In 2001 the Oakland Athletics had a good season with 102 wins and 60 losses, but they knew they needed to fine tune their club a bit more since they finished in second place, 14 games behind the Seattle Mariners. Billy Beane, the general manager of the 2001 Athletics then made a series of risky changes to the roster. The other members of the Athletics staff questioned his every move. Eventually his bizarre managing strategy evolved into something that is now called moneyball.
Billy Beane started by releasing the franchise’s 3 most well known players, star outfielder Johnny Damon, slugging first baseman Jason Giambi, and their closer Jason Isringhausen. Beane did this in order to free up a large portion of the team’s money to then use on very risky micro-investments. These micro-investments were players who had very unproven talents, but were nonetheless trusted by Beane as valuable players. While these movements started a ton of arguments in the clubhouse, Beane had a method to his madness. He was looking for players who could get on base, which was measured by a standard baseball statistic called on-base percentage. He and a friend of his named Peter Brand had a theory that getting on base was the singlehanded most important measurement of a team’s strength.
Billy Beane ended up replacing his big name players with players that could together produce the same output, but for fractions of the price. In 2001 Johnny Damon’s salary was $7.1 million, and Jason Giambi’s was $4.1 million (baseball-reference.com). David Justice and Scott Hatteburg replaced them and saved the club money the following year, along with a handful of others. In 2001, the Athletics had 4 players with an on-base percentage above .350. On the more economically efficient 2002 team, the A’s had 6 players above .350, and those six combined were not even paid as much as Damon and Giambi. By cutting back on the amount of money spent on his offense, he was also able to use the extra funds to find better pitchers as well.
Beane and Brand’s more economically efficient team was statistically sound compared to the year before. Early on in the 2002 season they did not have much success, possibly due to the fact that they did not have any clubhouse leaders or defined captains on their team. Through May they had only 25 wins and 28 losses, but as the players and managers began to work together better, the wins really started to pile up. They hit their hot streak in June and it carried them all the way to September, with a record of 78 and 31 in that span. During this time they set a clubhouse record winning 20 games in a row from August 13th to September 4th (baseball-reference.com).
The 2002 Oakland A’s went on to win the American League West Division with their team that was described as an island of misfit toys. The bizarre strategy that Billy Beane and Peter Brand used has continued to change the managing strategies of other clubs in baseball to this day. Players in Major League Baseball are now valued in different ways than before Oakland’s 2002 season.
Baseball Reference. MSN, n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2014. <http://www.baseball- reference.com/teams/OAK/2002-schedule-scores.shtml>.