Is it possible to find a comparison to Philadelphia 76ers GM Sam Hinkie in the world of Major League Baseball? Well, it really could of only happened in smaller market like Oakland.
The Athletics, a franchise with a proud a storied baseball legacy, took a chance on a man in 1998 to turn their franchise around back into a mighty American League power. Depending on your measure of success, it’s paid off.
We’ve all seen the movie, which is why I am sure when I said his name you probably thought of Brad Pitt talking to a little girl in an airport, also a still slightly corpulent Jonah Hill.
Oakland’s General Manager Billy Beane has set the standard when it comes to this, semi-new at best approach to building franchises. Beane’s use of metrics and statistics is pretty much the standard on the subject, much like 76ers GM Sam Hinkie. Other teams of tried to implicate his strategies to their own ball clubs. While many dismiss the idea of using calculators over natural scouting.
Look, this is a basketball site. But the use of metrics is a subject that crosses all sports. Especially when it has “success” to back it up.
The A’s currently hold the best record in baseball as well as the highest run differential of any team in the Majors at +165. To put that into prospective, the next closest team has a differential of +92, which is still 73 less runs scored than Oakland. That gap of +73 by itself would be the 4th largest in the majors right now.
These boys can mash. Not to mention the A’s have the 4th lowest ERA, 2nd lowest WHIP and BAA. Oakland is the definition of a complete ball club.
The craziest part is that the team is a bunch of guys you may have heard of on a late night SportsCenter broadcast, but none are close to being household names. This team is torching baseball, and no one even knows their names. That’s impressive to say the least.
Billy Beane laid out a blue print and followed it despite all criticism and skepticism and for the most part it has worked.
In comes 76ers madman or general manager, Sam Hinkie, who is doing something similar to Beane.
Granted the two sports are very different in the way of drafting and developing talent. But with the new importance of D-League in the NBA as a farm system, the sports aren’t as far apart.
Hinkie combined metrics with calculated acquisitions of talent to lay the ground work for future success on a large scale. It’s looking like it will take a while, but it took Oakland a while to get it done as well. Beane has been been at the helm for 16 years and the team has been successful at times under his tenure, but nothing quite like what this team seems like they have the capability of doing.
I don’t think it is going to take as long for the 76ers, but Hinkie and company have been preaching patience ever since they have set up shop in South Philly.
Beane’s teams have been known to have impressive regular seasons, only to fall short come playoff time. Many who argue against the tactic point to this as evidence that its not a plan worth selling the farm for. Regular season success, but no true big guns like you need in october.
I think to a lesser extent, Beane agrees. At the trade deadline, he acquired Jeff Samardzija and John Lester. Two power arms that will help this team in October. Big names too, very un-metrics like. This tells me that Billy knows this plan isn’t full proof.
So what does this mean for the 76ers?
I’ve long debated what route this team was going to go. Would Philly try to completely build from the ground up like San Antonio? Or were they just acquiring assets, including their new practice facility in 2016, to land a big fish or two in the future?
Neither is a bad idea, but the ground up route is the longer one. How many more games can the Sixers, as well as the NBA, afford to have only a 20 percent full Wells Fargo Center?
On the flip side, going for the fish sounds fun, but thats relying on that person wanting to come here. Philly isn’t the sexiest destination, and if we can’t land that a high caliber free agent, the process of getting to the top will be that much harder.
I feel whatever happens in these next few months for the A’s could be a sign for what could happen for the 76ers and the process of using metrics in team construction as a whole. If successful, it could put a dent in the way people see metrics as a way of construction. If not, the argument from the traditionalist will just gain more strength.
Either way, Beane going against his own grain could send shocks waves that extend well beyond the bay area.