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Moneyball [Paperback]

Michael Lewis
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (224 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 29 2004
Moneyball is a quest for the secret of success in baseball. Following the low-budget Oakland Athletics, their larger-than-life general manger, Billy Beane, and the strange brotherhood of amateur baseball enthusiasts, Michael Lewis has written not only "the single most influential baseball book ever" (Rob Neyer, Slate) but also what "may be the best book ever written on business" (Weekly Standard).

I wrote this book because I fell in love with a story. The story concerned a small group of undervalued professional baseball players and executives, many of whom had been rejected as unfit for the big leagues, who had turned themselves into one of the most successful franchises in Major League Baseball. But the idea for the book came well before I had good reason to write it—before I had a story to fall in love with. It began, really, with an innocent question: how did one of the poorest teams in baseball, the Oakland Athletics, win so many games?

With these words Michael Lewis launches us into the funniest, smartest, and most contrarian book since, well, since Liar's Poker. Moneyball is a quest for something as elusive as the Holy Grail, something that money apparently can't buy: the secret of success in baseball. The logical places to look would be the front offices of major league teams, and the dugouts, perhaps even in the minds of the players themselves. Lewis mines all these possibilities—his intimate and original portraits of big league ballplayers are alone worth the price of admission—but the real jackpot is a cache of numbers—numbers!—collected over the years by a strange brotherhood of amateur baseball enthusiasts: software engineers, statisticians, Wall Street analysts, lawyers and physics professors.

What these geek numbers show—no, prove—is that the traditional yardsticks of success for players and teams are fatally flawed. Even the box score misleads us by ignoring the crucial importance of the humble base-on-balls. This information has been around for years, and nobody inside Major League Baseball paid it any mind. And then came Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland Athletics.

Billy paid attention to those numbers —with the second lowest payroll in baseball at his disposal he had to—and this book records his astonishing experiment in finding and fielding a team that nobody else wanted. Moneyball is a roller coaster ride: before the 2002 season opens, Oakland must relinquish its three most prominent (and expensive) players, is written off by just about everyone, and then comes roaring back to challenge the American League record for consecutive wins.

In a narrative full of fabulous characters and brilliant excursions into the unexpected, Michael Lewis shows us how and why the new baseball knowledge works. He also sets up a sly and hilarious morality tale: Big Money, like Goliath, is always supposed to win...how can we not cheer for David?


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Product Description

From Amazon

Billy Beane, general manager of MLB's Oakland A's and protagonist of Michael Lewis's Moneyball, had a problem: how to win in the Major Leagues with a budget that's smaller than that of nearly every other team. Conventional wisdom long held that big name, highly athletic hitters and young pitchers with rocket arms were the ticket to success. But Beane and his staff, buoyed by massive amounts of carefully interpreted statistical data, believed that wins could be had by more affordable methods such as hitters with high on-base percentage and pitchers who get lots of ground outs. Given this information and a tight budget, Beane defied tradition and his own scouting department to build winning teams of young affordable players and inexpensive castoff veterans.

