Tuesday, June 12, 2007


One of the books I received as a gift for my birthday was Michael Lewis' Moneyball, the new textbook on how to run a professional baseball team. Written in 2003 this book (and the philosophies contained therein), while by no means universally accepted, has changed the face of major league baseball.

Michael Lewis is a former Wall Street investment banker with expertise in market inefficiencies. This expertise makes him the ideal communicator for the "radical" ideas of the Oakland A's management team and the Bill James/sabermetrics foundation on which they are based. For lack of a better comparison, imagine if the author of Freakonomics ran a major league baseball team.

The main idea of the book is that baseball has traditionally placed too much value on the wrong things (stolen bases, batting average, home runs, and defense, among others) and not enough emphasis on what the A's consider the right things (on base percentage and slugging). Since baseball traditionalists place value on those "wrongs things," players with those characteristics are overpriced in the marketplace and players with these new "right" characteristics are undervalued. This is how the A's, with baseball's 2nd lowest payroll, have been able to remain consistently competitive- by taking advantage of what they consider to be an inefficient marketplace. They even adopted a new batting statistic to more efficiently evaluate the success of hitters, OPS (on-base + slugging). It is now widely accepted the best indicator of individual offensive production. I won't bore you with the analysis, but it is rather convincing.

The book has been a huge success not only because it is an interesting read about baseball, but because the central message is one that people in walks of life would like to be able to take advantage of. Surely there are areas in my business and in my personal life where I have placed too much value on the wrong things and undervalued the right things. If I can properly identify those "inefficiencies" and make the appropriate changes I can be more successful and spend less resources (time, talent, treasure) in the process.

So, not to sound like a bad preacher, but "what are the inefficiencies in your life?" In other words, where in your life do you overvalue the wrong things and undervalue the right things, and how can you change that? I have been asking myself that question since I finished the book on Sunday. I'm not going to pretend that I have the answer to that yet, but I'm working on it.

1 comment:

Rob said...

loved that book...and never made that connection....very interesting and well thought out.