Archive for May, 2009

Is Derrek Lee really declining?

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Many people, especially here at VFTB, do not like Derrek Lee. They think that he is declining, they think that he isn’t as good as Micah Hoffpauir (or even Jake Fox), they think he should he traded, they think he should just be released, etc.

But the overall trend in the posts and comments here are that Derrek Lee is on a downward spiral, so I decided to take a look.

I looked at the following numbers, after taking out any season where he didn’t see 500 plate appearances, including this season.

Year wOBA EQA WARP RC/G OPS+
1998 0.323 0.292 2.3 4.4 96
2000 0.372 0.291 4.1 6.4 124
2001 0.351 0.284 4.7 5.6 112
2002 0.375 0.306 5 6.6 131
2003 0.381 0.308 6.54 7.1 131
2004 0.367 0.285 4.3 6.3 117
2005 0.446 0.344 7.4 10.7 174
2007 0.391 0.299 4.9 7.6 131
2008 0.360 0.279 5.2 5.6 110

And here is the above data in graph form so that we can easily look at what kind of trends exists in Lee’s performance:



Interesting… what I see is a huge outlier in 2005, and other than a pretty steady performance trend. So lets take out the 2005 season, and see what we get:



Now the picture becomes a little more clear. As we take out his injured years and partial seasons, and his obvious outlier year of 2005, we see a fairly consistent and obvious trend of similar performances each year.

Now I already know that people will complain that I left out his numbers this year. And Derrek Lee has obviously struggled this year, so much so that his numbers this year look like as much of an outlier as his numbers in 2005 did, but in the opposite direction. Derrek Lee currently has 103 plate appearances this season, so the first obvious caveat when looking at his 2009 numbers is that we are still looking at a small sample size. The second obvious caveat is that he is and has been battling a back injury. The back injury, to me, is much more concerning than any alleged “downward trend.” But if Derrek Lee can get and stay healthy, I expect him to continue to produce at a similar level as has in the rest of his career.

Of course, there is one more thing to look at concerning Lee’s 2009 season so far. He currently is sporting a .263 BABIP (batting average on balls in play). This is low, and is almost assuredly not sustainable when you look at the rest of his career. The average BABIP in baseball hovers around .300, but Lee’s career BABIP is .325. Basically this means that has been significantly less “lucky” than he has been over his career, and that you can expect this number to regress (or in this case… progress) to the mean. When it does, we can also expect Lee’s overall number to “progress” to the mean.

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Mark DeRosa available?

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

John Heyman of Sports Illustrated

reports that Cleveland has DeRosa on the market; allegedly they’re looking for pitching in return.

I’d like to see the Cubs jump all over this; despite DeRosa’s mediocre 2009 numbers I’d say he’s worth parting with a decent minor league pitcher. DeRo is a free agent after this year and I’d bet his numbers would jump if he returned to the Cubs dugout. He’d be a good guy to give a $6M/2 year extension to as well, solid insurance at third in the event that Ramirez doesn’t stay healthy and we all know he can play corner OF and 2B well too. What do y’all think?

On an unrelated note, Iowa outfielder Brad Snyder fractured his wrist and will likely miss 2-3 months, perhaps more. It’s a shame because he was hitting .312 with 12 homers and would have been a nice insurance policy for our corner outfield players.

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What's Your Lineup?

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

I got this e-mail the other day from the boys at WAIW and I wanted to run it here before I give him my answers:

Asylum release Cubs fans of all generations have seen legends pass in and out of Wrigley Field – some with Hall of Fame-caliber careers, and some who earned their status through an unquantifiable mix of intangibles only devotees of the Boys in Blue can really understand. Fan bias is perhaps the biggest deciding factor in who’s fondly remembered decades later and who ends up as more of an organizational footnote. Given the chance, and perhaps a time machine, what lineup would put out there to play an evil team of vampire St. Louis Cardinals for control of the universe?

