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  1. Love getting these quotes! Thank you so much!

    Comment by semperty — March 8, 2013 @ 8:37 am

  2. Great interview.

    Comment by Highball Wilson — March 8, 2013 @ 8:48 am

  3. Don’t think this was an interview. More of a dictation from the conference.

    Still awesome though.

    Comment by Persona non grata — March 8, 2013 @ 8:51 am

  4. Really interesting article, I always love reading about the behind the scenes stuff that the A’s are doing.

    Comment by Kris — March 8, 2013 @ 8:51 am

  5. Joe Posnanski wrote at HardBallTalk while he was talking to Zaidi at Sloan, Zaidi said the A’s performance model actually found Cabrera to be slightly more valuable than Trout last year. Make anything of this?

    Comment by Mike — March 8, 2013 @ 9:55 am

  6. We constantly have people coming to us and talking about new advanced report services, offering new products and data sets, and that clues us in to what more we could be doing.

    Translation: “If you bring us your ideas, we won’t buy them, we will take them.”

    Comment by rageon — March 8, 2013 @ 10:09 am

  7. Getting good ideas from all sources as cheaply as possible is a very intelligent way to run a business ,rageon . It sucks to be the guy giving your ideas away for nothing ,but one should be smart enough to avoid that .

    Comment by Dirck — March 8, 2013 @ 10:27 am

  8. “Well, that’s not exactly right. He was quick to say that the difference between the two was so slight as to be almost invisible — they were, for an intents and purposes, in a virtual tie. But their system did have Cabrera ahead by the tiniest of margins.”

    It’s hard to say why this is because we don’t know much about the system they use obviously. Maybe they don’t value base-running as highly as others or something along those lines.

    And anyone who’s honest with themselves probably agrees that it was a very close race last year.

    Comment by Kris — March 8, 2013 @ 10:37 am

  9. This is so fantastic. Huge thank you for putting this up!

    Comment by jwise224 — March 8, 2013 @ 10:45 am

  10. Interesting comment about Jaso’s OBP adding versatility to a SLG heavy lineup. It’s in line with the FG article from a little while ago that said Callaspo was more valuable than Trumbo for the very same reason.

    Comment by JeffMathisCera — March 8, 2013 @ 10:54 am

  11. Billy Beane has made it very apparent base running means very little to him, so that’s a very real possibility.

    Comment by Ty — March 8, 2013 @ 11:24 am

  12. Has he said that? The team he built last year had the second best BsR numbers in the league, according to the FanGraphs leaderboard.

    Comment by Ben Hall — March 8, 2013 @ 12:06 pm

  13. A team which outperforms its projection by definition has players with surprisingly good years and low payroll teams typically have low projections so they are more likely to have these surprises. Zaidi himself says the A’s were lucky with Reddick having an All-Star year. I doubt the media was lining up to hear Zaidi’s thoughts when the A’s were winning 74/81/75/75/76 games in the 5 years prior to this one. Zaidi does make a point that GM’s should be compared to their payroll peer group since the context is different across payroll groups. Why did the A’s and O’s outperform their projections in 2012? Will they be able to sustain their success in 2013 & 2014? How are the Rays able to do it year-after-year? How often do multiple teams in the same year with low projections/payrolls surprise and make the playoffs?

    Comment by Shalesh — March 8, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

  14. Great article. A’s are such a fun team, on the field and off.

    Comment by OaktownSteve — March 8, 2013 @ 12:37 pm

  15. “Batting average is certainly not the right metric to use in those situations.”

    Charlie Manuel – “Ridiculous!”

    “You don’t want your manager necessarily viewing a match-up favorably if a guy is 2 for 3 against somebody.”

    Charlie Manuel – “Preposterous!”

    Comment by DD — March 8, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

  16. Beane has said that in the past but it does seem like they shifted their philosophy a bit last year simply because they didn’t have a great team OBP.

    I was just offering that out as a possibility based on what he said in the past but my broader point is that it’s hard to know why Zaidi makes that claim simply because we don’t know much about his system and he’s obviously not going to reveal much of it. Zaidi did talk about defense in that piece above so I imagine that’s important to him but I never once saw him mention baserunning which is a large part as to why people thought Trout had the better season.

    Comment by Kris — March 8, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

  17. I would guess that it was context-adjusted.

    Comment by Travis L — March 8, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

  18. Ideas are worth little. Execution is what matters.

    It’s also important to note that in analysis, you really need to own the data to fully utilize it.

    EG, I “understand” what ZIPS projections are, where they come from, etc. But Szymborski knows the results inside and out, almost to an intuitive feel. Unless you build it yourself, it’s awfully difficult to internalize the analysis.

    Comment by Travis L — March 8, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

  19. I assume the A’s discounted Trout’s baserunning value due to the fact that the Angels and Tigers were both top 5 offenses, where baserunning has a smaller marginal value. BSR and fWAR values don’t account for that player’s team-specific run-scoring environment, I believe.

