A lot of folks (and I mostly agree) have commented that the movie isn't really fair to the scouts and broadcasters, reducing them to caricatures and stereotypes. If you're a frustrated stathead, it's kind of fun, but who really believes that Grady Fuson and his scouts really evaluated players based on how attractive their girlfriends are or whether they had a "good face" or not?
Then, I came home, flipped on the Nationals game and saw Ivan Rodriguez come to the plate as a pinch hitter in the 6th inning. He was greeted by a standing ovation at Nationals Park, with Bob and F.P. gushing about how much Rodriguez has "meant to the team."
It could have been one of those scenes in Moneyball about idiot baseball men who don't have a clue. In fact, if Aaron Sorkin had written a scene like that for the movie, it would have been attacked as an unfair cheap shot.
Consider: over the last two seasons, Rodriguez has played in 153 games. He's hit .253 / .288 / .340. Yeah, it's the "year of the pitcher," but that's awful.
As a National, Rodriguez has a combined wRC+ of 66--meaning that his offense is about 66% as good as an average major league hitter. Fifty-one other catchers had at least 200 plate appearances and a better wRC+ over that two-year span. Guys like Josh Bard. Matt Treanor. Eli Whiteside. All basically equal or better hitters over the last two years than Ivan Rodriguez.
Granted, Rodriguez is still a good defensive catcher, and he's thrown out a high percentage of baserunners for the Nationals. A lot of catcher value is in their defense. I'm not underestimating that. But his hitting is so awful, that no amount of excellent fielding could justify having his bat in the lineup as often as the Nationals have the last two years.
And of course the biggest difference between Rodriguez and those players is salary. Pudge was paid the handsome sum of $6 million to make outs for two years. Those other guys mostly played on minor league contracts and got paid the major league minimum.
Rodriguez got the biggest contract of any catcher available during the 2009-2010 off season. Rod Barajas (92 wRC+) got a one-year deal worth $500,000. Yorvit Torrealba (93) got one year and $1.25 million. John Buck (100) got one year and $2 million. Miguel Olivo (80) got a one-year deal and $2.5 million. Even the 40-year-old, career fall-back option Henry Blanco would have been a better choice, with his one-year, $775k contract and 76 wRC+.
Colby Lewis, Coco Crisp, Aubrey Huff, and Brett Myers all signed one-year deals that off season worth less than Rodriguez's $6 million deal.
And you can't accuse me of 20-20 hindsight. At the time I wanted Torrealba. My second choices were Olivo and Greg Zaun, who was ok for Milwaukee before his shoulder finally gave out and forced him to retire. (And I suggested trading for Wilson Ramos! Man, that was a pretty smart post!)
Rodriguez hasn't played a ton this year, and the biggest potential downside to his signing was that he may have ended up blocking better young players like Ramos, Jesus Flores, or Derek Norris. That hasn't been an issue, since Ramos got his playing time, Flores hasn't been healthy, and Norris hasn't earned the opportunity.
Still, despite the overwhelming hard evidence that Ivan Rodriguez has been one of the least valuable players in baseball over the last two seasons and an awful $6 million signing, we hear every time he plays about his mystical "intangible value." I guess his wife must be really, really hot.