Ten years ago today, one of the most famous drafts in baseball history occurred. It’s not so famous for the spectacular level of talent in it. Oh, there was talent, but that’s true of all drafts. No, this was the draft made famous because of its depiction in a bestseller.
June 4, 2002, was the day of the Moneyball draft made famous by Michael Lewis in his book.
The book as a whole was clearly favorable to Oakland GM Billy Beane and the A’s different approach to the game. A decade down the line, some parts of the Moneyball book and Beane’s actions hold up. The emphasis on on-base percentage is here to stay, and DIPS has won greater acceptable. That team did win 103 games despite a low payroll and several high-profile free agent defections in the previous season.
But today is the 10th anniversary of the draft. How well does it hold up? The book noted that many veteran A’s scouts decided to leave the team that year, feeling that they weren’t wanted or respected. The book presents this as a stats-vs.-scouts debate and clearly sides with the former, thinking the A’s were going to use stats to find greater value.
Well, those prospects have not become great players, and by now many of their careers are either over or in their second acts. Time to evaluate how they did.
As it happens, 13 players the A’s drafted in 2002 made the majors for at least a cup of coffee. That’s the most of any franchise, narrowly edging the White Sox at 12 and Colorado with 11. That’s nice, though, to be fair, given all the free agent compensation picks the A’s had, you’d expect them to score well here.
More importantly, though, isn’t the quantity of future big leagues but their quality. According to WAR, those dozen White Sox players created 9.1 wins in their career. That’s nothing too special.
Well, using WAR as a shorthand for overall value, the A’s again come out on top, with 49.3 WAR drafted. Second place are their Bay Area rivals, the Giants, with 38.1 WAR, then the Dodgers (37.3 WAR), Milwaukee (36.5 WAR), and Boston (36.2 WAR) rounding out the top five. So the A’s not only finish first but have a healthy lead on the pack just behind them.
Aye, but that’s misleading. The single-best player Oakland drafted in 2002 was pitcher Jonathan Papelbon, whom they didn’t sign. His 16.1 WAR (and counting) didn’t do a damn thing for the A’s, so he really shouldn’t count.
Let’s adjust. How much WAR did teams get from the players they actually signed in 2002? Well, the A’s got 27.2 WAR from draftees they actually signed. That’s still really good, but it’s not first place, it’s sixth.
The Giants and Dodgers keep all of their WAR scores for 2002 to stay atop the leaderboard, then come the Tigers (34.6 WAR), Braves (28.1), and Reds (27.8), followed by the A’s.
So it was a good draft, sixth-best in baseball that year, but there’s still a bit of irony here. A little over half of Oakland’s value in that draft comes from Nick Swisher (14.4 WAR). He’ the guy the stats and scouts guys all agreed was a keeper. The revolutionary part of Oakland’s draft, the part the book really played up—the post-Swisher draft—netted the A’s about 12-13 wins. That ain’t bad. That’s nice, but it’s nothing really special.
So it was a good draft, but not nearly as good as Lewis portrayed it to be.
Oh, if you’re curious, by WAR, three teams got negative value from the 2002 draft: Montreal (-0.3 WAR), Toronto (-0.5 WAR, run by Beane’s old assistant J.P. Ricchardi), and Baltimore (-0.7 WAR). Texas had exactly 0.0 WAR. Houston rounds out the bottom five at 1.4 WAR.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim the lists:
2,000 days since the Royals sign free agent pitcher Gil Meche. (Shortly afterwards, Toronto GM J.P. Ricchardi needlessly and churlishly says his squad “dodged a bullet” when they were unable to sign Meche. Toronto was also in the Meche derby).
2,000 days since the Padres sign free agent pitcher and 300-game winner Greg Maddux.
4,000 days since a manager loses his mind. Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon snaps when catcher Jason Kendall is called out on a close play at first. McClendon runs on the field, rips out first base and takes it to the dugout with him.
4,000 days since Manny Ramirez has a pretty good day, mashing a pair of home runs that go a combined 964 feet, one 463 feet and another 501 feet.
5,000 days since Juan Samuel appears in his final game. He’s a pinch runner and he steals third base. Not bad for a 37-year-old man.
7,000 days since Bob Welch wins his 200th game, giving him a record of 200-129.
