Indians looking like 'Major League' version, while both World Series teams adopt 'Moneyball' practices

Indians looking like 'Major League' version, while both World Series teams adopt 'Moneyball' practices

The Oakland A’s were not the first MLB team to use Moneyball. It was actually the Cleveland Indians that first used a version of advanced analytics. Well, at least the fictional Indians from the 1989 movie "Major League." The main plot of "Major League" is that a rich widow becomes the owner of the Indians after her husband dies. She wants to move to the team to Miami (which did not have a team at the time), and she intentionally signs players and hires a manager who should cause the team to lose games. Losing games would cause attendance and revenues to decline enough that she could move her team to Miami.

In a deleted scene from "Major League," however, the Indians’ owner actually states this a ruse. In fact, she wanted to create a cover story for why she was signing players that were undervalued using more traditional methods. She says she scouted all the players and the manager personally to find the best possible team for lowest amount of money because the team was broke. She created a narrative using herself as the villain to inspire the players to win to spite her and have the city rally around the team.

For many fans of "Major League," this is an incredible plot twist that changes how they view the movie. What is arguably more interesting is that this is almost a perfect summary about how advanced analytics are used in sports today and in particular by the two teams in the World Series: the Indians and the Cubs. In the movie, the owner’s goal was to find undervalued players that could help her team win games. That is thesis of "Moneyball" and perhaps what the book and movie are best known for by most people. However, another interesting part is that owner scouted the players and the manager, as well. That is something that is a common misconception about "Moneyball." In fact, many teams have actually increased spending and/or relied more heavily on scouting while also using advanced analytics more frequently to evaluate players. 

The Indians and Cubs are good examples of this approach. In fact, the current, real iteration of the Indians is almost eerily similar to the fictional Indians of "Major League." The Indians had the 26th (out of 30) highest payroll for the 2016 season yet had the fourth highest team WAR in MLB (WAR is the most commonly used advanced analytic in baseball). This starts with manager Terry Francona. While he did win two World Series titles with the Boston Red Sox, Francona was let go by the Red Sox after the team lost a nine-game September lead for the American League Wild Card to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011. This included stories that focused on how players were eating chicken, drinking beer and playing video games during Red Sox regular-season games that year. It is easy to see why many teams thought that Francona’s best managing days were behind him when the Indians hired him in 2013 — similar to Lou Brown of the fictional Indians.

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Francona is not the only similarity between the two Indians teams. Catcher Mike Napoli is almost the spitting image of catcher Jake Taylor. He is a veteran catcher brought in more for his clutch hitting and the way he can handle young pitchers. Pitcher Trevor Bauer’s drone accident prior to his playoff start would remind "Major League" fans the antics of Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn. Up and down the Indians rosters are players that many baseball fans have never heard of but are delivering significant results to the team.

The team with the highest WAR total and best record in baseball in 2016 is the Cubs. It is easy to think that the Cubs are the exact opposite of the Indians. More specifically, almost every baseball fan knew of Cubs stars such as Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. Yet, the Cubs only have the 12th highest payroll for the 2016 season. How could that be possible? Many of the Cubs players are still operating on the deals signed as draft picks. Younger players typically are more cost effective than veterans because players need to have six years of MLB service time before they can become free agents. Finding young players who can have significant impact creates extraordinary value for a team. For example, likely National League MVP Bryant is only making $652,000 this year.

Having younger players on your roster that can make an impact is something that most, if not all MLB teams understand. Finding those players, however, is a different story. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has excelled at finding these players. Whether it is drafting players such as Bryant or trading for young talent like Rizzo, Epstein has built a team where the oldest starting infielder is 27. In addition, the team prioritized “building an offense from within and a pitching staff from spare parts. This flies in the face of more than a century of conventional baseball wisdom, which states that (1) pitching wins championships, and (2) a team can never have too much pitching.” The Cubs gained an advantage by taking a different approach to the draft than most teams and then developing a scouting department that would find the players needed to compete for championship.

"Major League" might have been ahead of its time in 1989 using Moneyball concepts, but that time has clearly arrived for both the Indians and Cubs. As Taylor said in "Major League," now there is only one thing left to do with this strategy: “Win the whole f---ing thing.”

Adam is the CEO and Founder of Block Six Analytics. He is also a lecturer for Northwestern University's Masters of Sports Administration and the co-author of The Sports Strategist: Developing Leaders For A High-Performance Industry.

Crain's releases list of 25 highest-paid Chicago athletes

Crain's releases list of 25 highest-paid Chicago athletes

Crain's Chicago Business released their latest list of the 25 highest-paid Chicago athletes this week.

Even though Derrick Rose has been shipped off to New York, a Bulls guard is still atop the list with Dwyane Wade earning the No. 1 spot.

Wade's salary comes in at $23.2 million — the largest in Chicago — but he also nets an estimated $12 million in marketing for a 2016 total income of $35.2 million.

The $35.2 million dwarfs the rest of the Chicago list as the next closest is White Sox pitcher James Shields at $21.3 million. Most of that is salary ($21 million, of which the San Diego Padres are paying a large portion of) and very little is estimated marketing ($250,00).

