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Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game  
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
Author Michael M. Lewis
Country United States
Language English
Publisher W.W. Norton & Company Inc.
Publication date 2003
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 208
ISBN ISBN 0-393-05765-8
OCLC Number 51817522
Dewey Decimal 796.357/06/91
LC Classification GV880 .L49 2003

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (ISBN 0-393-05765-8) is a book by Michael M. Lewis, published in 2003, about the Oakland Athletics baseball team and its general manager Billy Beane. Its focus is the team's modernized, analytical, sabermetric approach to assembling a competitive baseball team, despite Oakland's disadvantaged revenue situation.

Contents

Central premise of Moneyball

The central premise of Moneyball is that the collected wisdom of baseball insiders (including players, managers, coaches, scouts, and the front office) over the past century is subjective and often flawed. Statistics such as stolen bases, runs batted in, and batting average, typically used to gauge players, are relics of a 19th century view of the game and the statistics that were available at the time. The book argues that the Oakland A's' front office took advantage of more empirical gauges of player performance to field a team that could compete successfully against richer competitors in Major League Baseball.

Rigorous statistical analysis had demonstrated that on-base percentage and slugging percentage are better indicators of offensive success, and the A's became convinced that these qualities were cheaper to obtain on the open market than more historically valued qualities such as speed and contact. These observations often flew in the face of conventional baseball wisdom and the beliefs of many baseball scouts and executives.

By re-evaluating the strategies that produce wins on the field, the 2002 Athletics, with approximately $41 million in salary, are competitive with larger market teams such as the New York Yankees, who spend over $200 million in payroll. Because of the team's smaller revenues, Oakland is forced to find players undervalued by the market, and their system for finding value in undervalued players has proven itself thus far.

Several themes Lewis explored in the book include: insiders vs. outsiders (established traditionalists vs. upstart proponents of Sabermetrics), the democratization of information causing a flattening of hierarchies, and the ruthless drive for efficiency that capitalism demands. The book also touches on Oakland's underlying economic need to stay ahead of the curve; as other teams begin mirroring Beane's strategies to evaluate offensive talent, diminishing the Athletics' advantage, Oakland begins looking for other undervalued baseball skills such as defensive capabilities.

Moneyball also touches onto the A's methods of prospect selection. Sabermetricians argue that a college baseball player's chance of MLB success is far and away higher than a traditional high school draft pick. Beane maintains that high draft picks spent on high school prospects, regardless of talent or physical potential as evaluated by traditional scouting, are riskier than if they were spent on more polished college players. Lewis cites A's minor leaguer Jeremy Bonderman, drafted out of high school in 2001 over Beane's objections, as but one example of precisely the type of draft pick Beane would avoid. Bonderman had all of the traditional "tools" that scouts look for, but thousands of such players have been signed by MLB organizations out of high school over the years and failed to develop. Lewis explores the A's approach to the 2002 MLB Draft, when the team had a nearly unprecedented run of early picks. The book documents Beane's often-tense discussions with his scouting staff (who favored traditional subjective evaluation of potential rather than objective sabermetrics) in preparation for the draft to the actual draft, which defied all expectations and was considered at the time a wildly successful (if unorthodox) effort by Beane.

In addition, Moneyball traces the history of the sabermetric movement back to such luminaries as Bill James (now a member of the Boston Red Sox front office) and Craig R. Wright. Lewis explores how James' seminal Baseball Abstract, an annual publication that was published from the late-1970s through the late-1980s, influenced many of the young, up-and-coming baseball minds that are now joining the ranks of baseball management.

Moneyball has made such an impact in professional baseball that the term itself has entered the lexicon of baseball. Teams which appear to value the concepts of sabermetrics are often said to be playing "Moneyball". Baseball traditionalists, in particular some scouts and media members, decry the sabermetric revolution and have disparaged Moneyball for emphasizing concepts of sabermetrics over more traditional methods of player evaluation. Nevertheless, the impact of Moneyball upon major league front offices is undeniable. In its wake, teams such as the New York Mets, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Indians[1], and the Toronto Blue Jays have hired full-time Sabermetric analysts. Since the book's publication (and success), Lewis has discussed plans for a sequel to Moneyball called Underdogs, revisiting the players and their relative success several years into their careers.

People discussed in the book

Moneyball also covers the lives and careers of several baseball personalities. The central one is Billy Beane himself, whose failed playing career is contrasted with wildly optimistic predictions by scouts.

Players and people discussed in Moneyball:

Oakland Farm System:

The Oakland Bullpen:

Players acquired by Beane in trades generally considered to be "steals":

Successful players initially valued more highly by Beane and the A's than by other MLB teams:

Other Players Named:

* player still active

Scouts, Management, and Journalists:

Analysis of the 2002 Major League Baseball draft

Beane's list

Beane put together a list of twenty players they’d draft in a "perfect world", meaning if money was no object and they didn't have to compete with the other twenty-nine teams.

The list, and the teams who drafted them:
Pitchers

Hitters

Oakland's picks

  • #18 - Nick Swisher - successful major leaguer, traded to Chicago White Sox after 2007, traded to New York Yankees after 2008
  • #24 - Joe Blanton - successful major leaguer, traded to Philadelphia Phillies
  • #26 - John McCurdy - out of professional baseball since 2006
  • #30 - Ben Fritz - had Tommy John surgery, currently in minor leagues
  • #35 - Jeremy Brown - has had small stints of time in the majors, retired prior to the 2008 season.
  • #37 - Stephen Obenchain - retired after a lack of success at the A and AA levels
  • #39 - Mark Teahen - successful major leaguer, traded to the Kansas City Royals and is currently with the Chicago White Sox
  • #67 - Steve Stanley - topped out in AAA for the A's
  • #98 - Bill Murphy - traded three times and debuted with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007
  • #128 - John Baker - traded to the Florida Marlins and debuted and became the starting catcher in 2008.
  • #158 - Mark Kiger - traded several times, now with the AA affiliate of the New York Mets (Binghamton Mets)
  • #188 - Brian Stavisky - currently with the AA affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels
  • #218 - Brant Colamarino - currently with the AA affiliate of the A's

Film

It was announced a movie is set to come out in 2011 based on the book. Actor Brad Pitt is attached to play Billy Beane, while comedian Jonah Hill is attached to play Paul DePodesta.[3] Academy Award-winning screenwriter Steve Zaillian has been signed to write the script, and Steven Soderbergh will direct (replacing David Frankel).[4] "I want you to not realize how much information is being thrown at you," says Soderbergh, when asked how he was going to make a film based on statistics entertaining. "We've found a couple of ideas on how to bust the form a bit, in order for all that information to reach you in a way that's a little oblique[5]." Scott Hatteberg, David Justice, and Art Howe will play themselves in the movie.[6]

On June 22, 2009, because of conflicts over a revised script by director Soderbergh, Sony put the movie on hold just days before it was scheduled to begin shooting.[7] Soderbergh's script called for interviews of real-life players and other methods untraditional to sports movies. As a result, Soderbergh was let go.

See also

References

External links








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