Moneyball - Book Review

di 27 oktober 2020

Recently I decided it was my time to read Moneyball. The book about how a baseball team with a small budget could compete with team that had budgets multiple times higher. Now I\'m not a baseball fan, not even a sports fan in general, but this book is more about using statistics for decision making and daring to be unconventional. And I\'m a fan of those things.

The book tells the story about the Oakland Athletics team in the 2002 season, and in particular how the general manager Billy Beane come to the strategy he chose to shape the team. He was a professional player, but never reached the success he hoped. Believing that something was in the way talent was scouted he found books and articles written in the 70s about how scouts looked at the wrong information when they selected players (How good they would look in a jeans commercial). This and the fact that baseball player salaries were rising, while the team owners give him tighter budgets to work with lead to a new approach, often called Sabermetrics.

What Bill James found out in the 70s, and Paul DePodesta refined under the management of Billy Beane was that there are player statistics that had good predictive value about the players performance in the field. The problem with the statistics used in mainstream baseball news was that they included more randomness or were affected by other players performance in the field. So using this new information the management was able to hire undervalued players, and trade overvalued players of their own to get a good lineup while spending much less than other teams.

Sounds great right? Right. There is a downside tough. Since hiring players is a marketplace you can get great wins if you have better information than you competitors, but after a while the other teams in the market learn your tricks. Once you lose this information advantage your position is back to normal again. And this is also what happened in real life. After a few really good years the Oakland Athletic lost their immense competing edge. At the end of the book there is also hint at what might be an important secondary goal, the first was winning, but the second is viewership pleasure. Some of the tactics used by the team made for more wins overall, but less theatre in the field.

Overall I can recommend this book, it was one of those books that I wanted to keep reading. Don\'t expect any formulas in this books, just the effect of changing your tactics to something unconventional has on people: coaches, players and the media.