by Michael Lewis
How exactly does one of the poorest teams in Major League Baseball, the Oakland A's, manage to win so many games year in and year out? This is the question that Moneyball seeks to answer. The answer, it turns out, is that Billy Beane, the general manager of the ball club, is one smart man.
Beane, while maybe not as book-smart as other GMs in the game, has the uncanny ability to assemble a team of misfits and win ball games. The secret of his success? Statistics. But not traditional statistics like batting average and RBIs. He thinks outside the box when he looks at statistics.
His right-hand man, Paul DePodesta, encouraged Billy to look at other statistics that are not as highly regarded by other teams: on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Beane listened when nobody else would, and has been unafraid to fly right in the face of conventional baseball wisdom. Based on the team's record over the past few years, it seems to be working for him.
This book is, in a word, engaging. The author Michael Lewis does an excellent job of painting a portrait of Billy Beane as, at times - especially when things don't go his way - unable to control his emotional outbursts, but also as a man who is wiser than he wants to let on. If other teams latch on to Beane's personnel strategies, he's no longer of any value as GM. Luckily for him, the other GMs are too stubborn to buy into his philosophy.
Moneyball is a must-read for any sports fan, baseball or otherwise, but I also recommend it to anybody interested in thinking of new ways to accomplish old goals more efficiently, through patience and proper analysis of a wealth of information.
January 19, 2005