7,000 days since the Marlins play their first game, which they win 6-3 over the Dodgers. They retire a number for Carl Barger, the team president who died a few months earlier, No. 5, the number of his childhood favorite player, Joe DiMaggio.
7,000 days since the Rockies play their first game. They lose 3-0 to the Mets. It’s also the first game ever managed by Don Baylor.
1889 Hall of Famer John Clarkson becomes the first pitcher ever to strike out the side on nine pitches.
1894 Orioles batter Heinie Reitz hits three triples in one game, two of which come with the bases loaded.
1901 James Samuel Tilden Sheckard cusses out an umpire and spits in his face. The cops are called, and he’s removed by the police.
1904 Minor league team Toledo twice hits into a triple play in one game.
1908 Fred Snodgrass makes his big league debut. He’s a defensive star centerfielder who, oddly enough, is most famous for making an error in the 1912 World Series.
1915 Ty Cobb has a lot of steals of home in his career, but this is the only one that takes place in the ninth inning.
1929 One-time Red Sox owner Henry Frazee, the man who sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, dies. He isn’t penniless, as will be falsely reported later.
1930 The Dodgers make eight errors in one game. That’s pretty bad, especially given that they began the day in first place.
1933 The New York Giants all-time cumulative franchise record hits 1,000 games over. .500 (4,088-3,088). It’s always been over that mark ever since.
1935 The Cardinals nearly have a big fight between teammates. Star pitcher Dizzy Dean screams at his teammates in the dugout over poor fielding, and Rip Collins and Joe Medwick don’t take too kindly to that.
1936 Hall of Fame skipper Bill McKechnie appears in his 2,000th game. His record is 1,023-961.
1936 Mickey Cochrane hits one of the rarest sort of home runs, the inside-the-park grand slam. It’s his fourth inside-the-park home run and his first in nine years.
1938 In the Mexican League, Negro League Hall of Famer Martin Dihigo fans 22, a record in that league.
1940 It’s the first night game in Forbes Field, and the home team Pirates top Boston, 14-2.
1940 The Cardinals play their first night game at home in Sportsman’s Park. They lose 10-1 to the Dodgers.
1940 The Boston Braves sign a young pitcher named Warren Spahn. This will work out well for them.
1942 The Western Association bans Muskogee outfielder Allen McElreath for trying to get his teammate to throw a game.
1943 Mort Cooper tosses the second of back-to-back one-hitters.
1943 Here’s a rare one: a baserunner scores from first on a passed ball. Vince DiMaggio makes the 270-foot sprint when catcher Ernie Lombardi gets up slowly and the pitcher forgets to cover home plate.
1947 Legendary pitcher Bob Feller enjoys his best game ever at the plate. He’s 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and scores three runs. Normally he’s not much of a hitter, and in fact is among the all-time leaders for strikeouts at the plate for a pitcher.
1947 Dodger star Pete Reiser crashes into the wall at Ebbets Field while trying to catch a ball. He cracks his skull and dislocates both shoulders. He’s so bad off that a priest delivers the last rites to him. He recovers, though. Oh, and he held on to the ball.
1950 The Kansas City Monarchs debut new young infielder Ernie Banks.
1951 After losing 11 straight and 30 out of 36 to Yankee hurler Eddie Lopat, the Indians hold “Beat Eddie Lopat Night” at Veterans Stadium. There are 15,000 rabbit’s feet handed out and Cleveland does, in fact, beat Lopat and the Yankees, 8-2.
1951 Gus Bell hits for the cycle.
1951 Mickey Mantle suffers through his seventh consecutive game without a hit, something he never goes through again. He’s 0-for-21 with no walks and seven whiffs.
1952 Cubs pitcher Bob Rush has his scoreless-inning streak end at 32 innings.
1952 Larry Doby hits for the cycle.
1953 The Pirate send star left fielder Ralph Kiner and three other players to the Cubs for $150,000 and a half-dozen players.
1956 Padres catcher Terry Kennedy is born.
1957 Hall of Fame third baseman George Kelly gets his 2,000th hit. It comes exactly seven years after his 1,000th hit.
1957 Star catcher Tony Pena is born.
1958 The White Sox pitching staff’s team-wide scoreless streak ends at 32 innings. It ends in spectacular fashion when Mickey Mantle hits a 478-foot home run to the 19th row of the left-center bleachers against Billy Pierce in Yankee Stadium.
