Jon Paul Morosi is one of the intellectually bankrupt mainstream writers working today. He's exceptional at building straw men arguments against those who supposedly think that RBI aren't meaningful (of course they're important, they just aren't a function of a player's quality), overly glib, and infuriating in his smugness.
His latest piece, in which he lauds the Blue Jays for their "anti-Moneyball" approach, not only fails to understand the key concepts of Michael Lewis' seminal piece (almost 10 years after the book came out), but completely whiffs when describing the amateur draft, which formed one of the most memorable sections of the work:
The Oakland A’s had seven of the first 39 picks in the 2002 amateur draft; the cache of extra selections resulted from the departures of free agents the franchise could not afford. The strategy the A’s used to select the seven players — out with the scouts, in with the stats — was immortalized in Michael Lewis’ bestselling book and the motion picture starring Brad Pitt.
The revolutionary draft occurred 10 years ago this month.
History has judged it a failure.
Pardon The Common man, but that's complete bullshit. Morosi believes the fact that the players the A's have drafted have only accounted for one All Star appearance is an indictment of their process in 2002, and that the Jays' decision to carry more scouts than any other team in the game is some kind of response to that (ten years later). Now, one could (correctly) argue that, by increasing the number of scouts (who work fairly cheaply) to get a deeper and broader knowledge of amateur talent and get a leg up on other teams, the Blue Jays are exploiting weaknesses in the system, which was of course what Moneyball was all about.
But Morosi doesn't get that. He also doesn't understand that the A's ended up with one of the most successful drafts in the league that year:
As you can see, the A’s had the 5th best draft in the game by this metric. Now, that’s not a definitive ranking for the overall draft. After all, the A’s had more picks than other clubs did, after losing Jason Isringhausen, Jason Giambi, and Johnny Damon to free agency. But they hit on a lot of them. Nick Swisher and Joe Blanton became quality Major Leaguers, while Jared Burton, Mark Teahan and John Baker are all banging around as role players). In fact, if you take out Swisher and Blanton, the A’s still had a better draft than nine other clubs.
And it certainly matters how you define “success” or “failure” in a draft. As you look at the results of each team’s draft, it’s clear that all it takes to make a team’s draft successful is a single big hit. Like how the Reds hit with Joey Votto or the Phillies with Cole Hamels. In fact, the players listed in the above table represent 76.9% of the total WAR acquired by these franchises in the draft. And the A’s had, not just one but two solid hits.
Finally, it’s not fair to judge a draft simply by the players chosen, but by what’s done with the players. The A’s used Mark Teahen, for example, as part of a package to acquire Octavio Dotel in 2004. After three good years with Nick Swisher, the A’s sent him to the White Sox for Gio Gonzalez and Ryan Sweeney. Blanton was dealt to the Phillies for Josh Outman. Then Gonzalez, Sweeney, and Outman were all dealt, and led to the A’s acquiring Seth Smith (.260/.378/.448, 129 OPS+), Josh Reddick (.266/.344/.522, 136 OPS+), Tommy Milone (8-5, 3.83), Derek Norris, and the numbers 36 (Brad Peacock) and 57 (A.J. Cole) prospects in Major League Baseball according to Baseball America, ensuring that the A’s will benefit from the 2002 draft for the next several years to come.
So no. No matter how you look at it, the 2002 draft was not a failure. No matter how you try and spin it, the A’s came out of 2002 with a strong foundation through their draft, which they’ve leveraged well even as the rest of the club has struggled. And any success the Blue Jays have with their own methods today (we haven’t even seen the results on a Major League field yet) is not a rejection of the principles laid out by Lewis, but a celebration and adaptation of them. To suggest otherwise is either grossly ignorant or intellectually dishonest. Which would you rather be, Jon?