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July 15, 2010

BP Unfiltered

Tim Lahey on Moneyball

by David Laurila

Tim Lahey is a 28-year-old righthander in the Twins organization and a graduate of Princeton University. Currently in his seventh professional season, he is 5-1, 4.60 in 32 games with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings.

David Laurila: You once said in an interview that Moneyball is probably your favorite baseball book, but also that you “didn’t necessarily agree with any of it“. Can you elaborate on that?

Tim Lahey: One of the great things about that book is that it challenged the status quo; it challenged the conventional thinking that prevailed in baseball. Does that mean that you can unlock the key to who the next great big leaguers are going to be by solely looking at numbers? Do I think that is how you do it? No, I don’t. I think there is definitely a happy medium that needs to exist. I think there is a place for it, but it shouldn’t be the only thing that you look at. But, as with so many things in baseball and in life, for me the truth lies halfway in between.

DL: Do you look at statistics any differently than you did before reading Moneyball?

TL: I don’t think that I look at stats any differently. There are certain stats that I think are more important than others, but no, that book didn’t change the way I think about the game or how I think about numbers.

DL: Do people look at the game differently since the book came out?

TL: Yeah, I think that the way people look at baseball has changed. Once you’ve gone through the draft, and you’re in pro ball, you don’t follow the draft as closely anymore -- at least I haven’t, although that might not be true for everybody. So, you’d have to really go through and analyze which players got picked by which teams and what their philosophies were. But sure, I think that the success that Oakland had with Billy Beane drafting players based on the statistical analysis that they had -- I’m sure that it influenced other scouts, GMs and baseball personnel.

DL: What about statistical analysis beyond the draft -- do you look into your numbers to assess how well you’re performing?

TL: Again, not differently. There are certain numbers that I think you look at. I room with Glen Perkins -- he’d be a great guy to talk to about this -- and he looks at stats, I think on Fangraphs. But in terms of stats,, for me, I try not to dig too deep during the season. Afterwards, I’ll go ahead and take a look, but I do think that you can really become obsessed with statistics to where it starts to effect your performance.

You have to look at how you’re pitching to righthanders and how you’re pitching to lefthanders, how many hits you’re giving up, how many walks you’re giving up -- WHIP is a pretty good indicator of what’s going on in your outings. I look at inherited base runners. But in the last year, or two or three, the way that I look at stats hasn’t been radically transformed in any way.

DL: Do numbers help you prepare for games?

TL: They do. We don’t have the same access to scouting reports that the big leaguers do. In the one week that I spent with the Phillies [as a Rule 5 pick], the information they had was of far more depth than what we get here. For me, I look at who’s hot. I think that if you watch your own hitters, even the guys who hit three-four-five for you, and are probably the best hitters on your team, if they’re in a funk and aren’t going good, they’re really not themselves. But if they’re really hot, those are the guys you have to look out for. So, for me, the numbers I’ll look at going into a series are: last ten games, last five games -- who’s hitting well -- and also walks. If a guy hasn’t walked at all, you can probably get him out, out of the zone. If he has a ton of walks, you’re probably going to have to come into him a little bit.

Again, I try to keep this as simple as I can. I know [statistics] -- I’ve looked at them -- and there are all kinds of ways that you can look at stats, that can be very helpful to some guys. They can also sort of get in the way of the raw competition of it all. Hey, look, most of the time that I’m out there, I’m pitching to my strengths and not their weaknesses. Moneyball didn’t change that.

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