The idea here is to pick the players you loved most, not just those with the best career stats. By way of example, here is Steve’s dream lineup:

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P – Mordecai “Three Fingers” Brown – This man makes Koyie Hill’s accident look like me complaining about when my toe cramps up. Losing parts of 2 fingers in a farming accident, Brown ended with 239 wins and an incredible 2.06 E.R.A. That means even he could count how many runs he would typically give up on one hand.

C – Geovany Soto – This season’s early struggling aside, a hitting catcher that is strong on defensive and knows how to manage pitchers is a rare find, and I hope that in 10 years from now this inclusion on my all-time list doesn’t look foolish.

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1B – Cap Anson – Cap played in 27 seasons, and was the first player credited with 3,000 hits. Additionally, he is part of the brain trust that started Spring Training, without which, College of Idiots might not be with us today.

2B – Ryne Sandberg – No question here. My favorite player of all time. Off the field, he cemented his place in my heart with his Hall of Fame induction speech that I think should be required viewing for every rookie in the game.

3B – Ron Santo – Not only one of the greatest hitting third basemen ever in the game, he is also a master of medicine (when his diabetes would act up in the middle of a game, a candy bar was eaten to quell the fire) and soliloquy (he can shout “oh noooo” in ways never imagined).

SS – Shawon Dunston – From my memory, he always had a sweet pair of shades on, and inspired the Shawon-O-Meter. Him, along with the aforementioned Ryno and the soon to be mentioned Hawk, are what made me a Cubs fan.

RF – Andre Dawson – No one was more exciting for me to watch at the plate than Dawson. He could crank a ball out of the park like nobody’s business, and was easily the best player in RBI Baseball (on a stacked NL All-Star team).

CF – Rick Monday – This really has nothing to do with skill, but solely based on the saving the flag incident.

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LF – Alfonso Soriano – I chose Soriano for 2 reasons. First, he has won me over as a lead-off hitter and can make you regret stopping to get nachos and Old Styles on your way to your seat with the amount of lead-off homers he hits. Second, he represented a change in culture for the Cubs, where they proved that they were going to start spending money to get talent to win, not just ride the coattails of Wrigley’s popularity.

RP – Kerry Wood – I was sad to see Kerry go, because he is what I want every Cub to be. While being from Texas, he fully embraced Chicago as his home. While most memories of Wood are as a starter, I miss him closing the game for us, and when his fastball was on, he was almost untouchable.

Have at it. What’s your lineup?

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Derrek Lee Trade Discussion

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

He’s everyone’s favorite whipping boy (well, maybe not everyone, but certainly a lot of folk). He’s struggling to hit his weight and has a slightly younger rookie out performing him.

Enter: The New York Mets

New York Mets slugger Carlos Delgado will have arthroscopic surgery Tuesday on his right hip, and there’s no immediate word on when he might return to the lineup.

The Mets, who entered Monday leading the NL East by a half-game over Philadelphia, said Delgado has a bone spur and a torn labrum in his hip. Team spokesman Jay Horwitz said no timetable for Delgado’s return will be decided until after the operation.

New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez had surgery in early March for a torn labrum — cartilage that lines the hip socket to stabilize and cushion the joint. He missed exactly two months. (Source)

They have Fernando Tatis to play 1b, but he is by no means a natural at that position in the field. Considering that division is probably the best in the NL with the Phillies, Marlins and Braves all projected at above .500 seasons, perhaps it becomes apparent to Omar Minaya to make a move to shore up that position. Carlos Delgado is a free agent after this season and is 37 years old. Perhaps a move to get a little younger at the position would help. Derrek Lee would fit that need in three areas.

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  1. Age (Lee is four years younger)
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  2. Contract (Lee is signed through next season)
  3. Fielding (Lee still provides very good hands at the position)

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Now before you go commenting that Derrek Lee has a no-trade, I know this. Part of the fun with blogs is to discuss things. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Lee would wave that clause. Would you consider dealing him to the Mets and do you think the Mets would be interested? What would you want in return? Would you feel comfortable with Hoffpauir at the position on the fulltime basis?

