BALTIMORE (JTA) – As director of professional scouting and baseball development for the Oakland Athletics, Dan Feinstein scouts amateur players, evaluates the organization’s talent, is involved in contract negotiations and arbitration cases, ponders trades and analyzes potential free agent signees.
His varied portfolio is news to at least one of the team’s players.
“I don’t doubt that he does a lot, and has done a lot, for the organization, but I don’t know to what extent,” catcher Derek Norris said of Feinstein during a recent A’s visit here.
For the past three years, Feinstein, 42, has been one of the prominent executives powering the Oakland approach to diamond success known as Moneyball under its guru, general manager Billy Beane.
There’s been plenty of success this season for the American League West-leading Athletics, who boast one of the best records in baseball and stand near the top of the league in team pitching and hitting. And they’ve been doing it with an assortment of players excelling in both the traditional and Moneyball statistical categories.
Beane employed the Moneyball strategy to enable his low-revenue Athletics to compete against richer clubs. Popularized by the Michael Lewis book “Moneyball” in 2003 and the 2011 film of the same name starring Brad Pitt, the plan has spread throughout the major leagues.
Moneyball aims to identify and acquire undervalued players by placing a premium on what were then newly minted statistics such as OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage), as well as walks, caught stealing, pitches taken and other measures.
Feinstein returned to Oakland in 2011 after spending six seasons as director of baseball operations for the Tampa Bay Rays and a year with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He had spent the better part of a decade splicing game videotapes for the Athletics after starting as an intern in 1994.
Other than his year with the Dodgers, making do on a shoestring budget is the only professional reality Feinstein has experienced. It’s one he embraces.
“We’re always trying to think outside the box and acquire or sign players that maybe have some hickeys to them, and I enjoy trying to find players that are maybe undervalued with other teams,” he said. “It’s really the only way I know.
“While it’d be nice to work with a payroll of some of the other clubs, I very much enjoy the challenge of staying within a constrained budget.”
Moneyball has found success in Oakland, with the Athletics on target to capture their seventh A.L. West title since 2000. They’ve been leading the division most of this season.
Josh Donaldson is second in the league in WAR (wins above replacement) and in the more mainstream category of runs scored. Teammate Coco Crisp is 10th in on-base percentage. No A’s base stealer has been thrown out more than twice.
On the mound, left-hander Scott Kazmir is among league leaders in WHIP (fewest walks and hits allowed per innings pitched), as well as the more traditional statistics of wins and earned run average.