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Buc Report: Dave DeGeorge and Moneyball (video)

February 20, 2013 at 10:50 pm

Head Baseball Coach Dave DeGeorge’89 recently served as the featured speaker at the Beloit Snappers Hot Stove Banquet, where he discussed how he employs his own version of “moneyball” at Beloit.

The reason why the concept—made popular in the eponymous 2011 movie starring Brad Pitt—doesn’t apply to recruiting high school players is because they don’t play enough games to make their numbers statistically significant.

Nevertheless, about eight years ago DeGeorge found a way to create his own winning formula by selecting seven statistics on which to concentrate: walks, errors, stolen bases, hit by pitch, wild pitch, passed ball, and balk.

DeGeorge assigns positive or negative values to these statistics by comparing Beloit’s totals in each category to their opponent’s totals.

For example, if his pitchers issue two walks over the course of the game and his hitters draw four walks, the Bucs are a +2. If the Bucs make one error and the opposing team makes three errors, the Bucs are a +2. After adding the two together, the Bucs are a +4. This action is done for all seven stats and a total number (positive or negative) is indicated.

DeGeorge’s goal is to achieve a positive number as he has found the team’s winning percentage is directly tied to the team’s performance in these seven areas.

“Everything we do in practice, our in-game strategy, and our personnel decisions are based on gaining an advantage over our opponents when it comes to these seven stats,” says DeGeorge, who equates the team’s approach to a military mission. “It is very specific and can be easily evaluated. It’s not just a concept–it is very tangible. It narrows our player’s focus.”

It has proven to be undoubtedly effective.

For instance, in the four seasons before DeGeorge implemented this plan, the team’s grand total for these seven stats was -37 and the team won just 48 games—an average of 12 per season.

After he began coaching his players to focus on the seven statistics, however, their performances began improving. In 2008 season, the Bucs posted a +51 and recorded 18 wins.

Over the last four seasons (2009-12), Beloit has bettered their opponents to the tune of +679. This tremendous advantage when comparing walks, errors, stolen bases, hit by pitch, wild pitch, passed ball, and balk has sparked the Bucs to 95 wins (a .650 winning percentage), the 2009 Midwest Conference championship, a trip to the NCAA Tournament, and the 2011 North Division Title. Beloit has also advanced to the conference championship game three of the past four seasons.

Probably the most telling statistic, according to DeGeorge, is the walks. For example, he says from 2009-2012 the Bucs won 73 percent of the time when they won the battle over walks, compared to winning only 23 percent of the time when losing the battle over walks.

“It’s very easy to sell to our players on this concept. The stats paint a very clear picture,” DeGeorge says of his strategy. “Would you rather win 23 percent of the time or 73 percent of the time?”

Overall, when analyzing the per-game totals over the last four years, the Bucs have won 78 percent of their games when the seven statistics add up to a positive number. Conversely, they have won just 22 percent of the time when they added up to a negative number.

“What I’m trying to do here is teach our players how to be successful in their lives,” DeGeorge says. “I’m coaching baseball and trying to win; through that effort, I’m also teaching our players to become adept at figuring out what has to be done in order to achieve success. Focusing on the right stuff paired with hard work will lead to successful careers, marriages, parenting, and community involvement.”

Click here to see DeGeorge talk about the concept.

The baseball season begins next Sunday, March 3 when the Bucs play against Loras College in Florida, and they’ll continue to play in Florida through Saturday, March 9.  Their home opener is on Sunday, March 24 against the Milwaukee School of Engineering.