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About Last Night: Marquez Smith Goes Off & Jake Fox Catches the Baseball

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Cubs – Off Day

Since we were off today, let’s take a look a Alfonso Soriano on WWE. Talk about a bomb of a bit considering Soriano doesn’t really speak English that well. He looked like he had absolutely no clue what the crap was going on. (Hat tips go to The Cub Reporter and Big League Stew for posting this as well)

Iowa 12, Salt Lake 3 – (Box Score)

  • Jake Fox, despite Dave’s insistence that he’s not a catcher, played catcher and went 2-for-4 with a HR and 4 RBI. I would be willing to give him a shot at the backup catcher / backup 1B on the roster if someone like Geo or Hill got hurt or if Derrek Lee needs to go to the DL
  • Kevin Hart tossed 3 scoreless innings of relief that didn’t include a hit. He struck out 5 and hit 2 batters. It would be nice to see him get his act together and be able to come up and help our bullpen.

Tennessee 8, Chattanooga 7 - (Box Score)
Tennessee 4, Chattanooga 5 - (Box Score)

  • Marquez Smith went 6-for-8 on the day with two HR
  • First basemen, Blake Lalli pitched 0.2 innings of relief, giving up 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB and striking out 1.

Daytona 10, Dunedin 3 - (Box Score)

  • I can’t seem to figure out what to make of Andrew Cashner. He pitched just two innings of work yesterday as the starter. I just don’t understand how he’s not able to go longer. If the Cubs have aspirations of possibly grooming this guy as a starter, let him stretch it out a little deeper.
  • Nate Samson had a nice game, reaching base four times (two BB and two singles) to go with two RBI and two runs scored.

Peoria 10, Beloit 6 – (Box Score)

  • Josh Vitters picked up his fourth straight three-hit game and homered for the third game in a row. He also doubled, singled
    and finished 3-for-5 with three RBI and two runs scored. He’s showing the power that a lot of people predicted would come as he had experience and it’s becoming apparent that he’s about ready for a promotion to Daytona.
  • One of my favorites, Kyler Burke, went 2-for-5 with a double and 2 RBI. On the year, he’s hitting .314, but it’s time for him to make a huge stride forward, considering his age, if he wants to be taken seriously.

Roster Moves

  • David Macias (IF/OF) promoted from Peoria to Iowa (Big Jump!!!)
  • Jeremy Papelbon (P) has been placed on the disabled list in Tennessee with Jake Muyco (P) promoted from Daytona to take his roster spot

Awards

Jake Fox, Iowa – Player of the Week
.556 (15-27), 11 R, 4 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 6 BB, 2 SO, 0 SB, 1.222 SLG
Cubs prospect Jake Fox has been one of the Minors’ top hitters all year, and this past week was no exception. The left fielder — who was also named PCL Player of the Week on April 19 — had an impressive week even by his standards, hitting above .300 in every game. His strongest effort came May 12, when he homered twice and plated five runs. Fox leads the Minors in a handful of offensive categories including batting average, home runs, RBIs, total bases, slugging percentage and runs scored. (Source Suddenly on dvd )

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Monday Conversation: Ryan Flaherty

Monday, May 18th, 2009

I’d like to make this a regular feature on the site, and I’ll do my best to make it happen. This week we spend 10 minutes with Ryan Flaherty, the #8 prospect in the organization according to Baseball America at the beginning of the season.

Just to give you an idea, Flaherty was picked in the supplemental 1st round and spent last year with the Boise Hawks. This year he’s split time between 2B and SS with the Chiefs. He was gracious enough to sit down with me and answer some questions, though I have to warn that I was not prepared for the call. The game had been rained out, so I didn’t expect to still hear from him. As a result, I rushed back to my computer and did the interview. Thanks again to Ryan, and I hope you enjoy what he had to say.

