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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Exploited


The reason why Billy Beane and his book "Moneyball" was so revolutionary because it exploited a way players were currently being undervalued. Given the proliferation of statistics, there are numerous ways now to assess the value of players. Most likely it will never be as simple as on-base percentage again, but there will always be a new way for evaluation that can give you an advantage. That's why teams have invested so heavily in statistical analysis and why other sports with less rigorous stats have expanded what they track. In fact, the younger generations of GMs tend to be very numbers oriented - less about salaries and more about stats.

Of course, not everything is hidden. Some are fairly obvious. Yet for one reason or another, no one really notices them. For example, until recently most NBA teams loaded up on talent with little regard to chemistry. After 5 years of Spurs dominance in the West and Pistons dominance in the East, people are starting to build teams rather than stockpile potential and/or talent. I feel 2 trends are occurring in baseball and the NFL that could be exploited by savvy teams.

In baseball, GMs have suddenly become very hesitant to trade prospects. It was most noticeable in the Santana trade talks, when the Yankees and Red Sox refused to give up any top prospects. Nevermind that the best possible outcome was one of those players would become as good as Santana. GMs had suddenly gotten afraid to make trades involving their prospects. I applaud the Tigers for their acquisition of Cabrera and Willis for that reason. Sure, they paid a steep price. But the future is not certain. In the best scenario, Maybin is as good as Cabrera and Miller is a little better than Willis. In that case, the Tigers would get the worse of the deal, but only by a little. For by the time those players would be ready to lead a team, the Tigers would have other holes. Is it better to have $100 now or $120 5 years from now? Hard to say, and that is if Maybin and Miller reach their full potential. Most likely the Tigers will make out much better.

It's only human nature to latch onto what the other people are doing and copy their actions. It's much harder to go against the grain. If you fail following "common sense", then in a way you didn't fail because any rational person would have done the same thing. However, if your opponent knows this and can anticipate your next move, he can exploit this. Which is why if I were GM I would try to exploit their reluctance to trade young stars.

In the NFL, substitute draft picks with baseball's young stars and you have a similar situation. Of course this is a backlash to the ridiculous trading up that used to occur, culminating with Ditka's foolish draft for Ricky Williams. Now GMs live by their draft chart and the point system that tells them when to trade. And the pendulum has now swung too far in the other direction, with GMs afraid to ever trade up. They only want to trade down. If this is true, the situation is ripe for trading up. Of course, you need to have something in mind - trading up for its own sake is worthless. But the price to trade up this year is less steep than in previous years. By exploiting this situation, GMs can get more value for their picks.

Now that I've outlined how to exploit teams in both baseball and the NFL, how about someone let me run their team?

Tags:

*sports*NFL *football *MLB *baseball*prospects*trade *Santana*draft *GM *Moneyball *Billy Beane

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