Benjamin Morris of Five Thirty Eight posted an article yesterday in which he used a handful of statistical methods to estimate how much the Athletics, led by GM Billy Beane, have exceeded expectations. For those not familiar with Beane, he was the central figure in the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, authored by Michael Lewis and released in 2003. Beane didn’t let the Athletics’ status as a small-market team deter him from building a contender; instead, he looked for market inefficiencies. For example, at the time, teams were devaluing players with high on-base percentages because of low batting averages, so he was able to sign Scott Hatteberg, among others, and enjoyed great success as a result.
From the time Beane took over the A’s in 1998 through 2013, the club has gone 1,396-1,194 (.539). They have reached the playoffs seven times in those 16 seasons. The A’s enter tonight’s action at 63-38, poised to win the AL West for a third consecutive season.
So what did Morris find? Since the start of this millennium, the Athletics have won 180 more games than we would expect, given their payroll. Then, using various estimates pertaining to the price of a win, Morris suggests that the A’s have exceeded expectations by $1.38 billion. The next-best team, the Angels, comes in at $702 million. On the other end of the spectrum, the Royals have under-performed expectations by nearly $800 million. If statistical wizardry is your bag, then the column is certainly worth your time.