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Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Drafty... 

The MLB Draft is sort of strange: it isn't the hoopla full of strategic maneuvering warranting wall-to-wall ESPN coverage like the NFL Draft. Quite candidly, the casual observer usually hasn't the faintest clue that the draft is even imminent until you put up the paper and read that your team took some high school pitcher from California as their top pick in an article typically buried on page ten or eleven next to the ads horseracing results and the ads from the "gentleman's club". Michael Lewis derrided MLB's treatment of the draft in Moneyball, accusing the league of trying to exclude the fan at every possible step, the draft being a conspicuous example.

I know pretty much who the Eagles took in the 2004 NFL Draft, but I quite candidly admit I haven't a clue who the Phillies took in the 2004 MLB Draft.

Fortunately, there are those who follow the draft and Aaron Gleeman has just written two pieces on the draft for Hardball Times that I really think are worth reading:

First, Aaron has been keeping track of the Boys of Moneyball and their progress towards the A's starting lineup with a nice article here. (Click here for Aaron's original article that appeared in baseball primer.)

The importance of the progression of Swisher and Brown and the rest towards Oakland is a big deal because the A's were so intent on making a statement with their multitude of draft picks: they wanted to deemphasize scouting and objectively rate the players according to their stats. Their record, Aaron notes, is mixed: Nick Swisher is playing well and seems poised to enter the Oakland lineup in 2005 or maybe at the end of the year. Jeremy Brown, whom I thought was doing very well, has struggled in 2004, and his career is in jeopardy.

Brant Colamarino, of whom Lewis memorably quoted an A's trainer as saying had man-breasts (prompting Billy Beane to make a Seinfeld reference to giving Colamarino a "manzier"), is from my alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh, so I try to follow his career as closely as I can.

Second, Aaron wrote a piece generally dealing with the 2004 Draft that I thought was of note. Anyone who has read Moneyball knows that the A's have an allergic reaction to high school baseball players because their raw abilities have never seriously been tested the way college baseball players have. Thus, the A's took college players in the '02 Draft: Colamarino (Pitt); Brown (Alabama); Swisher (Ohio State), etc. It caught me off-guard to know that the A's took two high schoolers with their first thirteen picks.

What I really thought was interesting about Aaron's piece was his chart showing the percentage of college players chosen by each team. Predictably, the two of the top three teams are the A's (88.6%) and the Blue Jays (90.4%), run by Beane lieutenant J.P. Ricciardi. The fact that the Cardinals were number one (91.5%) caught me by surprise a little. Even more surprising was the fact that Beane protégé John DePodesta (LA Dodgers GM) took so many high schoolers. Just 57.7% of the Dodgers picks were college kids.

The Phils? Pretty much the middle of the pack: 20th of 30 with 62% of the players being college guys. I don't think that the Phils draft record is all that impressive historically: of the "big three", just one (Burrell) was drafted by the Phils. Thome and Abreu developed in other team's systems, as did Bell and Polanco. Rollins and Lieberthal are home-grown guys, but the Phils don't seem to have had much luck historically with the draft. It is interesting that the Phils don't appear to have adopted the A's mindset: traditionally the Phils have always been an organization reluctant to spend the big bucks to secure talent. You'd think that management would seek to develop cheaper college guys other teams pass up.

I live here in Pittsburgh, so I can't pass up the opportunity to complain about the fact that the Pirates management doesn't follow the A's strategy either. According to Aaron, the Pirates tied with the Twins for the 26th spot with just 50% of college players being picked. The lack of money available to the Pirates, particularly due to the monster Jason Kendall contract eating up the Pirates payroll, is a consistent source of talk here in Pittsburgh. Why do the Pirates draft these high school pitchers? I just don't get it.

Those are my thoughts on the 2004 Draft ...

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