High and tight
---- — One of the more humorous and poignant scenes from the movie “Moneyball” is when Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt, introduces his new assistant GM, Harvard alumn and Bill James disciple, Paul Depodesta (played by Jonah Hill).
What unfolds in the scene is a clash between the “old school” baseball guys who build organizations via hunches, their gut, and what their eyes tell them, versus the new school, stat-geek-sabermetricians who adhere strictly to what the numbers tell them. The opinions of the “old school” baseball operatives were cast to the wind and a new era of baseball was ushered in, highlighted by the Red Sox 2004 and 2007 World Series titles serving as testament to the virtues of sabermetrics.
This past season, despite having Bill James, The Godfather of Sabermetrics, in their employ, the Red Sox broke rank and hired an “old school” manager in Bobby Valentine. They promoted Valentine as a brilliant in-game tactician who combines the baseball savvy of old-time managers with a disciplined mental approach of Japanese baseball. The surmised Bobby V had the inherent intellectual curiosity to learn the Red Sox modern, statistical-driven approach.
As the season draws to a merciful close, it is safe to say that Valentine has been an unequivocal failure.
Interestingly enough, an “old school” baseball saying, “60-60-40” can be used to provide the new world, statistical justification for firing Bobby V at the end of this season.
It seems the Old School and New School numbers agree: Bobby V must go.
To put in perspective just how bad the Valentine-led Sox were, evaluate their performance by the old baseball adage “60 – 60 – 40.” That means, each season, every major league team regardless of how good or bad, will win 60 (37 percent of schedule) and lose 60 (37 percent) games.
Their season hangs in the balance of the other 40 games or so games — 25 percent — which statistically are undecided. (Note: MLB teams play a 162 game schedule)
A quick check of the standings after 142 games in the season bears this point out. With the exception of the Houston Astros and possibly the Washington Nationals, every team has won 60 games and lost 60 games or is on a pace to easily get to both marks.
The Red Sox record through 144 games (September 14th) was 64 and 80 (16 games under .500). Playing at a .444 winning percentage, the Red Sox final season record projects out to be 72 and 90 (18 games under .500).
In the end, we assumed the Red Sox would win 60 and lose 60, their record in the 40 games which were up for grabs projects to be a frightening 11 and 29. To further illustrate this point, 67 of those 144 games (46 percent of their schedule) has been decided by 1 or 2 runs.
In carrying this percentage out, 75 of the 162 games project to being decided by 1 or 2 runs. The Red Sox project to win 28 (41 percent) of those games and lose 39, (59 percent) based on their current record in 1 and 2 run games. It is also of note that the Sox were a paltry 2–8 in extra inning games through 144 games.
Being presented with 46 percent of a team’s games being decided by 1 or 2 runs would seem to be tailor-made for a manager billed as a brilliant, in-game strategist. While Bobby V can lament the pitching; “the worst” September roster he’s ever seen; question Kevin Youkilis’ commitment; fault his pitching coach and point to injuries, the reality is that he’s failed miserably in the 40 games where a manager’s supposed to matter.
The numbers and our eyes say the same thing: Bobby V has to go.
Editor's Note Peter K. Delani is a high school vice principal, long-time area high school baseball coach, former general manager of North Shore Nagivators and author (A Walk With Daimon). The 2000 Eagle-Tribune Coach of the Year will be penning his "High and Tight" column for The Eagle-Tribune periodically. Delani, 47, is married with two children and resides in the North Shore.