Book Review – Moneyball

In Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, Michael Lewis plots the transformation of the Oakland Athletics baseball team under the unconventional and inspiring GM Billy Beane.

Beane’s fervent commitment to identifying the true value of baseball players and removing subjectivity, not only turned the A’s into a team with the best win:spend ratio but sent shockwaves through baseball’s traditional elite changing baseball statistics forever. Brad Pitt recently portrayed Beane in the 2011 movie ‘Moneyball’ taking up the challenge of applying logic and analysis to the task of scouting and player evaluation, a task which had previously been a dark art governed by the gut-feel of ex-players.

Through Ivy-league thought leadership, the development of new stats, new tactics and endless ruthless trading, Beane is able to repeatedly build and rebuild a team capable of competing with the sports giants at a third of the cost.

I am late to the Moneyball party, the book launched in 2003 and has since revolutionised the MLB and the US sports industry. The approach and analysis (Sabermetrics) pioneered at the A’s have spread through all teams looking to unlock a edge. Beane et al won by changing the way the game is played.

I highly recommend both the book and movie, in that order, for any aspiring sports administrator. The statistical and measurable nature of baseball is unique, but the following are the lessons I took away from a book that is both enthralling but entertaining:

– Challenge conventional wisdom: The only way to achieve different results from your competitors is to act and think differently. If you can find a new or different way of achieving equal or better results you add value and this value can chart a new course.

– Find the underlying value: Focus on how to identify and optimise real value, find value that others can’t or won’t see. In sport, as with the stock market, if you can find potential and talent that is undervalued you can exploit it for profit.

– In the information age, not all data is equal: Value and performance can be measured thousands of ways, when confronted with a wall of stats, identify the metrics that make the difference and make them your focus.

– Subjective v. objective: Experience and gut-feel can generate the right outcome, but in sport, when multi-million dollar decisions are made every off-season, by removing subjective opinion you remove risk.

Michael Lewis, is a best-selling and celebrated economist and financial journalist, the premise of Moneyball is how rational thought can exploit value in irrational markets. A critical lesson for all working in our industry, the most emotive and invigorating of all markets.

Get Moneyball on Amazon today.

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