When J.P. Ricciardi, armed with the scout-averse teachings of Billy Beane that would later be revealed Moneyball took over the Blue Jays back in 2001, there was something of a scouting purge in Toronto. New Jays’ GM Alex Anthopolous is remedying that, increasing the team’s number of domestic scouts from 28 to 54 in an attempt to better compete with the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East.
Rosenthal characterizes this as the teachings of Moneyball coming full-circle. And on a literal level — fewer scouts to more scouts — it is. But it’s not accurate to suggest that this is some sort of repudiation of Michael Lewis’ seminal book. That’s because the point of Moneyball was not that statistical analysis was superior, full stop. The book is a work of journalism more than anything else, and the point was to report that, at the time it was written, the use of statistical analysis was rare, and that by using it heavily, teams of lesser means like the A’s would be able to exploit an inefficiency and gain a competitive advantage.
Now that every single team uses statistical analysis in ways that would make the 2002-era Billy Beane look like a Luddite, giving short shrift to scouting in favor of statistical analysis makes little sense. Indeed, as Anthopolous himself notes, the fact that most teams have moved, at least a little bit, away from scouting as a primary analysis tool itself creates an inefficiency to be exploited.
J.P. Ricciardi is a smart guy. Alex Anthopolous is a smart guy who seems to know the limitations under which his team operates and is willing to adapt to circumstances. Because of that, the future looks a lot brighter in Toronto than it did just a few months ago.