1959 Whitey Ford sets a personal best batting with six total bases and two extra base hits, a double and a home run.
1961 The Reds sign amateur free agent Lee May.
1964 Sandy Koufax tosses his third no-hitter. He walks just one, Dick Allen in the fourth, who is immediately nailed in a foiled stolen base attempt. Koufax also fans 12 to give him a Game Score of 98.
1967 Curt Flood’s 227-game, 568-chance errorless streak ends when he drops a fly ball.
1967 It’s the longest game in the history of the Baltimore Orioles. They top Washington, 7-5 in 19 innings, fanning 21 Senators along the way.
1968 Don Drysdale tosses his sixth consecutive shutout. He’s now on the verge of breaking Walter Johnson’s scoreless-inning streak.
1969 Rod Carew steals home for the fifth time all year for the Twins. It comes at the front of one of the team’s four triple steals on the year. In this same game, Harmon Killebrew steals two bases. One comes in the triple steal and the other as the trailing runner in a double steal.
1970 It’s draft day in big league baseball. Here are the more prominent names taken who will sign this year: Cincinnati gets Ray Knight, Pittsburgh lands Dave Parker, St. Louis claims John Denny, the Giants get Dave Kingman, Milwaukee gets Darrell Porter, the Cubs get Rick Reuschel, and the White Sox get a bunch: Rich Gossage, Bucky Dent, and Jerry Hairston Sr.
Among the best players who won’t sign are: the Yankees with Fred Lynn, Montreal with Phil Garner and Roy Smalley, Washington with Jerry Remy and Bruce Sutter, California with Mike Krukow, and Cincinnati with Duane Kuiper.
1971 Gaylord Perry loses his 100th decision, giving him a record of 124-100.
1971 Fergie Jenkins wins his 100th game, giving him a record of 100-73.
1971 Boston recalls Luis Tiant from their minor league club in Louisville. This will work out well.
1971 George Hendrick makes his big league debut.
1971 Catfish Hunter wins his 100th career decision, for a career record of 100-91.
1972 Bob Gibson, for the fifth time in his career, belts a home run in a game in which he tosses a complete-game shutout. He’ll do this six times in his career, more than anyone else ever. St. Louis tops the Dodgers, 4-0.
1972 Dick Allen hits his ninth career walk-off home run, a pinch-hit shot in the bottom of the ninth with two on and one out and his team trailing, 4-2. By WPA, it’s his most clutch home run: 0.830 WPA.
1972 A single-day record eight major league shutouts occur. The A’s toss two of them, both 2-0 wins over Baltimore.
1974 It’s the worst promotional idea of all-time, 10-Cent Beer Night in Cleveland. Unsurprisingly, the Indians end up forfeiting as the fans become a drunken mob.
1974 Darin Erstad is born.
1976 Dave Kingman destroys the Dodgers with three homers and eight RBIs in an 11-0 Mets win. (No, this isn’t the game where a reporter famously asked Tommy Lasorda for his opinion on Kingman’s performance.)
1976 Larry Hisle hits for the cycle.
1978 Gaylord Perry posts his 250th career win. His record is 250-202.
1979 Eddie Murray lays down a sacrifice bunt, the second and last time he ever does that. He has 11,229 more plate appearances left to go in his career.
1980 Ralph Garr plays in his final big league game.
1981 The Cubs purchase Bobby Bonds from the Rangers. He plays in his first game only to trip on a seem in the turf at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. He breaks a bone in his right hand in the process. Oops.
1984 Time for the annual amateur draft. These teams draft (and will sign) the following players: Atlanta: Tom Glavine and Jeff Blauser; Oakland: Mark McGwire; Cubs: Greg Maddux and Jamie Moyer; San Francisco: Terry Mulholland; Yankees: Al Leiter; and Houston: Ken Caminiti. Guys drafted who won’t sign include: Mets: John Wetteland, Angels: Chuck Finley (they get him in a later draft), Red Sox: Jack McDowell; and Milwaukee: Greg Vaughn.
1986 It begins. Barry Bonds belts career home run No. 1. Craig McMurty becomes a trivia question answer because he’s the pitcher who surrenders it.
