What questions did Billy Bean seek to answer empirically when it came to player selection?

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Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, was faced with the challenge of keeping his club relevant after new ownership had demanded that he cut payroll. This challenge caused him to re-evaluate how he distributed his payroll. Traditionally, players that drive in a lot of runs (RBI) and...

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Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, was faced with the challenge of keeping his club relevant after new ownership had demanded that he cut payroll. This challenge caused him to re-evaluate how he distributed his payroll. Traditionally, players that drive in a lot of runs (RBI) and hit the ball over the fence (HR) are the players that command the greatest chunk of the payroll. Beane decided to look at players more empirically when making decisions about who to sign. Beane did this by using a system of statistical analysis that was developed in the 1980's by Bill James that he coined sabermetrics. This system of analysis uses a variety of statistics to evaluate players. There are dozens of different statistics that measure every area of baseball players past results. Because major league teams play 162 games, there is a large sample of statistics that can be utilized.

When Bill James first introduced the idea of sabermetrics, most scouts dismissed the idea, mostly out of self-preservation. Beane, however, realized that there were players on the open market that he could sign that were undervalued. They were undervalued because they did not hit home runs, or did not have a high batting average. Beane realized that these traditional statistics were greatly overemphasized by most of the general managers and owners in baseball. Beane demonstrated the correlation between a high on-base percentage (the number of times a player gets on base relative to the number of times he comes to the plate) and runs scored. Beane also demonstrated that late inning relievers were overvalued and did not spend a lot of money on closers (pitchers that throw the last inning of a winning ballgame.) Beane revamped the scouting department to stop evaluating players by how they "looked" and start using hard mathematics to make decisions. By signing players at a low cost that had quality sabermetric statistics, Beane was able to keep the Athletics competitive within the salary range that made the ownership comfortable.

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