Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Review of "Moneyball," by Michael Lewis

 Review of

Moneyball, by Michael Lewis, ISBN 0393324818

Five out of five stars

The truth about winning baseball

 No person has done more to change the perception of how people are actually performing in a sport than Bill James in baseball. Yet, no one has been ignored more in the baseball establishment than James. His development of the statistical science he termed sabermetrics allowed people studying baseball to better evaluate the performance of the players in an objective manner. Using statistical methods that most fans can understand, James and his followers prove in the statistical sense that time honored tactics such as the stolen base and sacrifice bunt are generally counterproductive.

 Few executives in major league baseball took these new evaluation tactics seriously. One that did, largely because they could not compete in the financial sense, was Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics. Despite having a payroll that was dwarfed by that of nearly all other teams, the Athletics won more games over many seasons than most of the big spenders.

 This is his story and how Beane and his small group of data minders looked for players that were relatively cheap and performed to their models of performance. To the leadership of the Athletics, on base percentage was the greatest single determiner of offensive performance. Giving away the precious currency of outs by getting caught stealing or executing a sacrifice bunt were considered unacceptable.

 This is one of the best nonfiction baseball books ever written. Despite the high level of success of the Athletics during the years covered by this book, there are still many in baseball that do not accept the James/Beane approach to the game. Some express outright hostility to their approach. In many ways it is kind of silly, for the James/Beane approach is the only foreseeable way in which the smaller market teams will ever be able to compete with those with the deepest of pockets.

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