers.

(via Ben Maller)

Did Michael Lewis Impact the NFL, too?

Michael Lewis Blind SideWhen I read Moneyball by Michael Lewis, it changed the way I thought about baseball. Not only was it incredibly well-written and interesting, but it also brought to my attention (and many others) the side of sabermetrics. It changed the way the media, the fans, and even the people in the actual game thought about the sport. It made more people conscious of on-base percentage and the value of OPS, and how to take advantage of deficiencies in the free agent and draft market. Anyway, one of Michael Lewis’ recent books was about football and titled, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. As you could imagine, it discussed the importance of protecting the quarterback’s blind side with an excellent left tackle. Prior to reading the book, I never really thought about the importance of the left tackle. Perhaps the same can be said for many NFL executives. Via Deadspin, I came to find out that Darren Rovell at CNBC noticed what I had noticed on Saturday — that seven of the 31 first-round picks on Saturday were offensive tackles. Rovell thinks it could have to do with Lewis’ latest book:

To the best of my knowledge, here’s a chart of how many left tackles were taken in previous first rounds of drafts:

2002: 2*
2003: 2
2004: 3
2005: 1
2006: 1
2007: 3

Seven were taken in 2008. The book was published in October 2006, and reprinted in September 2007. Maybe it took some time for the idea to sink in. Now it could just be that it was an amazing year for offensive line talent this year, but the more likely case is that Lewis brought the left tackle position to prominence and caused personnel executives to change the way they thought. That would be incredible, if it’s the case, and I think it might just be.

Moneyball Star Jeremy Brown Retiring

Jeremy Brown Oakland A’sThis touches me, and pretty much anyone who read the outstanding book by Michael Lewis, Moneyball, deeply. Jeremy Brown was “the Badger” — the prototypical Moneyball player, one of the focuses of the book. He wasn’t pretty, didn’t look good with his shirt off, and he wasn’t heavily scouted coming out of college. But Billy Beane’s scouting system saw something — they saw a catcher who mixed an outstanding on-base percentage with some good power. They took Brown in the first round of the draft at a discounted rate when most people thought he was an extremely late round pick, if that. Beane reminded his scouts that they weren’t “selling blue jeans,” and looks didn’t matter. Well, after a career that’s lasted six years in the minors, and one 10-game stint in the majors, it appears as if Brown is calling it quits:

Brown … called Oakland assistant general manager David Forst on Tuesday and said that, for personal reasons the A’s chose not to disclose, he would not arrive in spring training camp.

The A’s announced Brown’s decision as a retirement, but general manager Billy Beane said it could be viewed more as a sabbatical, based on the fact that the A’s told Brown he would be welcomed back if he decided to change his mind.

I really don’t know what his reason for not reporting is, but I do know that at 28, he could have felt old for a minor leaguer. Maybe he thought his future wasn’t as a professional ballplayer. Sad news. The bright side is that Brown was 3-for-10 in the majors, and could retire as a .300 hitter for his career if he is hanging it up.