Thursday, February 26, 2009

Billy Beane = Genious

Billy Beane is the GM of the Oakland Athletcis in MLB and is also one of the smartest guys walking around.  He consistently gets high value prospects for players he doesn't need.  Even when people question his decisions he stands behind them and always comes out looking like a winner.  Since he has been the GM of the A's he has traded players such as Johnny Damon, Dan Haren, Jermaine Dye, Jason Giambi, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson, Rich Harden, Miguel Tejada, Carlos Pena, and Jason Isringhausen.

Now I know some of those names don’t seem that impressive but you need to remember that players like Hudson, Mulder, and Zito were all traded during their primes.  Each of these moves was frowned upon by the A’s fans but when you look at their careers it becomes clear that Billy Beane knows what he is doing.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the deals though just to get a better idea of just how smart Beane really is.


Deal #1 Barry Zito

Zito made his debut in the big leagues in 2000 making a couple of appearances.  In 2001, Zito finished third in the league in strikeouts per nine innings (8.61), fourth in strikeouts (205), sixth in wins (17), eighth in ERA (3.49), and tenth in winning percentage (.680) and became only the sixth lefty aged 23 or younger since 1902 to strike out at least 200 batters in a season.

In 2002 Zito won the AL Cy Young Award with a 23-5 record. He led the league with 23 wins, was second in winning percentage (.821), and third in both ERA (2.75) and strikeouts (182).

Zito pitched 4 more seasons for the A’s putting up 57 wins all the while making under $1 million a season.  Beane made Zito sign a contract that guaranteed he would be a 1st round pick but that he would make under $1 million for his first 7 seasons.

Once 2007 hit Zito took the free agency route and signed, then, the biggest contract for a pitcher in MLB history.  The deal was with the San Francisco Giants and was worth $126 million over 7 years, plus an option for an eighth season at $18 million.

In terms of compensation the A’s received two 1st round picks from the Giants which they turned into two great young prospects.  Since the trade Zito is 21-30 with an ERA around 4.85.  Last season he was moved to the bullpen and is now the new poster child for bad contracts.


Deal #2 Mark Mulder

In 2001, Mulder played his first full major-league season and quickly became a dominant pitcher. Leading the American League with 21 wins, he was in contention for a Cy Young Award.  He continued to do well in 2002, winning 19 games and striking out a career-high 159 batters in 207.1 innings.

Limited by injuries in 2003, he would only log 26 starts, he still won 15 games and had a career-best 3.13 earned run average.  2004 was a rough year for Mulder; he had a higher ERA and walked more batters.

Seeing that Mulder was going to fall aprt soon Beane traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals on December 18, 2004, for pitchers Danny Haren and Kiko Calero, and minor league catcher Daric Barton.

Since the trade Mulder has won just 16 games in 4 seasons with the Cards and has had an ERA of 8.46.  he has been often injured and in the past two years has only made 5 starts.  Dan Haren on the other hand became an ace and in the past two seasons has been in CY Young discussions and has made the All-Star game both seasons.

Another win for Billy Beane.

Deal #3 Matt Holliday  

The A’s acquired Holliday through a trade with the Colorado Rockines in 2008 and sent pitchers Huston Street and Greg Smith, and outfielder Carlos González to Colorado for the young slugger. 

In an injury plagued 2008 season Holliday finished the season batting .321 with 173 hits, 25 home runs, 88 RBI, 107 runs, and 290 total bases. He also end up winning his third consecutive Silver Slugger Award and had career highs in stolen bases (28) and on-base percentage (.409).

Now Holliday becomes a free agent at the end of the season so this year will go 1 of 2 ways.

1) With Holliday in the middle of the batting order, the A's are in the division race right until the end, challenging the Angels and furthering the quest for a new stadium. After the season, Holliday leaves as a free agent, and the A's get two first-round draft picks as compensation.

2) Even with Holliday in the middle of the batting order, the A's fall out of the race early and trade Holliday to a contender, for a package that is arguably richer than the one they sent to Colorado this winter to get him.

Yet Another win for Beane.

There are numerous other examples of how Beane swindled teams into giving him good young prospects for players he knew weren’t worth much.  He knows when he sees talent and he knows when he can inflate the value of a player like he did with Zito, Mulder, and a number of other players (Billy Koch to the Blue Jays).  In 2003 a book was written called “Moneyball” about Beane’s method in management and yet teams still haven’t learned how to deal with him.  If the guy ever got some money to work with he would be the scariest man in MLB.

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