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July 24, 2014

Painting the Black

The Selling-the-Closer Myth

by R.J. Anderson


Among the lessons taught in Moneyball, the one that crops up every July is what Michael Lewis designated "Selling the Closer."

The idea is simple: acquire a reliever, any above-average one will do, drop him into the ninth inning, allow him to tally saves, trade him to a sucker for more than he's worth at the deadline, and then start the process anew. To quote Lewis: "You could, in essence, buy a stock, pump it up with false publicity, and sell it off for much more than you'd paid for it." That thinking no doubt influenced reactions last weekend, when the Angels acquired Huston Street in a trade that cost them three of their top-10 prospects. Folks across the internet have since concluded that the Angels overpaid.

Between Jerry Dipoto's interest in sabermetrics and past reluctance to overpay for a closer, the Street trade bears some resemblance to the one Theo Epstein made in 2007, when he traded three prospects for Eric Gagne. Whether Street turns into the new Gagne, or any of the moved players into the new David Murphy, is to be determined; for now, all the analysis is based on theory rather than results.

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Related Content:  Moneyball,  Trade Deadline

7 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Matt

That is a lot of prospects that didn't amount to much.

Jul 24, 2014 09:30 AM
rating: 3
 
Bryan Cole

That's a good point to keep in mind. Considering these trades, and considering the Kendrys Morales/Stephen Drew affair from last offseason, I think it's fair to ask whether the pendulum's swung too much the other way, and GMs are starting to overvalue propsects and draft picks.

Jul 24, 2014 10:13 AM
rating: 1
 
Travis Leleu

Ya, I was surprised that there weren't more big name prospects / decent MLBers in the list of guys given up for closers.

I actually expected more talent to have been sent for closers.

Jul 24, 2014 15:08 PM
rating: 0
 
palford

Ramos was sort of on grand heist status for a little bit when he was kidnapped that one time.

Jul 24, 2014 10:14 AM
rating: 2
 
Eric M. Van

The thing is, the trade of a good closer is relatively rare, and the trade of a great one even more so.

Based on (B-ref) (WPA/aLI)/G at the time of the trade, none of these guys were having a season anywhere as good as Street. Two -- Sherrill and K-Rod in 2013 (with a big asterisk for limited PT) were having seasons comparable to Koji Uehara this year.

Rodriguez in '11, Rauch, and Veras were having solid seasons, but not good enough for the receiving team to think they'd be getting any kind of Mo-like post-season advantage. Dotel was league-average and Myers, Capps, League, Woods, and Qualls had all been all below average.

Selling the closer is certainly a myth, but there's still reason to believe that teams will [seem to] overpay for a guy perceived as a 9th-inning force.

Jul 24, 2014 12:02 PM
rating: 0
 
mlherr

How does Johnston going to Oakland fit into this anaylsis?

Jul 25, 2014 09:33 AM
rating: 0
 
mlherr

Johnson without the t

Jul 25, 2014 09:37 AM
rating: 0
 
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<< Previous Article
Eyewitness Accounts: J... (07/24)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Painting the Black: Th... (07/17)
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Painting the Black: Se... (08/08)
Next Article >>
Going Yard: J.D. Marti... (07/24)

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