A "Moneyball"-related nod to underappreciated Giants from the past

The Giants were all about the Moneyball players. They really were. They drafted a Moneyball player in the first-round of the 1988 draft, well before all of that Billy Beane crap. So don't get me started on the whole Moneyball thing.

So Moneyball is coming out in movie form, and I do have to say that it is incredibly, incredibly bizarre to step back and think about a movie about a baseball front office starring Brad Pitt. Here's what I'm guessing really happens in front offices:

Sabean: So we'll put Aaron Sobieraj at Hagerstown.

Evans: Mmmph.

Sabean: And Aaron Hornostaj at San Jose.

Evans: Uh, yeah. Wait, no.

Sabean: You're thinking Sobieraj at San Jose, and Hornostaj in Hagerstown?

Evans: I'd think Aaron goes to San Jose.

Sabean: Which Aaron?

Evans: Oh, right. Sorry. That's funny that I got them confused. Ha ha.

Sabean: Ha ha.

Evans: Ha ha.

Sabean: I'm going to get a soda.

But I liked The Social Network, which seemed like a dippy idea to me, and there's a ton of talent involved with Moneyball too. I'm excited to see the movie. It's still weird to think of Brad Pitt playing a GM.

What the movie will bring along with it, though, will be all sorts of Moneyball debates about what Moneyball is about and if Moneyball really works because Sabean isn't a Moneyball guy but he won the World Series while Beane was listening to The Ramones and watching EPL highlights and Moneyball isn't a Moneyball Moneyball because you're overlooking the Moneyball. It will be fascinating in its own way.

In honor of the movie, then, allow me to slap together a list I like to call ...

Three Giants Players Who Got Hosed Because They Came Up in the Wrong Era

You can call them Moneyball players if you like, but that probably means you're an annoying person.

Tom O'Malley
O'Malley came up as a 21-year-old, and in his first two seasons he posted an OBP over .340. How rare is that? Let's cherry-pick some numbers, shall we? The last ten 21-year-old players in baseball history to post an OBP over .340 in 800 plate appearances over their first two seasons:

Jose Tabata
Grady Sizemore
David Wright
Adam Dunn
Albert Pujols
Scott Rolen
Delino DeShields
Darryl Strawberry
Tom O'Malley
Eddie Murray

Alas, that was O'Malley's lone skill, as he was bit of a clank-mitt, and he didn't have a lot of power just yet. After going to AAA and doing OBPy things for a few seasons, he went to Japan and won the Central League MVP for the Yakult Swallows.

I'm not saying that O'Malley would have been an All-Star had he been given a chance, but he deserved more than an average of 73 major-league at-bats per season in his post-22 career.

Ron Hunt
Hunt was a two-time All-Star before the Dodgers traded him to the Giants -- probably won't get a chance to use that sentence for a while -- so it's not like he was a complete unknown. But like O'Malley, his skill was getting on base, and doing it often. In his three seasons as the Giants' second baseman, he posted OBPs of .371, .361, and .394 -- the first mark was even more impressive when you realize it was done in 1968. Then the Giants did what everyone probably expected them to do, trade Hunt to the Expos for a 27-year-old outfielder who had a .255/.357/.473 line in the International League.

Three months later, before the season started, the Giants sold the outfielder they acquired for Hunt back to the Expos. The Aristocrats!

Hunt put up a .402 OBP the following year, a line that included him getting hit by a pitch 50 times. He happened to know a lot about people's mothers, and he was generous in sharing the tidbits, what? The Giants did make the playoffs in '71, but who knows what would have happened if they had an OBP guy at the top of the playoff lineup instead of Tito Fuentes?

Steve Decker
Decker used to be one of Bill James's favorite prospects, actually. He was always old for his league (Decker, not James), but he could hit a little bit for a catcher. He was never going to be Johnny Bench, but he could get a team a little more than the typical catcher. He had 233 awful at-bats for the Giants in 1991, and then never came close to another starting job. He then terrorized the PCL until his mid-30s.

Considering that his defensive reputation was sound, you'd have to think that Decker would get more of a chance today somewhere. Right as the OBPvolution was going on, he was being moved to third and first base because of catcher's knees, so he just, just missed. My guess as to what he could have done if he were given a legitimate shot by a team: Kelly Shoppach with better defense and bat control, complete with the early-30s collapse. That would have been so Moneyball and he wouldn't even have known it. There's nothing wrong with letting the girls know that you're Moneyball and that you want to party.

Dang it. Didn't mean to refer to anyone as a Moneyball player. I don't even know what that means. Not knowing what you're writing about is the new market inefficiency. But I hope you enjoyed this list of Three Giants Players Who Got Hosed Because They Came Up in the Wrong Era. It's obviously not an exhaustive list, so, please add to it if you remember anyone else.

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