Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

July 2006

Moneyball

Are you into baseball statistics?

There are simple statistics like league standings, or even simpler, the score of last night’s game. 

But there is a whole layer of statistics that can get pretty weird. A few are hinted at in the best-selling book Moneyball, which chronicles the Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Bean and his style, now emulated by Boston’s Theo Epstein and Toronto’s GM, as well as a few others.

One example has to do with pitching stats used to evaluate a pitcher. The new theory eschews ERA and won-lost records. It says the only statistics a pitcher really controls are walks, strikeouts and home runs. Everything else that happens after a pitched ball is hit is pretty much up to where the fielders are.

Then there’s game count, which spots a pitcher 50 points, adding points for strikeouts and innings pitched and subtracting for walks and runs. For batters, adding on-base percentage to slugging percentage (OSL) now statistically trumps batting averages. 

There’s even a special accolade for batters who can take pitchers well into their pitch count. Kevin Youkilis of the Red Sox has been called the Greek god of walks for his ability to average more then 10 pitches per at-bat. Since most starters seldom are allowed to exceed 100 pitches per game, Kevin can eat up 20 percent of a starter in his first two at-bats. Should he then walk or get a hit after that, it’s gravy — statistical gravy.

Think of all these new stats as not only fodder for fantasy leaguers but as the cousins of the corporate financial stat known as EBITDA. EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) is what you talk about when your net income is a subject you wish to ignore. These new baseball stats allow pitchers and batters to get big money contracts without talking about their won-lost records or batting averages. 

By the way, which team has a better EBITDA, Yankees or Red Sox?