Download the interview (1.51 MB Fargo on dvd

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About Last Night: Losses All Around (Twitter Version)

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

Cubs 5, Houston 6 – (Box Score) – The Twitter Version

I’ve been trying to figure out this twitter stuff. I guess when you type @ in front of a twitter account, it’s a public message to that person. That being said, let’s pretend some Cubs have twitter for today. Don’t forget that you can follow us on twitter as well.

  • @DerrekLee…thanks for not being a turd today. Nice game. Maybe this will be the start of the big month I predicted for you before you started having neck issues. It would be nice to be right for once.
  • @JoseAscanio…seriously, what the heck was up with the first two hitters? You come into the game and I get excited. Two hit batsmen later and I’m shielding my eyes and inserting my foot into my mouth. Thanks buddy!!!
  • @NealCotts…thanks for the scoreless inning, but I still hate you.
  • @MiltonBradley…get off the interstate already, will ya?
  • @KosukeFukudome…thanks for extending me to 7 in a row in Beat the Streak.

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  • @ChicagoCubs…Way to waste an opportunity with runners on 2nd and 3rd and no outs in the 3rd inning. Had you capitalized there, this game may have had a different outcome all together.

Iowa 4, Salt Lake 7 – (Box Score

)

  • Matt Matulia (1st), Andres Blanco (3rd), and Brad Snyder (12th) all hit homers in the loss.
  • The Cubs starting pitcher got roughed up for the third straight game. This time it was Esmailin Caridad’s turn. in 4.2 IP he allowed 7 run (5 earned) thanks to 6 hits, 5 walks, and 2 home runs. It drops his record to 3-3 and increases his ERA to 5.17 on the year.
  • On the positive note, Vince Perkins and Jason Waddell each got out without an earned run in their bullpen appearances.
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Tennessee 2, Chattanooga 7 – (Box Score)

  • Tony Thomas grabbed himself a home run, his 7th of the season, but was unsure of how to spend his Sunday night.
  • Brandon Guyer

    continues to be a bit of a disappointment for a 5th round pick. His 0-for-3 day at the plate brought his average down to .182, this after his year last year that was a bit disappointing as well.

  • I’m beginning to get the feeling that Hung-Wen Chen may be a little over matched in AA. Another poor outing for him yesterday.

Daytona 0, Dunedin 6 – (Box Score)

  • Carlos Zambrano was the big story in this game, as he made his minor league rehab start for the Cubs. Zambrano tossed 3.2 innings, allowing 5 hits and 4 ER. He walked three hitters and struck out 1. Doesn’t look like he was too sharp, though sometimes box scores can be deceiving. There were no at bats for Big Z, as the game used the DH (Thank God)

Peoria 6, Beloit 9 – (Box Score)

  • Josh Vitters

    homered for the second day in a row and fourth time this month to put the Chiefs up 2-0 in the first. He doubled leading off the fourth and again in the sixth before finally making an out in the seventh. Vitters finished 3-for-5 with two doubles, two RBI and two runs scored.

  • Aaron Shafer allowed seven runs on seven hits in just 2 1/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season. The opening day starter walked one, allowed a homer, hit one and struck out two. He had gone at least five innings in each of his first six starts this season.
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About Last Night: Ready For Baseball

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

Deadspin.com used to run a series called “About Last Night”, which was a clever name that always made me laugh because it implies the awkwardness of…well, let’s let you draw the implication. It appears that they’re not using it anymore, so I’m swiping it. In the series, we’ll take a look at what happened in the organization the day before.

It feels like forever since I watched a game, though it really hasn’t been that long. Yesterday I was blacked out because of the genius that is Fox. Friday was rained out. Thursday was a day game, which I recorded but saw the score so didn’t watch. I can’t watch a sporting event when I know the outcome. Wednesday I watched the first three innings and then went to bed sick. That puts my last game as Tuesday night’s Jake Peavy / Rich Harden game. You can probably tell, based on how little I’ve recapped both the Majors and the Minors. Apologies for that.

