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October 4, 2012

Numbers tell story: Bobby V has to go

One of the more humorous and poignant scenes from the movie “Moneyball” is when Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt, introduces his new assistant GM, Harvard alumni and Bill James disciple, Paul Depodesta (played by Jonah Hill).

What unfolds in the scene is a clash between the “old school” baseball guys who build organizations via hunches, their gut, and what their eyes tell them, versus the new school, stat-geek-sabermetricians who adhere strictly to what the numbers tell them. The opinions of the “old school” baseball operatives were cast to the wind and a new era of baseball was ushered in, highlighted by the Red Sox 2004 and 2007 World Series titles serving as testament to the virtues of sabermetrics.

This past season, despite having Bill James, The Godfather of Sabermetrics, in their employ, the Red Sox broke rank and hired an “old school” manager in Bobby Valentine. They promoted Valentine as a brilliant in-game tactician who combines the baseball savvy of old-time managers with a disciplined mental approach of Japanese baseball. The surmised Bobby V had the inherent intellectual curiosity to learn the Red Sox modern, statistical-driven approach.

As the season draws to a merciful close, it is safe to say that Valentine has been an unequivocal failure.

Interestingly enough, an “old school” baseball saying, “60-60-40” can be used to provide the new world, statistical justification for firing Bobby V at the end of this season.

It seems the Old School and New School numbers agree: Bobby V must go.

To put in perspective just how bad the Valentine-led Sox were, evaluate their performance by the old baseball adage “60 – 60 – 40.” That means, each season, every major league team regardless of how good or bad, will win 60 (37 percent of schedule) and lose 60 (37 percent) games.

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