Deleted Scene From My NRO Moneyball Review

by Jason Epstein

My review of Moneyball, the film, is out.

I wanted to share one of my favorite anecdotes from the book. Unfortunately, I was unable to weave it into the article. This involves reclamation project Chad Bradford, a relief pitcher known both for his devout religious faith and unorthodox pitching delivery — the knuckles of his right hand often scraped the mound as he threw. The A’s submariner was in the midst of a string of poor on-field performances and his confidence appeared shot. Pitching coach Rick Peterson and Bradford sat and watched game film one evening.

“You’re a Christian, right, Chad?”

“Yeah.”

“You believe in Jesus?”

“Yeah.”

“Have you ever seen him?”

“No, I’ve never seen him.”

“Ever seen yourself get hitters out?”

“Yeah.”

“So why the #### do you have faith in Jesus when you never seen him, but you don’t have faith in your ability to get hitters out when you get hitters out all the time?”

Bradford’s performance improved soon after.

On a separate note, a friend who had read the review this morning e-mailed me, pointing out that some of the book’s critics claim that author Michael Lewis ignores the contributions of young star pitchers Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito.

While those three stars were not main characters in Moneyball, here is an excerpt of what Lewis did write about the pitchers:

The A’s had the best staff in the American League and yet of all their pitchers only Mark Mulder, one of the team’s three brilliant starters, had failed to inspire serious doubts at some point in his career in the baseball scouting mind. The team’s second ace, Tim Hudson, was a short right-handed pitcher who couldn’t get himself drafted at all in 1996, after his junior year in college, and then not until the sixth round of the 1997 draft. The team’s third ace, Barry Zito, had been spat upon by both the Texas Rangers, who took him in the third round of the 1998 draft but declined to pay him the $50,000 required to sign him, and the San Diego Padres, for whom Zito privately auditioned and badly wanted to play. The Padres told Zito that he didn’t throw hard enough to make it to the big leagues. The Oakland A’s disagreed and selected him with the ninth pick of the 1999 draft. Three years later a top executive for those same San Diego Padres would say that the reason the Oakland A’s win so many games with so little money is that “Billy got lucky with those pitchers.”

And he did. But if an explanation is where the mind comes to rest, the mind that stopped at “lucky” when it sought to explain the Oakland A’s recent pitching success bordered on narcoleptic. His reduced circumstances had forced Billy Beane to embrace a different mental model of the Big League Pitcher. . . .”

It is also important to note that the A’s from 1999-2003 ranked near the top of the majors in runs scored. It was only starting in 2004 that Hudson, Mulder, and Zito — and later Dan Haren and Rich Harden — carried the team.