Posts Tagged ‘Michael Lewis’

Moneyball: The Art of Filming an Unfair Game

Brad Pitt as Billy Beane

Three names go conspicuously unmentioned in the new film adaptation of Moneyball: Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, and Mark Mulder. There are two ways to react to this omission.

The first is to think that their exclusion is unacceptable for a film that purports to tell the story of the 2002 Oakland A’s. After all, the trio combined to win 57 games and pitch 675 innings to a combined 3.05 ERA that year. Zito in particular led the league in wins, en route to a Cy Young Award. Without those three, a team that won 103 games would have almost certainly missed the playoffs.

The other way to react to their absence, though, is to realize that it is entirely appropriate. Moneyball is not really a movie about the 2002 Oakland A’s—it’s a movie about Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) and his radical reinvention of the game. And it doesn’t take much reinvention to stick with a trio that was coming off a 2001 season in which they won 56 games and pitched 678 innings to a 3.43 ERA.

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Monday Medley

What we read while contemplating the art of winning an unfair game…

Monday Medley

What we read while wondering if the winners of the Lingerie Bowl play the winners of the Puppy Bowl…

Aught Lang Syne: The Decade in Nonfiction, Part II

In case you missed Part I of our analysis of the decade’s best nonfiction, you can check it out here.

9/11, Pirates and Emperors, Hegemony or Survival, Failed States, et. al. – Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky has always been prolific in his political writings, but the aftermath of 9/11 saw an increase in the relevance of his criticisms of American foreign policy. As an unabashed radical and critic of American interventionism, Chomsky’s writings express points of view that are virtually unrepresented in the mainstream discourse. For those who agree and those who disagree, Chomsky represents important challenges to American foreign policy that need to be addressed, given the country’s ongoing role in violent global affairs.

–John S

Moneyball – Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis is arguably the best nonfiction writer of the Aughts, and Moneyball is one of the best nonfiction books of the Aughts. Lewis made Billy Beane and sabermetrics (i.e. baseball statistical analysis) into a superstar and super-method. No other book has had as much effect on the general management of a sport than Moneyball has had on baseball. OPS shifted from undervalued to properly or even overvalued (and, you know what’s next) and teams continued to hire Art Howe (well, that wasn’t a good thing). More than simply chronicling Beane’s (general) managerial philosophy, Lewis extracted meaningful themes from it such as capitalism’s push for efficiency as reflected in baseball and overcoming the deleterious effects of dogmatic insiders.

–Josh

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Monday Medley

What we read while hiding our golf clubs…

  • Food is a big part of Thanksgiving. Which food that is, though, depends in part on what region of the country you’re from. Check out this “infographic” which shows where search queries for different Thanksgiving foods came from geographically.
  • Speaking of baseball and sabermetrics, as free agency hits, here’s an older piece from Patrick Brown of The Millions about baseball and its relationship with the Internet, including an in-depth analysis of gamecasts and the polarizing nature of J.D. Drew.

Is Billy Beane a Good GM?

Up until recently, the answer to this question would be quick: “Well, obviously.” The more relevant question had always been, “Is Billy Beane baseball’s best GM?”

Billy Beane runs the Oakland Athletics, a team in a small market with a low payroll (26th out of 30 in 2009), yet he managed to assemble a consistent contender, as the A’s made the playoffs four years running (2000-2003) and the ALCS in 2006. In that time, Beane became a mini-celebrity, thanks to being the subject of Michael Lewis’ 2003 best-seller Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. The book was so successful that a movie adaptation was slated to be made by Steven Soderbergh, with Brad Pitt playing Beane.

Recently, however, Beane’s reputation has started to suffer. The A’s have had two consecutive losing seasons since being swept in the ’06 ALCS, and in 2009 are on pace to have their worst season since Beane took over in 1998.

Now, it should be stated right away that this is not a polemical, anti-Moneyball tirade. The book, which detailed Beane’s use of so-called “sabermetrics” to identify undervalued players, garnered a lot of knee-jerk reaction and criticism, since Beane was seen as bucking tradition (which he was). Continue reading

Fielding Symposium Part I: Baseball’s Next Statistical Revolution?

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In Moneyball, Michael Lewis chronicles Oakland A’s general manger Billy Beane’s use of unconventional statistics (sabermetrics, using baseball-speak) to field a competitive team despite Oakland’s small budget.  The A’s found that statistics like on-base percentage (OBP) and slugging percentage were undervalued on the open-market, allowing Beane to sign and trade for better players at a lower cost. Due to the popularity of Moneyball and the increased popularity of sabermetrics more generally, these statistics are not nearly as undervalued as they used to be. So, what’s a general manager like Beane to do now? What methods of evaluating players are currently undervalued?

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