Moneyball is the kind of book (as was the movie) that you can love even if you aren’t interested in baseball. It’s a David and Goliath story. It’s story of calcified tradition vs. gritty innovation. It’s a story of rising from the ashes.
and Goliath? The Oakland A’s are one of the least wealthy teams in baseball with a player payroll a fraction of teams like the Yankees. Yet they regularly outperform many superwealthy teams. How do they do it?
Tradition vs. Innovation? Twenty years ago scouts relied mostly on how a player looked (tall, dark and handsome) or on less-than-consequential metrics (like footspeed or even RBIs). No more. Now on-base-percentage is all the rage. Steals and sacrifice bunts are at historic lows across the league. The book tells the fascinating tale of why, and of the pioneers who broke free and transformed a very traditional game.
from the ashes? Billy Beane was one of the most impressive high-school prospects of the last fifty years. Yet he had an unhappy, mediocre major league career that often found him on the bench. He was thus the perfect person to transform how players were selected and used on the field, with the Oakland A’s as his laboratory. He was a victim of scouts who and of a system that persisted in selecting talented but untested high schoolers even though they failed in the major leagues at a much higher rate than successful college players. As a result, Beane was had no qualms about demolishing it.
would have thought twenty years ago that a word like sabermetrics would become central to major league baseball chatter? But now, fifteen years after Moneyball first popularized that term, big data rules the game. Sure there is push back that it has been overdone and some teams don’t buy in, but the genie is not going back in the bottle. When it comes to New Baseball, the last two World Series champions–the Cubs and the Astros–were all in.
Here is the story of how a game was transformed.