Let’s take a look at what happened yesterday:

Cubs 5, Astros 4 - (Box Score)

I pulled the score up after work and saw that it was 4-0 in the top of the 9th and I chalked up a win. Soriano had a hit, which increased by beat the streak to 5 games, and I was a happy man. I grabbed a shower and headed off to a wedding. This morning I pull the score up only to find that the Kevin Gregg was absolute garbage and coughed up a four run lead in a non-save situation only to be bailed out by a walk-off hit by Soriano (note: I know he didn’t allow all four runs, but he may as well have). It really stinks because Randy Wells deserved to get a win.

I come away from the box score with two questions for you:

  1. We’ve seen two Wells outings so far, spanning 11 innings of work and 16.1 innings when you factor in the body of work between Chicago and Toronto last year. In those innings, we’ve yet to see the kid give up a run, so I ask you. Are you a Randy Wells believer or do you need more? I’m not saying believer in the sense that he can be a top of the rotation guy, but believer in the sense that he should stay when Zambrano comes back?
  2. Kevin Gregg was bad yesterday. Are you ok with him as the closer or would you want to move Carlos Marmol into that role? To me, it seems like what we have is the best situation because Marmol at least gets us to the 9th with the opportunity for a save. I don’t know that Gregg does that. I stick with Gregg in the 9th, but if I’m Jim Hendry I’m continually monitoring waiver wires and trade opportunities to improve this pen, perhaps with a setup man that would allow Marmol to get the closer job he craves.

Iowa 7, Salt Lake 16 - (Box Score

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  • Gotta get your Jake Fox update. A 3-for-4 day with a double brings his numbers to .430 / .507 / .959 with 16 HR and a staggering 47 RBI.
  • Sean O’Sullivan, the Bee’s starter pitched a no-hitter through the first 6.1 innings, only allowing Fox to reach on a hit by pitch in the first. He would finish with 7 IP, 3 ER, BB, 9 K, running his record to 3-1 on the year. Greg Reinhard was hit hard for 5 ER and left after three innings to earn his first loss of the year, running his record to 1-1.

Tennessee Smokies – Rained Out!!!!

  • Tony Thomas spent the afternoon reading “Angels & Demons” according to his twitter page.

Daytona 3, Clearwater 6 – (Box Score)

  • Starlin Castro
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    was a star at the plate with a 4-for-4 day that included two doubles.

  • Jonathan Wyatt added a pair of singles to the cause.
  • Pitching was a big problem today as James Leverton started the game and gave up 4 ER through 6 IP and Craig Muschko allowed another two in his 2 IP. Six on the day is not going to get it done.

Peoria 6, Beloit 5 – (Box Score)

  • Trailing 5-0 at the start of the seventh, the Peoria Chiefs rallied for a 6-5 win
  • Josh Vitters The Picture of Dorian Gray release collected his fifth three-hit game of the season and started the comeback with a leadoff homer in the seventh. He also singled to extend the rally in the eight and scored the go-ahead run on Junior Lake’s double. Vitters finished 3-for-4 with a homer, two runs scored and a RBI.
  • The game was the Chiefs first nine-inning game since Sunday’s 5-2 win at Fort Wayne. The Chiefs played seven-inning double headers on Tuesday and Thursday and were rained out on Wednesday and Friday.

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  • The Chiefs played the game with just 24 active players and no true backup catcher after the Friday promotion of Luis Flores. Mario Mercedes is expected to be activated from the DL for Sunday’s game. David Macias caught in the bullpen and was listed as an emergency backup to Michael Brenly, who went 0-for-3 at the plate with a walk in the loss.

Roster Moves

  • Luis Flores (C) promoted to Daytona from Peoria to take the place of Robinson Chirinos (C) who was placed on the DL
  • Carlos Zambrano was added to the Daytona Roster for his rehab assignment

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  • Kevin Kreir (P) returns from the DL for shoulder soreness for Peoria. To make room, Josh Whitlock was sent to extended spring training in Arizona.
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I Have Seen The Light!