1988 It’s one of the rarest and most painful losses possible, a game in which a walk-off error allows three runs to score. The Yankees lose 7-6 to the Orioles in the 14th inning when New York makes two errors on the last play of the game. Cal Ripken Jr. enjoys his best game ever according to WPA. He is 1-for-5 with three walks, a double, and hits into that walk-off error for a 0.931 WPA.
1988 St. Louis wins, pushing Whitey Herzog’s career record to 176 games over .500 (1,116-940). It’s his personal best. He’ll tie it four games later but never top 176 games over .500.
1989 The Red Sox blow a 10-0 lead in a 13-11 loss to the Blue Jays.
1989 Mike Krukow pitches in his last game.
1989 Kevin Appier makes his big league debut.
1989 In the eighth inning against the Padres, Reds reliever Rob Dibble strikes out the side on nine pitches.
1990 Once again, it’s draft day in baseball. These teams draft (and will sign) the following players: Atlanta – Chipper Jones; White Sox – Alex Fernandez, Ray Durham, and Bob Wickman; Phillies – Mike Lieberthal, and Mike Williams; Yankees – Carl Everett;Mets – Jeromy Burnitz, Fernando Vina, and Brian Daubach; Orioles – Mike Mussina; Twins – Eddie Guardado, Damian Miller, and Todd Ritchie; Mariners – Bret Boone, and Mike Hampton. The Mets also draft, but fail to sign, Rick Helling and Darren Dreifort.
1990 Ramon Martinez ties Sandy Koufax’s Dodgers franchise record when he fans 18 batters in a three-hit, complete-game shutout in a 2-0 win against the Braves.
1992 Carl Stotz, the creator of Little League baseball, dies at age 82 in Williamsport, PA.
1991 San Jose voters reject a plan to build a new stadium for the Giants in their city.
1994 Randy Johnson tosses his third consecutive complete-game shutout. His line in that time: 27 IP, 12 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 8 BB, and 34 K.
1995 In the top of the second inning, Tom Glavine loads up the bases with no outs but then escapes the mess by striking out three straight batters. It’s the only time he ever does that.
1995 Tim Wakefield tosses 10 innings for the Red Sox. They haven’t had a pitcher go that long ever since.
1996 Once again, it’s draft day. These teams will sign the guys they draft: Atlanta – Jason Marquis, and Mark DeRosa; Montreal – Milton Bradley; Minnesota – Jacque Jones; Colorado – Shawn Chacon; Yankees – Nick Johnson, and Eric Milton; White Sox – Joe Crede, and Chad Bradford; Arizona – Brad Penny; Boston – Shea Hillenbrand; Dodgers – Ted Lilly; Houston – Roy Oswalt; Cubs – Kyle Lohse; Texas – Travis Hafner; Pittsburgh – Kris Benson; Toronto – Billy Koch; Florida – Mark Kotsay; Oakland – Eric Chavez; and Seattle – Gil Meche. Guys drafted who won’t sign this year include: Boston – Aaron Harang; Toronto – Orlando Hudson (they get him later), and Seattle with both Juan Pierre and Barry Zito.
1996 Frank Thomas walks a personal-best five times in one game. Two walks are intentional. He also singles in his only at-bat.
1998 The Indians raise $60 million by selling four million shares in initial common stock offerings in one hour.
1998 The Dodgers trade Hideo Nomo to the Mets.
1999 Randy Johnson wins his 150th game, putting him halfway to 300. He’s 150-81 so far.
1999 Pedro Martinez has one of his most dominant performances, fanning 16 in one game. His line: 9 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, and 16 K.
2000 Esteban Yan homers in his first career at-bat. He’s the first pitcher to do this since 1972.
2003 Garret Anderson gets three home runs in one game.
2003 MLB confiscates the 76 bats in Sammy Sosa’s locker and five in Cooperstown to test for corking after his bat split open yesterday to send cork all over the place.
2006 Ivan Rodriguez plays first base. It’s the first time he’s taken the field at a slot other than backstop.
2006 Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol makes his big league debut.
2007 Former Yankee infielder Clete Boyer dies.
2007 Mark Ellis hits for the cycle.
2009 Exactly 10 years after winning his 150th game, Randy Johnson joins the exclusive 300-win club by tossing seven innings, allowing only one unearned run for a 5-1 Giants win over the Nationals. His record is 300-164 for his career.
2011 Albert Pujols launches his ninth career walk-off home run for a Cardinals win over the Cubs.