Lewis was in the room with the A's top management as they spent the summer of 2002 adding and subtracting players and he provides outstanding play-by-play. In the June player draft, Beane acquired nearly every prospect he coveted (few of whom were coveted by other teams) and at the July trading deadline he engaged in a tense battle of nerves to acquire a lefty reliever. Besides being one of the most insider accounts ever written about baseball, Moneyball is populated with fascinating characters. We meet Jeremy Brown, an overweight college catcher who most teams project to be a 15th round draft pick (Beane takes him in the first). Sidearm pitcher Chad Bradford is plucked from the White Sox triple-A club to be a key set-up man and catcher Scott Hatteberg is rebuilt as a first baseman. But the most interesting character is Beane himself. A speedy athletic can't-miss prospect who somehow missed, Beane reinvents himself as a front-office guru, relying on players completely unlike, say, Billy Beane. Lewis, one of the top nonfiction writers of his era (Liar's Poker, The New New Thing), offers highly accessible explanations of baseball stats and his roadmap of Beane's economic approach makes Moneyball an appealing reading experience for business people and sports fans alike. --John Moe --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Lewis (Liar's Poker; The New New Thing) examines how in 2002 the Oakland Athletics achieved a spectacular winning record while having the smallest player payroll of any major league baseball team. Given the heavily publicized salaries of players for teams like the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees, baseball insiders and fans assume that the biggest talents deserve and get the biggest salaries. However, argues Lewis, little-known numbers and statistics matter more. Lewis discusses Bill James and his annual stats newsletter, Baseball Abstract, along with other mathematical analysis of the game. Surprisingly, though, most managers have not paid attention to this research, except for Billy Beane, general manager of the A's and a former player; according to Lewis, "[B]y the beginning of the 2002 season, the Oakland A's, by winning so much with so little, had become something of an embarrassment to Bud Selig and, by extension, Major League Baseball." The team's success is actually a shrewd combination of luck, careful player choices and Beane's first-rate negotiating skills. Beane knows which players are likely to be traded by other teams, and he manages to involve himself even when the trade is unconnected to the A's. " `Trawling' is what he called this activity," writes Lewis. "His constant chatter was a way of keeping tabs on the body of information critical to his trading success." Lewis chronicles Beane's life, focusing on his uncanny ability to find and sign the right players. His descriptive writing allows Beane and the others in the lively cast of baseball characters to come alive.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thinking outside the box July 19 2004
Format:Paperback
Michael Lewis deftly inserted himself into the A's front office to find out how a professional baseball team with a $40 million payroll can win 102 games and consistently 90 or more wins in subsequent years and compete with teams like the New York Yankees who have payrolls exceeding $130 million.
What he reveals is that by approaching baseball in a more rational, analytical way and doing away with all the traditional conventions, you can compete with anyone who doesn't do the same. Too many GMs and coaches are seduced by speed, home runs, and batters who swing at bad pitches when the simple truth of it is that in baseball the most precious thing you have are your three outs per inning. Anything that risks losing one or more of those outs is something you should avoid. As a long-time fan of the game, it's hard for me to swallow some of the anti-traditional things Lewis describes in this book. But the proof is in the pudding as they say and the A's success over the past several years is hard to argue with.
The focus of the book is A's GM Billy Beane, a former A's player himself who had a world of talent but could not transform that talent into a Hall of Fame career. He didn't have certain intangibles that are needed. Beane now recognizes those talents in the players he drafts, recruits and trades for. Beane's obsessive personality and unorthdox ways make for interesting reading. He's a man who seems horribly tortured by the game and yet thrives on his success in the game as well.
There are excellent mini-biographies in the book including one on A's first baseman, Scott Hatteberg, a Red Sox catcher who was thought all but done with baseball after he ruptured a nerve in his throwing arm.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Lewis is a gifted writer who draws attention the great things that Billy Beane has accomplished in Oakland. This is really the first time that Beane has been given the credit he deserves in the mainstream, and it is long overdue.
When discussing Beane's player evaluation techniques, Lewis outlines a field of study known as "sabermetrics." For anyone who has not yet been exposed to sabermetrics or has only a passing familiarity with the subject, this will be an eye-opening book and could change the way you view the game of baseball. Many of the things you thought you knew about baseball will be proven incorrect, and you will be introduced to a number of new concepts that you will undoubtedly use in the future.
On the other hand, for anyone who is already quite familiar with sabermetrics (and more specifically, Billy Beane), you will not get much out of this book. Chapters 2, 5, and 9 will be informative, but the rest is either filler or a review of concepts you already know. You won't regret reading the book, but it may not be a particularly memorable one for you (it wasn't for me, hence the three stars). For people in this situation, it would be fine to wait for the book to come out in paperback and save a few bucks.
Overall, I would recommend reading Moneyball, but don't set your expectations too high if you're already familiar with the subject matter.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Reading! July 16 2004
Format:Hardcover
"Moneyball" is an oustanding read if your are interested in baseball, economics, and or statistics. Michael Lewis does a great job telling the story of the Oakland A's and just why a team with one of the smallest payrolls in baseball has compiled one of the best records. This was a book that I found almost impossible to put down and I know that everyone at work got sick of me talking about it, but it was fascinating!! Don't miss reading this one!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Story - Even for the Non-Baseball Fan Dec 16 2009
Format:Paperback
Let me start out by stating this: I'm not a baseball fan. Hockey is my game. But Moneyball transcends the game itself because it is a great story. The failed athlete and now General Manager of the poor and humbled Oakland Athletics must figure out a way to compete against the freespending New York Yankees who have triple their budget. With a rag tag team of defective players, GM Billy Bean takes on the big market teams and baseball traditionalists with a couple of Havard grads with laptops.

