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Layups: Seidman Live-Blogs Moneyball

Posted by Neil Paine on March 18, 2009

This is a basketball blog, as I'm sure you're aware of by now, but the plain truth is that much of the statistical analysis we do here is either derived from, inspired by, or at least tangentially connected to the pioneering work done in baseball's Sabermetrics, the older, more well-known sister field of APBRmetrics.

And for many of us, the epochal moment of our sabermetric lifetime came when Michael Lewis wrote a little book called Moneyball way back in 2003. The concepts were old hat to Bill James devotees, but never before had they been presented in such a mainstream way, with such a compelling test case as Billy Beane's Oakland A's. For all intents and purposes, statistical analysis in sports hit the big-time with the publishing of Moneyball.

And yet, for such an important work, few books were (and still are) as misunderstood as Moneyball... No, Billy Beane did not write it. And no, it's not "about" on-base percentage per se (it's about finding & exploiting market inefficiencies, people!). So, 6 years later, don't you think it would be interesting to go back and annotate the book, commenting on the common misconceptions that arise and discussing the contents with the benefit of hindsight? Well, I think so -- and so did Eric Seidman, yesterday last year. Read up and remember how great Moneyball actually was, folks. Or even change your misguided thoughts on the book (although I'm sure none of our readers hold such ill-informed opinions!).

(I realize this isn't specifically a basketball-related topic, but I thought it was pertinent given that Moneyball has played a large role in the growth of quantitative analysis in basketball as well.)

5 Responses to “Layups: Seidman Live-Blogs Moneyball”

  1. Ian Says:

    If I'm not mistaken, that blog was done last year, not yesterday.

    Personally, I think Moneyball is an interesting concept, and one certainly worthy of having been discussed, but as a baseball book I found it extremely disappointing. It presents a very, very biased perspective on the subject of talent evaluation. It's borderline insulting in its generalization of traditionalist scouting mentality and of its characterization of scouts individually(some of whom do not deserve such ridicule).

    Even though I agree with many of the ideas it explores, its holier-than-thou manner of expression is off-putting and I think it does a great disservice to the general public's view of sabremetrics. I do not think the place of statistical analysis in sports would be as polarizing a topic if not for Moneyball.

    Almost all of this, of course, falls at the feet of Michael Lewis(who, incidentally, I don't think is a very good writer), and not Billy Beane. I wish the book had been written by someone who better understood the concept of tact, and who was able to communicate what is a very good message without coming off sounding like an asshole.

  2. Neil Paine Says:

    If I’m not mistaken, that blog was done last year, not yesterday.

    Yeah, I'm an idiot... Thank you for catching that. :)

  3. Basketball goals Says:

    I simply loved the concept.

  4. Neil Paine Says:

    And regarding the sort of arrogant way Lewis wrote about the "stats vs. scouts" argument (which shouldn't have existed and likely would not have had Moneyball not been written), I agree that it was probably too off-putting to some people -- but at the same time, would a kinder, gentler version of the book had the same cultural impact? Part of the reason the book resonated so much with readers was that the themes of challenging the establishment, re-thinking long-held views, and tearing down baseball's culture of insiderism appealed to our desire to break down barriers to free thought and knowledge -- Lewis even compared the sabermetric revolution to The Enlightenment, for goodness' sake. So while I think a lot of the book was hyperbole for the sake of a great story and was written in an especially "assholish" tone, a different approach from a different author may not have achieved the same far-reaching impact.

  5. Kate Gallor Says:

    Very good written article -, but cant see many comments. Any how great stuff. Ill pass this on to a friend or two, thanks for this.