Sorry! The “Royals showed those ‘Moneyball’ nerds!” narrative doesn’t hold water


As I mentioned this morning, the reflexive “I guess the Athletics’ ‘Moneyball’ approach sucks after all!” schadenfreude was pretty strong after last night’s game. In addition to the examples of Bill Plaschke and Tom Boswell I linked to, I was on six different radio shows today during my usual Wednesday radio marathon, and at least three of the hosts asked me if it wasn’t the case that “small ball trumped Moneyball.” And they weren’t really asking me. They were inviting me to confirm their assertions on the matter.

All of which is dumb for the reason I mentioned this morning: a book written in 2002 about exploiting inefficiencies in a market has no real bearing on how a baseball team performed in a single game 12 years later. And that’s still the case even if Billy Beane is involved in both of them. It’s the equivalent of watching De Niro in “Meet the Fockers” and then saying “see, I told you ‘Goodfellas was overrated!'” They’re entirely different things.

But it’s dumb for another reason: the Royals are not a team that eschews analytics. Sure, they’re not exactly the Tampa Bay Rays and, no, Ned Yost is not likely to give you a lecture on WPA, but the team does have an analytics department. Indeed, if this story is accurate, they set it up a couple of years ago.

Which means one could quite easily tell a story about how the Royals sucked for nearly 30 years but then, when they finally started to integrate analytics, they finally broke through. Of course, that sort of thing doesn’t jibe with the preconceptions of the Bill Plaschkes and Tom Boswells of the world, so don’t expect to hear that.

Free agent slugger José Abreu signs 3-year, $58.5M deal with Astros

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

HOUSTON — Jose Abreu and the World Series champion Astros agreed to a three-year, $58.5 million contract, adding another powerful bat to Houston’s lineup.

Abreu, the 2020 AL MVP, gets $19.5 million in each of the next three seasons.

He spent his first nine major league seasons with the Chicago White Sox. The first baseman became a free agent after batting .304 with 15 home runs, 75 RBIs and an .824 OPS this year.

With the Astros, he replaces Yuli Gurriel at first base in a batting order that also features All-Star sluggers Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker.

Gurriel became a free agent after Houston defeated the Philadelphia Phillies this month for its second World Series championship.

The 35-year-old Abreu becomes the biggest free agent to switch teams so far this offseason. Born in Cuba, the three-time All-Star and 2014 AL Rookie of the Year is a .292 career hitter in the majors with 243 homers, 863 RBIs and an .860 OPS.

The Astros announced the signing. Abreu was scheduled to be introduced in a news conference at Minute Maid Park.

He would get a $200,000 for winning an MVP award, $175,000 for finishing second in the voting, $150,000 for third, $125,000 for fourth and $100,000 for fifth. Abreu also would get $100,000 for earning World Series MVP and $75,000 for League Championship Series MVP, $75,000 for making the All-Star team and $75,000 for winning a Gold Glove or a Silver Slugger.

Abreu gets a hotel suite on road trips and the right to buy a luxury suite for all Astros home games.