on July 19, 2004
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. The A's reclamation project recognized a diamond in the rough and brought him aboard to train him as a first baseman, mostly so they could benefit from Hattie's shrewd batting.
Chad Bradford, the A's middle relief pitcher with the unorthodox pitching style and uncanny ability to get outs, is also profiled. A's minor league phenom Jeremy Brown, a former University of Alabama catcher who broke all sorts of NCAA records but wouldn't get a look from most pro teams, is also profiled. You get the sense from this book that there IS no traditional upbringing for a pro baseball player. The A's unusual collection of "misfits" all came from different backgrounds and most have taken a rather odd path to success.
This book is a great insiders look at a pro baseball team and how they approach the game from a very unique perspective. The most fascinating thing of it is, the A's didn't invent what they're doing at all. They're exploiting baseball wisdom that was anyone's for the taking for the past 30 years. You just need to know where to look.
If you're a baseball fan or just someone who can appreciate creativity and ingenuity in a world that promotes imitation, you'll enjoy this book.
on December 16, 2009
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.
on July 28, 2003
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.
on July 16, 2004
"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!!
on June 20, 2004
Awesome! The Oakland A's GM defies tradition and wins baseball games based on a different view of baseball stats and facts. This book has made me look at other sports, business, and life in general a little differently. I read the whole book over a weekend. . .something I almost never do. Fascinating! Read it. (I wish my home town ball club would wake up and read this book too.)
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. The Oakland A`s general manager Billy Beane, develops a unique approach to selecting baseball players. Traditionally baseball scouts, used a strong sense of instinct to select players. If the scout likes the look of the player, they tended to favour the prospect. Billy Beane dismisses baseball tradition, and sets out on his own agenda.
Lewis details all of Beane`s methods of player evaluation. In particular, Beane is impressed with a players on base percentage. He feels getting players on base, is the key to generating runs and winning games. In his opinion, a walk is just as beneficial as a hit. The rest of the scouting community, never even consider a players ability to generate the base on balls. This new set of data, enables Beane to develop an edge in player selection. The other general managers, are unaware of this valuable information. Beane also finds these players carry a cheap price tag, because no one else recognizes the available talent.
Most readers will enjoy, the wheeling and dealing of baseball`s corporate backroom. Beane seems to skate circles around the other baseball general managers. Beane also deals with lots of personnel management issues. It all adds up, to make for a fun read.
on April 8, 2012
"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, despite author Michael Lewis' ability to spin a compelling, page-turning story out of the obsession with statistical minutae that calls itself sabrmetrics (the computerized compilation and decision-making application of baseball statistics).
Financial technical analysts, business strategists, political analysts, military history buffs and a host of others will find themselves drawn into a narrative of a story that is set in baseball, and rooted in decision theory. Lewis doesn't get lost in the bits, bytes and statistical arcana. He builds his characters, with all their strengths and failings, and walks the reader through the seminal summer of 2003 when, after more than 35 years, technical analysis of baseball statistics finally hit the big leagues.
The book's central character, Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, is himself a case study in why the traditional means of evaluating baseball talent too often fail. As a youth able to excel in baseball scouting's 'big-four' skills: run; throw; hit and hit with power, Beane should have been a slam dunk for a long stint in Major League Baseball. That he wasn't, and by extension neither are thousands of other young men evaluated by baseball scouts, begs the question whether scouts are measuring the right things.
The book introduces the father of sabrmetrics (so named from Society of American Baseball Research), Bill James. It walks the reader through James' ruminations and theories that traditional baseball measures of success remain unchanged from the game's infancy, set in an era when the computational power universally and cheaply available today was beyond comprehension. Stepping back from the tables, ratios and statistics, Bill James concludes that if you just measure the right things at the right time, you can pick better baseball players more likely to succeed in the majors.
Beane and the Oakland Athletics didn't embrace sabrmetrics because they wanted to. They did so because, in an era where richer teams could -- and in Oakland's case did -- buy the best talent in the league by stripping lesser-endowed clubs, Oakland had to! And in so doing, the Oakland Athletics did what high-tech entrepreneurs and outnumbered generals have done through the ages: be where the other guy isn't, and be there with everything you've got.
This book is a story about the breakthrough campaign. It is a book much like the story of the first use of blitzkrieg tactics in France in 1940, or the founding and growth of personal computer hardware icon Apple and software maker Microsoft. Once sabrmetrics showed obvious value, then most every baseball team started to do it. By looking for value where few others went shopping, Beane and the Oakland Athletics in 2003 identified players with the skills to build a winning team at a price they could afford.
