Billy Beane was Right: No Productive Outs

With the release of Moneyball, it is time to revisit one of my pet peeves.

There are no productive outs.


Yes, there is no such thing as a productive out in baseball. Let me put it bluntly. When a runner is out, he is dead. He cannot score. He cannot help the team any more as he is sitting on the bench. Yet, time after time, when a runner hits a ground ball and is out, yet moves a runner up a base, his teammates slap him on the back.

For what? Making an out?

What would you rather have? A man on first and second with nobody ?Or a man on second with one out? What would you rather have? Bases loaded or a man on third with two outs? Think about that. And then think about the myth of productive outs.

Billy Beane put it in perspective when he noted, “There is no such thing as a productive out. Outs are sacred as you only have 27 of them therefore never give them up.”

Joe Garagiola also had some wisdom to share about “productive outs”.

“What gets me nowadays is this thing they call the productive out. A guy hits a ground ball to second base and they give him a pat on the back. I spent my entire career hitting ground balls to second and there’s a reason I went into TV”

Mr. Baseball , Earl Weaver, long time Baltimore manager, had no problems sharing his feelings about “productive outs.”

“I hate giving away outs. I don’t care what the official playbook says the batter should do; there are only 27 outs in a baseball game… Your most precious possession on offense are your twenty-seven outs…the opportunity cost of giving away outs early always exceeds the benefit.”

Waver further hated the concept of “productive outs” because, as he pointed out, “if you play one run, that’s all you get .”

Think about this. Ask someone about a “productive out” , they might say, “Yeah , he didn’t hit into a double play and he advanced the runner, although he made an out.”

So in other words, a productive out really means it could have been worse? Please.

And do ball players really believe in productive outs? Isn’t it a nice way of saying they screwed up. How many ballplayer s walk up to the plate not looking for a hit, but an out? How many think, ‘I would love to ground out to second to move the runner to third? “

Come on, if your hitters are approaching the plate, hoping for a “productive out” , instead of a hit, why are they even playing major league ball?

Another thought – Even if a batter is hitting .250 that still means there’s a one out of four chance he will get a hit, why make him give up that chance, and give the other team an out?

Back to Mr. Beane’s point. Sure you may ground out and move the runner up, but how productive is that? You have used up 33% of your outs for that inning, and actually lowered the chances of getting the man home.

Anyway – I need to go watch Moneyball and if Billy Beane discusses productive outs, I will be the one standing up and saying ” I told you so.” I am SOOOO mature.

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