Moneyball is the story of how the Oakland A’s competed with the big boys by finding the rare talent, by crunching “different” numbers, and crunching those numbers differently. It tells the story of the 2002 Oakland Athletics, and how they genuinely competed (they won their division) with less money than any other team in their division.
Here are some excerpts from the book:
“Sandy Alderson concluded that everything from on field strategies to player evaluation was better conducted by scientific investigation – hypotheses tested by analysis of historical statistical baseball data – than by reference to the collective wisdom of old baseball men. By analyzing baseball statistics you could see through a lot of baseball nonsense.”
“Alderson’s reference point for running an organization was the time he’d spent as an officer in the Marine Corps… The individual star was less important than the organization as a whole, and the organization as a whole functioned well only if it was uniformly disciplined.”
“…If you challenge the conventional wisdom, you will find ways to do things much better than they are currently done.”
Four key “transferable” principles:
- When you don’t have the resources, you have to go to plan B.
The Oakland A’s found “undervalued players.” These players were still available because they did not fit the image of a baseball player. They were “unacceptable” to traditional baseball scouts, but their statistics demonstrated a mastery of the skills needed.
- There is a plan B that works, and you can find it if you look hard enough.
Chances are it is not known by the “long-timers.” Chances are that you have to bring in true “outside help.” In the book, Lewis describes true, genuine changes – changes that affected everything about the way to look at a baseball team.
- Numbers are more reliable than…
Cities do not have the luxury of making decisions without hard numbers behind them. Numbers are more reliable than intuition, tradition, emotion, or… mostly anything!
- The aggregate is more important than the individual.
What is done over all (together) is what the company needs.
This book is a true story, but it is also one gigantic parable for anyone in business. Collect lots of numbers — the right numbers. Pay attention to those numbers. Know what numbers (and traditions) to ignore. Make the changes you need to make, no matter who opposes those changes. Work with what you can get, and then do whatever it takes to compete no matter how strange or how unconventional it seems.
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis
Another core message in Moneyball is to focus the numbers on simple, core goals.
For the Oakland A’s, it was “Runs”, batters that produce them and Pitchers/Defensive Players that prevent them. For Disney, it is to “Make Magic”. For Southwest Airlines it is “% of Occupied Seats”. For government agencies that I have led, our measures have focused on “Citizen Service”. Consistently, organizations that have a clear, core focus and measure success at achieving it perform 25-40% better; the Oakland A’s won their Division again last year.
Looks like you’ve already read Moneyball, David!
You added some great points; and yes, focusing the numbers on a clear goal is a great way to measure success.
Thanks for your comment.
Another takeaway from Moneyball is finding the right metric, and giving your team an overlooked advantage. One they used was pitch efficiency. This is how many pitches does a pitcher throw per out they get. And how many pitches does a batter see per plate appearance. With every fewer pitch they had to throw per out, and every extra pitch the got to see while batting, they gave themselves an advantage over the other team. They couldn’t compete for size or speed, so they moved the game ever so slightly to their advantage, efficiency. They weren’t bigger or stronger, but they could grind it out better.
Very true, Joseph.
You have to know your strength and make it your advantage.
Glad to see you read the book too! Thanks for your comment.