    Comment by payroll — March 8, 2013 @ 2:02 pm

  20. WAR does not account for the luck inherent in hitting the way it does for luck in pitching. Trout had a lot of luck on balls in play, whereas Cabrera’s numbers were in li ne with his skill set. It is basically the same reason why most analysts expect regression from Trout this year but not so much from Cabrera. As Zaidi said, it is about assessing skills rather than results.

    Comment by bjoak — March 8, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

  21. Excellent article.

    Comment by channelclemente — March 8, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

  22. The bit on residuals should be posted on Rotographs. I’ll paraphrase:

    If there isn’t some residual between how you evaluate players and how other teams evaluate them, then you’re just using ADPs to put together an average team in the league, and likely end up being the average team. You kind of have to take those risks to outperform average ADP. Sometimes it’s going to backfire, just because you have to try to do something different.

    Comment by King of the Byelorussian Square Dancers — March 8, 2013 @ 4:58 pm

  23. I don’t know that we can say that Trout had a lot of luck on balls in play. While it appears that way on the surface, we don’t have enough “other” data to suggest where his true BABIP talent lies at this point in his career. I wouldn’t bank on him repeating his BABIP from 2012 by any means, but maybe he is one of the few outliers due to how hard he can hit the baseball and just how fast he actually is. It is a rare combo to be able to do both as good as he can, so there is a chance that he just is that rare outlier type of guy who can beat BABIP somewhat.

    Comment by Doug Gray — March 8, 2013 @ 5:07 pm

  24. I read the same article as you did. Except my responses removed CM and instead had Dusty Baker saying them.

    Comment by Doug Gray — March 8, 2013 @ 5:08 pm

  25. It makes a lot of sense that bad teams can afford to take bigger gambles — “when you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.”

    Comment by Steve Staude. — March 8, 2013 @ 5:11 pm

  26. Yeah, you beat me to it. Trout overachieved in his BABIP, but perhaps not by as much as people think. When you consider Jeter’s .354 career BABIP, something in the .360s for Trout seems pretty reasonable to me.

    Comment by Steve Staude. — March 8, 2013 @ 5:21 pm

  27. I was there-the whole baseball panel was phenomenal. Zaidi was hugely insightful and is clearly a very very smart guy.

    Comment by Frediot — March 8, 2013 @ 5:29 pm

  28. How true. Whoever could have guessed the formula the A’s have developed over the years?
    1) Select players who offer good value based on advanced proprietary metrics.
    2) Encourage them to wear creative facial hair, do odd dances and throw pies on one another.

    Comment by baycommuter — March 8, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

  29. That and stability is a tangible asset that teams will pay for. If a guy has high variance, his price tag goes down. If he’s incredibly consistent, it goes up.

    Comment by Antonio bananas — March 8, 2013 @ 5:39 pm

  30. That’s not entirely true. The A’s only care about baserunning that works; they let Coco Crisp do what he wants because he’s an excellent baserunner and base-stealer. Everyone else has a much shorter leash. It’s simply an extension of Moneyball: don’t make outs (and certainly don’t make them on the bases).

    I suspect they discount baserunning in Trout’s case due to his manager being rather run-happy.

    Comment by cuppingmaster — March 8, 2013 @ 5:51 pm

  31. “Sometimes we were wrong…” like the Holliday trade

    Comment by cuppingmaster — March 8, 2013 @ 5:55 pm

  32. Exactly — it’s the risk vs. reward tradeoff that’s true of any investment.

    Comment by Steve Staude. — March 8, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

  33. The Rays don’t do it year after year. They have had about 5 good years which were preceded by a TON of terrible years, much worse than the A’s last 5 years…which were preceded by 8 or 9 very good years. You can’t just look at the last 6 years and say the Rays have been better…you have to look at the entire history.

    When you lose 100 every year and get a top 3 pick, you should have a good period coming and that’s what the Rays realized.

    Comment by West Coast Hard Baller — March 8, 2013 @ 11:06 pm

  34. Well there just isn’t enough time in the day to implement other people’s ideas. When someone pitches the idea to you, you think “What problem does it solve” “How long will it take to implement by myself”. If its over 100 hours you probably just buy it.

    Comment by Aaron — March 9, 2013 @ 3:03 am

  35. @Steve Saude
    5 hitters in history have BABIPS over .360 (min. 5,000 PAs). Outside of Jeter, no hitter in the last 50 years has a BABIP over .350. While he MAY be able to sustain that over his career, there’s no way anyone can predict it to happen, hence the regression.
    Jeter may well have a generational ability when it comes to BABIP. Not to argue Trout does or does not, but sample size and precedent suggests it is incredibly unlikely he maintains anything close to that BABIP over his career.

    Comment by Blofkin — March 9, 2013 @ 3:22 am

  36. heh

    Comment by Blofkin — March 9, 2013 @ 3:23 am

  37. Where has Beane said this? I’m not immediately doubting you but I’d like to see the context of the statement if you can provide it.

    Comment by Bab — March 9, 2013 @ 4:04 am

  38. Dude, this is a cool little collection of ideas except for the slogan “Ideas are worth little. Execution is what matters.”

