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On Moneyball - without the $

JC discusses Steve Levitt's latest missile into the Moneyball camp. The missile is this:

I have assembled the average yearly offensive statistics for five American League teams over the period 2000-2004. The statistics are as follows:

Team......HR....AVG.....OBP.....SLG.....OPS.....R.....SO....BB
Team A...200...0.276...0.348...0.454...0.802...867...1045...591
Team B...222...0.271...0.351...0.450...0.801...865...1022...638
Team C...202...0.264...0.343...0.436...0.778...838...1029...633
Team D...193...0.269...0.341...0.437...0.778...829...1041...575
Team E...159...0.275...0.349...0.422...0.771...828...1022...619

So two questions for baseball fans:

1) One of these five teams is Oakland. Which one?

2) When you compare these statistics, do you really feel comfortable suggesting that the reason that Oakland has been so incredibly successful can be attributed to the fact that they are following a different offensive strategy than other teams that have achieved roughly the same measure of success (as measured by runs generated)?

JC notes that the answer to Steve's question is:

Team A: Red Sox
Team B: Yankees
Team C: Oakland
Team D: Cleveland
Team E : Seattle

Oakland looks very similar to the competition, but there is an important difference: they did it more cheaply than their competitors. If you can buy equally productive inputs at half the price, and you are as good as the best in the league, your strategy should be considered a success. "Moneyball" has two components to it: the money and the ball. Steve has his eye on the ball, but not the money part of the equation.

Was there an inefficiency that could have been exploited - the central claim of Lewis' book - during that period? As a Chicago-inspired economist I was naturally skeptical. But the claim holds up to econometric testing, as Jahn Hakes and I show in this paper. The good news for Chicago-style modeling is that the apparent inefficiency is no longer evident in baseball's labor market.