Is Bobby Valentine Killing Moneyball?

Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine (25) in the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during their spring training game at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Mark your calendars, my friends. The 8th of April, 2012 -- Easter Sunday, no less -- was The Day the Moneyball Died.

At least when it comes to the Boston Red Sox.

No, not because they lost to the Detroit Tigers in particularly excruciating fashion.

Rather, because their manager wrote the wrong guy into the leadoff slot. In one game.

At least according to Ron Chemelis (via MassLive.com):

Mark down April 8, 2012 as the day the sabermetrics era ended with the Boston Red Sox.

--snip--

Dismissing Nick Punto's career .169 average as a leadoff hitter as irrelevant, manager Bobby Valentine put Punto at the top of the order.

--snip--

Batting Punto leadoff in defiance of career numbers also signaled the end of allegiance to the team's reliance on advanced statistical data, a Red Sox trademark.

Uh, no.

Punto's career batting average as a leadoff hitter was mostly irrelevant; same for his sub-.250 on-base percentage in that slot. Because it was only 177 plate appearances.

Now, Red Sox executives might have raised a collective eyebrow not because of Punto's career leadoff numbers, but rather because of his career numbers, period. He entered the game with a .324 career on-base percentage. And they might have raised their other eyebrow upon the sight of Darnell McDonald's name on the lineup card, considering his .273 on-base percentage against right-handed pitchers (righty Max Scherzer started for the Tigers).

But Valentine has four outfielders on his roster, and two of them -- McDonald, and Cody Ross -- bat right-handed. Somebody had to play left field, and McDonald's little worse than Ross ... without even thinking about defense or specific hitter/pitcher tendencies.

Bobby Valentine might or might not be aboard management's sabermetric sailboat. But Nick Punto and Darnell McDonald don't give us any hints at all. Not yet. If Valentine inks Punto into the leadoff slot 120 times this season and gives McDonald 400 plate appearances against right-handed pitching when he's got better options, then we can talk.

But let's not get worked into a lather after three games.


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