What is, or was, Moneyball?

The term ‘Moneyball’ is taken from the title of the best-selling book ‘Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game’, written by Michael Lewis and first published in 2003. The book chronicles the story of Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane who, assisted by Paul DePodesta, a Harvard economics graduate who had previously worked in a scouting capacity for Cleveland Indians, adopted a new management strategy to solve funding problems.

The strategy was based on a statistical analysis of baseball data known as ‘sabermetrics’, a term coined by it creator, Bill James, with reference to the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), and defined as ‘the search for objective knowledge about baseball’. Faced with a shoestring budget of just $39 million, less than a third of that enjoyed by the New York Yankees, Beane and DePodesta dug deep into the data for hundreds of individual players in an effort to identify those who, despite being capable of scoring runs, were not favoured by orthodox statistics, such as runs batted in.

By effectively turning the statistics on their head, Beane was able to avoid budgetary constraints by building his roster around largely unheralded, and therefore less expensive, players, including the likes of David Justice and Scott Hatteberg, to name but two. After a shaky start, his strategy started to bear fruit. Between June 6 and June 24, the Athletics went 16-1 and, later in the season, between August 13 and September 4, 20-0, thereby beating the previous American League record set by the New York Yankees in 1947. Oakland won the American League West with a record of 103-59, but lost 3-2 to the Minnesota Twins in the American League Division Series, as they had done to the New York Yankees the previous season.

Post Navigation