WOW!!!! Some great stuff going on here. Perhaps I can add a bit.
First of all, reading or even re-reading the book "Moneyball" will help a lot in understanding the way Billy Beane of the Oakland A's used sabermatrics to find what was undervalued in the MLB marketplace both as to free agents available and their cost *Scott Hataberg(sp)] and draft choices [Nick Swisher & Chad Bradford]. By the way, the story on Chad Bradford is that Beane's Harvard Economics graduate Paul Depodesta(sp) found Bradford's statistics [era, whip, etc] more impressive than another pitcher the A's scouts were all over [6 feet plus, throws 95 MPH, etc] at the same college. Depodesta asked the scouts to check Bradford out and they did not but drafted Bradford in the low rounds sight unseen. He was called "the creature" by some of the scouts when someone finally saw him pitch in rookie ball. He is still pitching relief in the majors as I understand it.
I don't thnk that "steals generally are useless" is an accurate description of Billy Beane's approach to free agents and the draft. It would be more accurate to say he believed at the time Moneyball was written that "speed" as a tool was overvalued by most MLB teams and that on base % and slugging % [now combined as OPS] were undervalued. Thus, he did not seek in the free agent market those outfielders with low OPS and lots of steals but instead used players like Mark Kotsay to play centerfield for the A's. If you don't go after speed, it is hard to have a speed game.
But if you really want to read something that gets at the heart of the whole sabermetrics revloution read The Mind of Bill James. He was the baseball genuis that started it all. He even developed a formula that takes Team OBP, SLG, steal attempts and caught stealing and some other stuff and will tell you how many total runs that team will likely score in a 162 game season. And that figure when juxtaposed with your pitching stats will tell you how many games you will likely win that season. And the magic number being somewhere above 90 games won, that number will tell you whether you have got a team that will make it to the playoffs or not. Billy Beane has done that math and knows that the team he had in 2007 will not make the playoffs in 2008 and so he is breaking it down and starting over. Apparently he is after pitching this time if teh Nick Swisher trade is any indication.
RJM is right on about bunts and fielding as far as Billy Beane was concerned according to the Moneyball book. However, fielding is making a comeback in sabermetric circles but only because there are new ways to more accurately measure fielding abilities besides errors, chances and assists. As Flintoide suggests, I touted John Dewan and others who are developing a way of evaluating fielders based on what balls in play the average fielder at a specific position can get to and successfully complete a play and what they don't get to. Then everyone who plays that position [in the MLB] is then ranked according to where they fall on that scale [half above average and half below average]. The results from 2006 were somewhat surprising. Troy Toliwitski(sp) was ranked first [best] and Derek Jeter was ranked next to last [beaten out by Hanley Rameriz(sp).
I usally don't disagree with Coach May but here I think you might be misinformed. I believe there is a lot that any coach at any level can learn from reading The Mind of Bill James and other sabermetric books and articles. You and I have conversed on other topics about patience at the plate, discipline both in and out of the strike zone based on the hitters strengths and weaknesses. These team stratigies are very consistent with where sabermetrics is comming from. It is true, as has been infered earlier in this post, that the Boston Red Sox are not really a Moneyball team. With the payroll they have, they can afford the very best players of any type they want to buy. They have chosen OPS as the watchword for their offense and have paid the money necessary to get the best pitchers available for the defense. Now, they no longer need to retool bvia free agency and are in the enviable position where they can draft the five tool player *Jacob Elsberry(sp)] who also has exhibited the plate discipline that is the hallmark of their team offensive strategy. The fact that he can steal bases with the best of the was an added plus. And any Manager that would not use speed when he has it is a fool.
My point is that sabermetrics/statistics, etc. are not studied for in game strategy per se. One studies it at the Major League level so that decisions regarding how good will this person be at the next level are easier to confirm than just a scouting report about the "potential" of a certain prospect. But the factors that result in on field success are hard to argue with. OPS is the major defining statistic that measures offensive success. It is an undeniable correlation. That being the case, do I play the speed guy in high school that strikes out a lot and has an OBP just barely greater than his batting average so he can steal second base maybe once a game or do I play the guy that rarely strikes out, puts the ball in play with two strikes and gets on base 60% of the times he bats and use the speed guy as a pinch runner. You tell me.
Excellent post BOF. Past performance is a relevant predictor of future performance. This adage is the conerstone of sabermetrics. If a player is a patient hitter in high school, he will be a patient hitter in college [baring a coach attempting to change him]. Likewise, if a player strikes out a lot in college, he will strike out a lot at the professional level [unless a coach can change him]. Either way, study the statistics and you will know what you are getting. The real question any coach must answer is, what do you want?