And baseball will never be the same again.

Sure it has baseball and statistical analysis for content, but the real story is about a group of underdogs that by wit alone figure out a way to win an unfair game.

Buy it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars hagiography, but interesting July 12 2004
Format:Paperback
Moneyball reminded me of 1980s-style education theory: throw out everything you know and try everything new. This was an unbalanced piece of journalism. That said, it was interesting. I'd rate the A's way of doing things about 50 percent right. There is a place in the game for "tools" analysis and a place for numbers. Being a Red Sox fan, I firmly believe that Pedro Martinez is a different pitcher before 105 pitches than he is after. I wish Grady Little had consulted that number in October. I do believe that many times a walk is as good as a hit. But Ted Williams walked too much and did not help Boston nearly as much as he would have if he had hit more. In the book, A's managers, coaches and scouts were treated as if they are idiots and there's only a couple of brains, Beane's and DePodesta's. And of all the deals Beane makes, we never hear of the bad ones and when Lewis lauds the deal for Chad Bradford, a reliever who will be out of the game in a couple years, we are not told the player he is traded for, Miguel Olivo, is actually a rising star. The White Sox just traded him for Freddie Garcia, a much better pitcher than Bradford will ever be. The book was good but unbalanced, a piece of hero worship.Too bad Lewis wasn't around last year, when the A's idiotic baserunning allowed the Sox to beat them and Beane whined that if he had $50 million more he's have beat Boston. $50 million more for what, baserunning lessons?
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Business Of Baseball
Lewis is a great story teller, and this book is no exception. Lewis lays out the tale, of how a cash poor team succeeded against much richer teams. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Patrick Sullivan
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book for baseball fans! Even some non-baseball fans might...
great book with a lot of fascinating insight into the world of professional baseball and how Sabermetrics has changed the game.
Published 5 months ago by benjamin
3.0 out of 5 stars It's Ok!
I am not a baseball fan, so I went into Moneyball with very little background information. That being said, the book was easy to follow and digest, and I found it to be enjoyable. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Russ Allison
5.0 out of 5 stars Bookworm Wayne's Short Review
Read this book if you want to learn about Sabermetrics or what it's like to be GM in MLB. Stats have changed baseball (but really I believe that football pioneered these... Read more
Published 11 months ago by bookwormwayne
4.0 out of 5 stars Over a decade later, its relevance remains
The passing of some time gives us some perspective on the real success or otherwise, of the A's. Not everyone that they picked in that 2002 draft turned out to be so wonderful. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Rodge
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
I love baseball and I in find stats interesting as well. I really enjoyed this book. It's just a great read. A great story.
Published 15 months ago by Sizzler
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book Easy read
I love Michael Lewis books. Well researched, well written with a touch of humor. All his books are a must
Published 17 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good Baseball book
I haven't seen the movie, but the book is terriffic. I'd recommend this book to anyone with a passing interest in the game.
Published 19 months ago by L. Behan
4.0 out of 5 stars Being where the other guy isn't and being there with everything you've...
"Moneyball" is a connoisseur's book. And not necessarily a baseball connoisseur; indeed a lot of baseball fans may disagree with its central theme, or see their eyes glaze over,... Read more
Published on April 8 2012 by Bob Delaney
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Story, great author.
Michael lewis has a way to tell the story that makes every subject interesting, and, when you give him a great subject, it makes a great book. Moneyball is one of those. Read more
Published on Feb. 13 2012 by delisle34
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