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The reasoning is sound, but the execution has been lackluster. Boston's relievers are 15-18; its starters are 33-17. "That's not a credit, that's an allegation bordering on slander," James says now of his ties to the concept. Several media outlets seem to revel in the experiment's failure, with SportsCenter anchors solemnly intoning "bullpen by committee" every time the Sox blow a late-inning lead. "New ideas have an audience, and they have resistance," James says. "It's just part of the cycle."
For their part, the Royals have their own high percentage of failed experiments. In Moneyball's chapter about baseball's amateur draft, the Kansas City team selects high school pitcher Zack Greinke. Earlier in the book, Beane had fired Oakland's head of scouting for selecting a high school pitcher, Jeremy Bonderman, in the first round in 2001. Studies show that high school pitchers are half as likely as college pitchers to make the big leagues, which makes them an expensive gamble given the signing bonuses demanded by top picks. The Royals, Lewis implies, are among the clueless old-guard teams who are blinded by raw potential and high-velocity fastballs; the A's lead the new breed by selecting college players based on standout statistics.
Later, a game between the Royals and A's overlaps across several chapters. The A's, playing the Royals last September, were attempting to win their twentieth game in a row. Oakland blasted off to an 11-0 lead, but Kansas City scratched back to tie at 11-11 before falling in the bottom of the ninth. It was an amazing, epic game, especially considering the stakes, and there's no blatant criticism of the Royals in the account. But the names that surface will make Kansas City fans cringe: Neifi Perez, Luis Alicea, Luis Ordaz. Beane calls Mike Sweeney "the best hitter in the league," and Lewis has some kind words for Jason Grimsley, but overall the team seems overmatched and poorly assembled.
Obviously, the Royals have rebounded quickly, balancing old-fashioned, gut-instinct scouting with statistical analysis. Allard Baird has an extensive scouting history, with Johnny Damon among his finds. When making decisions on draft picks and other transactions, he consults Muzzy Jackson, the assistant general manager who oversees the Royals' minor-league system and coordinates its scouting staff; and Jin Wong, the team's manager of baseball operations and a former scouting operations manager who now provides statistical analysis.
Wong moved to the Royals in 2000 from the Atlanta Braves, where he was the group sales manager for the franchise's minor-league team in Richmond, Virginia. A Division III All-American in baseball in 1996, he was a business major in college who became increasingly interested in the analytical side of the game. He hasn't read much of James' work, but he follows Neyer's columns regularly.
"I was always interested in crunching numbers," Wong says. "And Allard's background is as a scout, so we have a guy who has a history of evaluating players so he can make comparisons. Then we factor in the new-world way of thinking as well."
Like James and Beane, the Royals organization now cherishes walks. "We're changing the mindset of our players, teaching them to be selectively aggressive," Wong says. "Walk totals are a part of that, but it's controlling the strike zone and getting good pitches to hit."