A Management in a Minute Book Overview of Moneyball by Michael Lewis
This summary and review of the book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, was prepared by Ricky Albin while a Marketing student in the College of Business at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana.
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Everyone has heard, at least once in his or her life, of the sport of baseball being referred to as “The American Past-time”. The sport is filled with a deep history of players, fans, and enthusiasts who have come to know, or think they know, the game of baseball all too well. It almost went without challenge they the most important part of offense was hitting the ball, and the most important statistic for a player was his batting average.
Moneyball tells the true story of a poor baseball team forced to compete in an unfair game. Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland A’s Major League Baseball team, was only given about $41 million dollars by the teams owners to assemble a competitive baseball team. While $41 million dollars may seem like a lot of money, it was the second-lowest payroll in all of baseball. Before the start of the 2002 season, Beane was faced with the seemingly impossible task of replacing Oakland’s two greatest offensive weapons, Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon, who were lost to richer teams. While anyone who wasn’t named Billy Beane had given up all hope, the General Manager set out to find an answer.
Billy quickly became interested in the ideas of a man named Bill James, who wrote books about statistical analysis of Major League Baseball. Although the game was notoriously impacted by things that could only be described as feats of luck, Bill James believed heavily in a little thing called “probability.” James’ strongest beliefs were that the most important statistics in baseball were the ones that proved to have a direct impact on a team winning or losing a game. He concluded that the two most important statistics on offense that improved a team’s probability of winning were (and still are) On Base Percentage (OBP) and Slugging Percentage. When you combine the two statistics, you get OPS (on base plus slugging). As for pitching and defense, the keys to winning were deemed by James to be the amount of strikeouts and walks a pitcher gives up. Beane had read many of James’ books and quickly became a believer of these ideas as well. Before the Billy Beane era, no one had ever really heard of OPS, but this was all about to change.