The Top 10 list includes three Bulls players, three Cubs, two Blackhawks, one Bears and then Shields as the only Sox representative.

Here is the complete list:

1. Dwyane Wade - $35.2 million
2. James Shields - $21.3
3. Jon Lester - $20.9
4. Jimmy Butler - $17.6
5. John Lackey - $16.4
6. Jay Cutler - $16.4
7. Jason Heyward - $15.7
8. Jonathan Toews - $15.1
9. Patrick Kane - $14.9
10. Rajon Rondo - $14.6
11. Miguel Montero - $14.6
12. Melky Cabrera - $14.2
13. Robin Lopez - $13.3
14. Kyle Long - $13
15. Ben Zobrist - $12.9
16. Jake Arrieta - $11.7
17. Alshon Jeffery - $11.4
18. David Robertson - $11.1
19. Jose Abreu - $10.3
20. Leonard Floyd - $10.2 ($9.7 million signing bonus)
21. Danny Trevathan - $10.1
22. Taj Gibson - $9.4
23. Brent Seabrook - $9.1
24. Todd Frazier - $7.8
25t. Pernell McPhee - $7.2
25t. Anthony Rizzo - $7.2

Almost a third of Rizzo's total comes from marketing ($1.8 million) with 19 different affiliated brands including Buona Beef, ESPN Radio, Jewel-Osco (remember RizzOs??) and State Farm.

Crain's Danny Ecker explains how unique it is to see Kris Bryant — one of the faces of Major League Baseball — not on the Top 25 list, but that's due to his $652,000 salary in 2016 despite monster ad deals with Express Men, Red Bull, Adidas and more.

Ecker also provides context for the athletes who were left off the list, including Chris Sale (who was traded to the Boston Red Sox), Dexter Fowler (who signed with the St. Louis Cardinals) and Jason Hammel (who is currently still a free agent). Then there are the guys who left town earlier in 2016, including Rose, Joakim Noah, John Danks, Adam LaRoche and Matt Forte.

Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa are among those who fell off the list despite retaining residence on Chicago's sports teams.

Last year's list looked like this:

1. Derrick Rose
2. Jon Lester
3. Jay Cutler
4. Jimmy Butler
5. Patrick Kane
6. Jonathan Toews
7. Joakim Noah
8. John Danks
9. Melky Cabrera
10. Adam LaRoche
11. Miguel Montero
12. David Robertson
13. Matt Forte
14. Jason Hammel
15. Pau Gasol
16. Taj Gibson
17. Pernell McPhee
18. Marian Hossa
19. Duncan Keith
20. Jose Abreu
21. Corey Crawford
22. Chris Sale
23. Anthony Rizzo
24. Lamarr Houston
25. Jermon Bushrod

Check out more insight on the list from Ecker on ChicagoBusiness.com.

Puppy Bowl XIII starting lineups announced, which puppy has MVP potential?

Puppy Bowl XIII starting lineups announced, which puppy has MVP potential?

Are you ready for the cutest show on turf?

The 13th annual Puppy Bowl will take place on Sunday, Feb. 5 just a few hours before Super Bowl LI. Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl XIII festivities begin with the "Tail" gate pregame show at 1 p.m. before the game kicks off at 2 p.m.

And don't worry cat lovers, you wont be left out. The halftime show will be performed by the Chicago Rock Cats and Kitty Gaga.

The Puppy Bowl will include 78 puppies from 34 rescues around the country divided into two teams: "Team Fluff" and "Team Ruff."

Last year, Star ruffed up the opponents earning the MVP (Most Valuable Puppy) for her never-before-seen historic double touchdown scamper.

Check out the entire Puppy Bowl XIII starting lineup photo gallery here, and see which puppy has MVP potential this year.

Alexander Hamilpup

Team: Fluff | Breed: Pomsky | Sex: Male | Age: 19 weeks | Shelter: Florida Little Dog Rescue, Florida

Archimedes

Team: Fluff | Breed: Otterhound/Lab Mix | Sex: Male | Age: 15 weeks| Shelter: Green Dogs Unleashed, Virginia

Blitz

Team: Fluff | Breed: Golden Retriever | Sex: Male | Age: 15 weeks | Shelter: Miami-Dade County Animal Services, Florida

Buddy Love

Team: Fluff | Breed: Dachsund/Pit Bull mix | Sex: Male | Age: 14 weeks | Shelter: Mr. Bones & Co., New York

Buttons

Team: Fluff | Breed: Pomeranian/Schnauzer mix | Sex: Female | Age: 12 weeks | Shelter: Florida Little Dog Rescue, Florida

Dawson

Team: Fluff | Breed: Jack Russell/terrier mix | Sex: Male | Age: 14 weeks | Shelter: Paw Works, California

Hope

Team: Fluff | Breed: Labrador/Hound mix | Sex: Female | Age: 19 weeks | Shelter: Unleashed, New York

Lucky

Team: Fluff | Breed: Terrier Mix | Sex: Female | Age: 16 weeks | Shelter: Operation Education Rescue, Tennessee

Max

Team: Fluff | Breed: Pit Bull mix | Sex: Male | Age: 13 weeks | Shelter: Morris Animal Refuge, Pennsylvania