    I’d hate to waste time executing analysis on projects with no ideas backing them.

    Comment by Bab — March 9, 2013 @ 4:08 am

  39. @Kris, Beane is always going to be looking for the market inefficiency, the part of the game where a low-budget organization can build a better team than their budget would dictate, as Zaidi says. That means shifting your focus as the rest of the league shifts theirs — right now OBP is clearly in vogue, so the A’s are looking at other market inefficiencies through analytics. What those are isn’t entirely clear because, well, it’s probably a lot more complicated than it was in 2002.

    Comment by Jay29 — March 9, 2013 @ 11:10 am

  40. I don’t know how metrics tell you that a player is going to hate your team and your league.

    Comment by baycommuter — March 9, 2013 @ 11:26 am

  41. I think what he’s getting at is that good ideas aren’t in short supply, but the ability to turn those ideas into something useful is much rarer.

    Comment by Dustin — March 9, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

  42. rays drafts from 1999-2008
    chose in top 5 8 times
    had 4 #1 overall picks

    A’s over that same stretch had

    8 above .500 teams, 5 playoff appearances]

    So everything goes in cycles, A’s were mediocre/bad from 07-11. 76/75/75/74 wins. 2010 they were .500 team

    If they totally sucked in those yrs you can draft higher potential superstars instead they settled for the simmons, weeks, grant greent, michael choice, sonny gray. Hopefully Addison Russell changes that

    Beane isnt perfect he’s made bad deals and players they thought were good turned didnt plqay as expected (barton, buck, suzuki, gallagher, de los santos, taylor, etc)

    Comment by mlbfan23 — March 9, 2013 @ 5:20 pm

  43. yes the wallace, taylor part of that deal just didnt progress. I still have hope for shane peterson who might turn into a solid player. But prospects that were in that previous rebuild have been passed over for the most part. Its all about the next wave of prospects and their 2012 draft who has nice upside.

    Comment by mlbfan23 — March 9, 2013 @ 5:25 pm

  44. No offense guys but as soon as you start trying to guess his BABIP, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage. You have to look at the factors that feed into BABIP. His batting average should have been .298 last year according to his peripherals. With a bit of regression to his power and speed he’s likely to end 2013 a bit below that. I have him at .287. While it is expected for some guys to overachieve in BABIP, it is very rare that players consistently beat out (or change) their expected betting average.

    Comment by bjoak — March 9, 2013 @ 9:29 pm

  45. Bravo

    Comment by majnun — March 10, 2013 @ 10:20 am

  46. I don’t think it was a close race at all. BPro, FanGraphs and B-R each have Trout 2-4 wins better than Cabrera last year. I have no idea what the A’s have that would lead them to think the two were even. I’m guessing that they are answering a difference question than WAR. They are probably looking at projection rather than single year value.

    Comment by vivaelpujols — March 10, 2013 @ 11:25 pm

  47. blofkin: yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t bet on it, but it doesn’t seem all that improbable to me. And I’m only talking about this year, not over his career — he’s going to lose his speed eventually. Also note that BABIPs are historically on the very high side over the past couple decades, and that there are 5 present-day players with over 2000 PAs and a BABIP over .350, a bunch of players in the .340s, plus Austin Jackson, who has a .370 over 1960 PAs.

    Comment by Steve Staude. — March 11, 2013 @ 5:00 am

  48. Ahh, yeah you probably have a point there. Since we don’t have a direct quote from Zaidi it’s hard to say for sure.

    Comment by Kris — March 11, 2013 @ 9:55 am

  49. Beane changes his outlook and ideals every six months or so, I wouldn’t quote him from years ago. If anyone changes with the times, its him.

    Comment by Forrest Gumption — March 20, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

  50. He’s not well-liked amongst A’s fans, but i’d love to see the other heavy-OBP guy, Daric Barton, in this lineup alongside John Jaso. Now 1B isn’t a position that needs power on the club, with Reddick , Cespedes, Donaldson and Moss all likely providing 20+ HR power, Barton’s unpopular “defense+OBP+nothing else” actually works well.

    Brandon Moss is bad at 1B and Barton is a gold glove 1B, so Moss should be DH and Barton 1B. Sadly Melvin is in love with platooning, there is a pretty outstanding team there if he wants to use it more traditionally.

    Comment by Forrest Gumption — March 20, 2013 @ 2:59 pm

  51. Its funny how the Holliday trade ruined the team for the next 4 years. If they don’t make that trade, and instead add Carlos Gonzalez and Huston Street to that 2010 team that went .500, they’d have been buyers at the deadline and a possible playoff squad.

    Its funny because for years, before people realized that overpaying for players worst seasons wasn’t entirely smart, people would constantly badmouth Beane for trading his star players. The one time he does go out and got a superstar, along with other “big names” (Nomar & Giambi) it failed dismally.

    Comment by Forrest Gumption — March 20, 2013 @ 3:04 pm

  52. “I hate players with high OBPs because they just clog up the base paths.”

    Comment by Johnston — May 23, 2014 @ 12:37 pm

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