Bill James and Baseball

Posted on July 16, 2014 · Posted in Newsletters

“People in both fields operate with beliefs and biases. To the extent you can eliminate both and replace them with data, you gain a clear advantage.” ― Michael LewisMoneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

In the book Moneyball, Lewis spends a considerable part of the beginning of the book explaining the work of Bill James and how his ground breaking research demonstrated why baseball should be viewed through a different set of statistics than were then employed at the time.  Much of the rest of the book is devoted to Billy Beane and how he employed these findings in creating a winning franchise with the Oakland A’s despite their extraordinarily modest budget.

What is most amazing about Lewis’ book is its effect on the management of baseball teams after its revelations concerning how to better measure players and teams.  In essence, very little.  Beane began to utilize James’ statistics in the late 1990s, about twenty years after James’ Abstract was first published.  Outside of Beane, the only other notable change is John Henry of the Boston Red Sox who hired James in 2003.  With these new techniques and Henry’s large player budget, the Red Sox have gone on to win the World Series in 2004, 2007, and 2013.  In an efficient market, this knowledge would be incorporated by most participants (coaches, managers and owners) and its effect would slowly disappear.  On last check, Billy Beane and the A’s have compiled a .617 winning percentage in the current season, placing them at the top of the American League.

So what accounts for this anomaly?

Click here to read more.