Sure, Lewis wrote a baseball book that most fans of the sport can devour. But so can executives of medium-sized businesses looking for a principle to gain an advantage in a market dominated by a few well-heeled oligopolists. If you are picking an executive team, or looking to build a political organization, there are lessons to be learned from "Moneyball." It's a good yarn by a skilled writer who himself found a book where others had overlooked the material. Well worth a read. And like most productions, the book is much better than the movie, although the film is pretty good too.
on July 11, 2004
Beane and his disciples have prosecuted their edge in the draft and they have proven that they can win that way. It is new in some ways and channels an earlier time as well. The emphasis on team play is not an exclusively "moneyball" approach. The Rangers use this old approach in 2004 married to a traditional cadre of scouts that Beane would not use. The result for Texas has been winning baseball that is fun to watch. The play in the field (particularly the infield) is sparkling and they also put runs on the board. As of this writing the own 1st place in AL west. They have a higher payroll, but much of it is dead weight with Messrs Park and Nelson out with injuries.
It is interesting to note that at the All Star break 2004, only three of the league leaders in OBP (over weighted in the A's version of OPS) were A's and the highest ranked was 30th. Perhaps this Oakland secret isn't such a great secret after all. The other "moneyball" team, Boston, has 4 of the top 40. In 2002, the time frame in which the book was written, the A's only had 1 player in the top 40. Perhaps this shows they are progressing.
In 2002, Anaheim had a reputation for being "scrappy" at the plate and won the World Series. Between Anaheim and San Fran (the 2002 opponent) they only had 3 of the top 40 OBP. Does this mean that Oakland and Beane are on the wrong track? They are certainly competitive again this year. Perhaps it means that being obsessed with any thing in a liability in a multidimensional game such as baseball.
Pitching is another interesting area that Beane and Co. have attempted to set on its ear. The sabermetric DIPS ratio is what they like to measure their pitching talent with and it seems to be working. They have 2 of the top 20 pitchers rated using DIPS.
I chuckled under my breath when I read Beane said that Barry Bonds had "risen to a level where even talent can't take you". Was he talking about BALCO?
on June 28, 2004
Being a bay area fan of sports I first picked up Moneyball out of sheer curiosity. I wanted to know how baseball is ran, and this book told me everything.
Michael Lewis travels as close to chronologically as he possibly can throght the A's 2002 season (the 20 wins season) from the draft you are captivated by the story and evaluation Billy Bean has put into play seen no where else in baseball. How these men intelligent men, Billy and Paul and other ivy league graduates have broken baseball sucess into numbers makes you review the box score a lot more differently. We learn the feel of a draft room (since we never seen the MLB draft which is done behind doors) the intense phone calls and interaction between everyone in the organization who assisted in evaluating prospects.
Lewis doesn't stop there, he also takes us into the baseball world on the last day of trading. Once again we are like people watching Billy like in a zoo, do his magic on numerous GM in the league.
The story is mostly about Billy Bean and how in hell was he able to get away with that he did to other GMs. Billy is very coercive and able to instigate trades to help himself. What astounds me is how no one caught onto him. In the book were are not only observing a process but also introduced to many characters that are valuable to the A's. From scouts to owners to managers, to the two underdogs of baseball Scott Hatteberg and Chad Bradford, (whom Lewis devotes whole chapters to)
What I enjoyed most was the brief look into the world of baseball, as a student who was considering a major in sports management this book facinated me every step of the way.
on June 27, 2004
"Moneyball" takes the reader behind the scenes of a major league baseball team - how it operates, who runs the show, why they make the decisions they do, etc. The fact that the Oakland A's, the subject of "Moneyball," is the team in question only makes it that much more interesting.
Billy Beane, the General Manager of the A's, runs the team like none of his peers, and has experienced success beyond what his payroll should allow. "Moneyball" tries to explain why. Going back to the ground-breaking work of baseball writer Bill James, and continuing with Beane's predecessor Sandy Alderson, Beane implemented ideas that were in circulation but were never really tried before. The result was a winning percentage that was the envy of just about every team in baseball.
But Beane is not always correct in his thinking, and his attitude left a lot to be desired. Despite his obsession with certain numbers, like OBP, and his belief that they will translate into wins, pitching has remained the ultimate determinant factor in a baseball team's success. The A's have ranked 1st, 2nd or 3rd in ERA every year since 1999, while finishing as low as 10th in OBP. Beane - and author Michael Lewis - conveniently ignore this fact when explaining the reasons for the A's success.
Beane's disdain for the stolen base is also troubling, as it is well known that speed can disrupt a pitcher's rhythm and be a major factor in a closely-played game. The players at the top of the runs scored category are, more often than not, effective base stealers as well. Beane ignores this too.
Lastly, throughout the book Beane complains about his shortstop, Miguel Tejada, because Beane dislikes the fact that Tejada doesn't take enough pitches. He's not patient at the plate. What the book fails to mention is that Tejada finishes 7th in HR and 3rd in RBI and wins the MVP award in 2002! How foolish does this make Beane look? Very, if you ask me.
Still, this was a well written effort, and it was very interesting to follow the behind-the-scenes storyline of a baseball team for an entire season. However, before deifying Beane for his efforts, it would behoove the A's to win a playoff series during his regime. As of this writing, they remain winless, having lost to the Red Sox in 2003. Contrary to what Beane would have you believe, "just getting there" isn't good enough!