Instaread Summary of Moneyball The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis
Five out of five stars
As a mathematician/statistician, I find the development and use of sabermetrics to be fascinating. The detailed analysis of all aspects of the game of baseball has revealed many things, including how conservative many in the game are. Standard strategic actions such as the sacrifice bunt and the stolen base are demonstrated to be of limited value, detrimental in most cases.
Reading modern stories about players are also more interesting as their actual value to the team is now far better known. The new data point called “Wins Above Replacement” (WAR) is now one of the standard player characteristics used in player evaluation. It is used to measure the total contributions that a player makes to his team and is an estimate of how many additional wins he is worth. Nearly every story about comparative player evaluations now mentions sabermetric values.
Statistics like WAR have been used very successfully by the Oakland Athletics under their general manager Billy Beane. For several years, they were one of the top major league teams while having one of the lowest payrolls. What they did and how they made their decisions is explained in the book “Moneyball.” It is also a biography of Beane.
This summary makes very few assumptions regarding the knowledge base of the reader, for example a “sacrifice hit” is explained when it is referenced. Even a bunt is defined. The early usage of primitive sabermetrics by Earl Weaver and Davey Johnson are also mentioned.
Success will always breed copying and now other major league teams also use sabermetrics in their player analyses. Therefore, the competitive advantage that the Oakland Athletics once had is now gone. If you have an interest in baseball or data mining, this summary will convince you that data analysis is a powerful tool, it can even overcome some of the most entrenched and false tenets of baseball.
This book was made available for free for review purposes.