Nikita

Team: Fluff | Breed: Cocker Spaniel/Bichon Friese Mix | Sex: Female | Age: 18 weeks| Shelter: Flordia Little Dog Rescue, Florida

Nyquist

Team: Fluff | Breed: Husky/Shepherd mix | Sex: Male | Age: 15 weeks | Shelter: Bonnie's Animal Rescue Kingdom, New Jersey

Oliver

Team: Fluff | Breed: Standard Poodle | Sex: Male | Age: 12 weeks | Shelter: Florida Little Dog Rescue, Florida

Panda

Team: Fluff | Breed: Sato (Puerto Rican Terrier) | Sex: Female | Age: 18 weeks | Shelter: The Sato Project, Puerto Rico

Parfait

Team: Fluff | Breed: Yorkie/Poodle mix | Sex: Female | Age: 17 weeks | Shelter: Florida Little Dog Rescue, Florida

Peanut

Team: Fluff | Breed: Brussels Grifon mix | Sex: Female | Age: 19 weeks | Shelter: Nevada SPCA, Nevada

Precious

Team: Fluff | Breed: American Pit Bull Terrier mix | Sex: Female | Age: 15 weeks | Shelter: ASPCA NY, New York

Rory

Team: Fluff | Breed: Poodle mix | Sex: Male | Age: 17 weeks | Shelter: Florida Little Dog Rescue, Florida

Sable

Team: Fluff | Breed: Husky/Lab mix | Sex: Female | Age: 14 weeks | Shelter: Animal Friends Humane Society, Ohio

Slippers

Team: Fluff | Breed: Pomeranian/Havanese mix | Sex: Female | Age: 17 weeks | Shelter: Help Save Pets, Illinois

Stretch

Team: Fluff | Breed: Terrier mix | Sex: Male | Age: 19 weeks | Shelter: Stray Rescue, Missouri

Tucker

Team: Fluff | Breed: Australian Shepherd mix| Sex: Female | Age: 16 weeks | Shelter: Williamson County Animal Shelter, Tennessee

Wilma

Team: Fluff | Breed: Pug /Shih Tzu mix | Sex: Female | Age: 16 weeks | Shelter: New Life Animal Rescue, New Jersey

Winston

Team: Fluff | Breed: Australian Shepherd | Sex: Male | Age: 14 weeks | Shelter: Double J Dog Ranch, Idaho

Beebop

Team: Ruff | Breed: Terrier mix | Sex: Female | Age: 16 weeks | Shelter: Stray Rescue, Missouri

Bizmark

Team: Ruff | Breed: Blue Tick Coonhound | Sex: Male | Age: 18 weeks | Shelter: AHeinz57 Pet Rescue & Transport, Iowa

Bo

Team: Ruff | Breed: Parson Russell Terrier mix | Sex: Female | Age: 15 weeks | Shelter: SPCA LA, California

Daisy Moses

Team: Ruff | Breed: Chihuahua mix | Sex: Female | Age: 13 weeks | Shelter: Last Hope K9, Massachusetts

Daphne

Team: Ruff | Breed: Pit Bull | Sex: Female | Age: 19 weeks | Shelter: Operation Education Animal Rescue, Tennessee

Doobert

Team: Ruff | Breed: English Pointer | Sex: Male | Age: 15 weeks | Shelter: Green Dogs Unleashed, Virginia

Foster

Team: Ruff | Breed: Burmese Mountain Dog mix | Sex: Male | Age: 19 weeks | Shelter: One Tail at a Time, Illinois

Puddles

Team: Ruff | Breed: Cocker / Shih-Tzu mix | Sex: Female | Age: 13 weeks | Shelter: Florida Little Dog Rescue, Florida

Smooshie

Team: Ruff | Breed: Shar Pei| Sex: Female | Age: 12 weeks | Shelter: Florida Little Dog Rescue, Florida

Squirt

Team: Ruff | Breed: Dachshund/Rat Terrier mix | Sex: Male | Age: 12 weeks | Shelter: Denver Dumb Friends League, Colorado

Stormy

Team: Ruff | Breed: Mastiff/Pit Bull/Shar Pei mix | Sex: Male | Age: 13 weeks | Shelter: Big Fluffy Dog Rescue, Tennessee

Striker

Team: Ruff | Breed: Miniature Pinscher /Shih Tzu Mix | Sex: Male | Age: 18 weeks | Shelter: Operation Paws for Homes, Virginia

Sully

Team: Ruff | Breed: Spaniel mix | Sex: Male | Age: 12 weeks | Shelter: Humane Society Nashua, New Hampshire

Wesley

Team: Ruff | Breed: Shepherd mix | Sex: Male | Age: 21 weeks | Shelter: Stray Rescue, Missouri

Winter

Team: Ruff | Breed: Jack Russell/terrier mix | Sex: Female | Age: 14 weeks | Shelter: Paw Works, California

Woody

Team: Ruff | Breed: Blue Healer/Cattle mix | Sex: Male | Age: 18 weeks | Shelter: BarkTown Rescue, Kentucky