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Mine eyes have seen the glory by reading the book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Michael Lewis (2003). This book presents, in a simple, clear and interesting way, a new and different way (to me) of looking at and understanding the game of professional baseball.

I have to admit that before reading this book, I knew absolutely nothing about this thing called sabermetrics. Now, I know a little bit. And Baby, I can guess the rest.

The story occurs in the context of GM Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics of a few years ago. It is well written and easy to follow. Here are some “gems” which I gathered from my reading of this book:

  • What he did last is not necessarily what he will do next.
  • Baseball people express their fondess for a thing by thinking up lots of different ways to say it.
  • Bunting, stealing, the hit and run, etc., are, in most situations, pointless or self defeating.
  • Hitting is the big thing.
  • Fielding is only about 5% of the game (ie. almost negligible).
  • Don’t make outs. Don’t walk batters.
  • “On base percentage” is the probability the batter will not make an out.
  • Every batter must act like a leadoff man and get on base.
  • Every batter must possess the power to hit home runs, draw walks, and maintain a high on base percentage.
  • The mental aspects of hitting are teachable.
  • The system is the star.
  • Bill James was looking into this in the ‘70s and 80s.
  • Every form of strength is also a form of weakness.
  • You have to do something RIGHT to get an error.
  • They believed they could judge a player’s performance simply by watching it.
  • The name “Sabermetrics” derives from SABR, the acronym of the Society for American Baseball Research. In 2002, the society had about seven thousand members.
  • “I think, really, that this in one reason that so many intelligent people drift away from baseball (when they come of age), that if you care about it at all you have to realize, as soon as you acquire a taste for independent thought, that a great portion of the sport’s traditional knowledge is ridiculous hokum.” Bill James
  • “….nitwits who glom onto something superficial in the book and misunderstand its underlying message.” Bill James
  • “…the invasion of statistical gremlins crawling at random all over the telecast of **** near every baseball game…” Bill James
  • Intelligence about baseball had become equated in the public mind with the ability to recite arcane baseball stats. What James’ wider audience had failed to understand was that the statistics were beside the point.
  • Abandon all hope of winning, and at the same time show up every day for work to collect a paycheck. The word for this is “rebuilding”.
  • The on base percentage for the majority of big league players is between .300 -.400
  • The slugging percentage for the majority of big league players is between .350 – .550
  • So the OPS (On base Plus Slugging) percentage for the majority of big league players is between .650 – .950
  • In Bill James’ model, an extra point of on-base percentage was worth three times an extra point of slugging percentage.
  • …broadly speaking, an attempted steal had to succeed about 70 percent of the time before it contributed positively to run totals.
  • “Derivatives” are those things that happen in the context of a baseball play that just never get recorded.
  • Morality is for fans.
  • Process versus outcomes
  • The five rules for shopping/trading players (roughly restated):
    1. Change is always good. Always be upgrading.
    2. You can always recover from the player you didn’t sign.
    3. Know exactly what every player in baseball is worth to you, in dollars.
    4. Know exactly who you want and go after him.
    5. To do this well, you have to ignore the newspapers.
  • “Trawling” for a trade.
  • “To get worked up over plays, or even games, is as unproductive as a casino manager worrying over the outcomes of individual pulls of the slot machines.”
  • The more money teams spent on players, the less able those players were to win baseball games (at least in the AL West).
  • “My **** doesn’t work in the playoffs – my job is to get us to the playoffs. What happens after that is ****ing luck.” Billy Beane
  • “There are no secret recipies for the postseason, except maybe having three great starting pitchers.” Billy Beane

**Please accept my censorship in deleting some potentially offensive words. I do not mean to insult anyone’s intelligence, but I don’t want to offend any readers, either.

I enjoyed reading this book, and I recommend it very highly to anyone with an interest in professional baseball.

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