Anyone who follows the world of baseball player movement and economics has surely read Michael Lewis’ 2003 bestseller, Moneyball. If not, it could only be due to the fact that the theme explored in the book, a modern approach to evaluating players and building teams, has become such a well-known part of the game that it no longer seems ground-breaking.
Lewis clearly and brilliantly explains an approach to the game that flies in the face of convention for the most tradition-laden sport in America. Time honored statistics such as batting average, stolen base totals and runs batted in are eschewed in favor of other metrics such as on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
The backdrop for Lewis’ story is the front office of the Oakland A’s and its general manager Billy Beane. Beane went from can’t-miss prospect to big-league bust as a player, but ended up running a financially strapped operation in Oakland. To compete against the big money, big market clubs, Beane used an understanding of the rules governing club control of players and the lightly-regarded statistics that he felt were very important. The result was a powerhouse team that made regular appearances in the playoffs despite avoiding high-priced free agents and going with what he had in house.
The numbers available to big league front offices are shown to be comparable, if not superior, to the age-old baseball convention of having a scout observe the prospect in person. Lewis does a fantastic job of painting the point-counterpoint of this picture.
There is a great deal of insight given on how Beane runs the club and many well-known players and executives are featured. If the year-round process of building a major league roster is of interest to you, this book has to be in your library.