Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

by Michael Lewis
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

by Michael Lewis


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Notes From Your Bookseller

As far as sports books go, it’s hard to do better. This is the book that covers the beginning of a new era of baseball--the era of advanced statistics. Even outside of the sports crowd, this is a fascinating read of innovation and reinvention in the face of unfairness.

Michael Lewis’s instant classic may be “the most influential book on sports ever written” (People), but “you need know absolutely nothing about baseball to appreciate the wit, snap, economy and incisiveness of [Lewis’s] thoughts about it” (Janet Maslin, New York Times).

One of GQ's 50 Best Books of Literary Journalism of the 21st Century

Just before the 2002 season opens, the Oakland Athletics must relinquish its three most prominent (and expensive) players and is written off by just about everyone—but then comes roaring back to challenge the American League record for consecutive wins. How did one of the poorest teams in baseball win so many games?

In a quest to discover the answer, Michael Lewis delivers not only “the single most influential baseball book ever” (Rob Neyer, Slate) but also what “may be the best book ever written on business” (Weekly Standard). Lewis first looks to all the logical places—the front offices of major league teams, the coaches, the minds of brilliant players—but discovers the real jackpot is a cache of numbers—numbers!—collected over the years by a strange brotherhood of amateur baseball enthusiasts: software engineers, statisticians, Wall Street analysts, lawyers, and physics professors.

What these numbers prove is that the traditional yardsticks of success for players and teams are fatally flawed. Even the box score misleads us by ignoring the crucial importance of the humble base-on-balls. This information had been around for years, and nobody inside Major League Baseball paid it any mind. And then came Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland Athletics. He paid attention to those numbers—with the second-lowest payroll in baseball at his disposal he had to—to conduct an astonishing experiment in finding and fielding a team that nobody else wanted.

In a narrative full of fabulous characters and brilliant excursions into the unexpected, Michael Lewis shows us how and why the new baseball knowledge works. He also sets up a sly and hilarious morality tale: Big Money, like Goliath, is always supposed to win . . . how can we not cheer for David?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393324815
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 03/17/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 21,089
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.82(d)

About the Author

About The Author
Michael Lewis is the best-selling author of Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, The Blind Side, The Big Short, The Undoing Project, and The Fifth Risk. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his family.

Date of Birth:

October 15, 1960

Place of Birth:

New Orleans, LA


Princeton University, B.A. in Art History, 1982; London School of Economics, 1985

Table of Contents

Chapter 1The Curse of Talent3
Chapter 2How to Find a Ballplayer14
Chapter 3The Enlightenment43
Chapter 4Field of Ignorance64
Chapter 5The Jeremy Brown Blue Plate Special97
Chapter 6The Science of Winning an Unfair Game119
Chapter 7Giambi's Hole138
Chapter 8Scott Hatteberg, Pickin' Machine162
Chapter 9The Trading Desk188
Chapter 10Anatomy of an Undervalued Pitcher217
Chapter 11The Human Element244
Chapter 12The Speed of the Idea263
Epilogue: The Badger281
Postscript: Inside Baseball's Religious War287

What People are Saying About This

Garry Trudeau

A brilliantly told tale....Michael Lewis's beautiful obsession with the idea of value has once again yielded gold.

Tom Wolfe

Moneyball is his grandest tour de force yet.


An Interview with Michael Lewis

Barnes & Moneyball concerns Major League Baseball's Oakland Athletics and the team's revolutionary general manager, Billy Beane. What made you want to write this book?

Michael Lewis: The realization first that the Oakland A's were working with so much less money than the teams they were beating. That follows on the fact that for players to become an Athletic, the players had to have something wrong with them (because the team could not afford the more expensive players). If there wasn't something wrong with them, they would not have been on the A's. When I realized they were this glorious collection of underdogs, I completely fell in love with this story.

B& What was the most compelling thing about Billy Beane, the A's GM?

ML: That he had this disastrous experience as a pro player and had set out as a GM to find players who were the opposite of himself.

B& What did Beane do as GM for the Oakland A's that was so different from what other GMs did?

ML: Well, he embraced a very new idea of baseball knowledge. If you rethought the game, you could find secrets about it and find inefficiencies about the game and the way players were valued. It was his willingness to think like an innovator in what is a very traditional sport that gave him an advantage.

B& How did he compensate for the team's small payroll -- one of the lowest payrolls in baseball -- to build teams that competed with and could defeat most of the teams that had payrolls over $100 million?

ML: By finding undervalued players and by not paying the market price for superstars. Billy Beane makes his living off the misperceptions of baseball players that other general managers have. He is always selling players at a high price and buying them too cheaply.

B& How has Beane influenced baseball and the big-spending teams like the Yankees and Red Sox?

ML: The Oakland model has had two obvious consequences: The Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox are now reinventing themselves in the tradition of the A's. When the A's consider a player, they look closely at on-base percentage. So, on-base percentage is becoming something people are paying attention to. Also, they look at the hitter's discipline. Other than that, the Oakland attitude really has not spread to other teams. If you study it, you can find new knowledge, and you can do well. Most other franchises just do what they always used to do.

Baseball is actually a very screwed-up industry. I was a mole inside a front office and clubhouse. The response from other organizations to the Oakland method is outrage. Where else would that happen in any industry? Other industries would welcome the change. In baseball, there is resistance to the idea that someone knows something everybody else does not know. People who evaluate baseball players, the scouts, generally, are motivated by their desire to preserve their good standing within the fraternity. They don't want to make waves.

B& How did Beane use numbers in a way that was so revolutionary?

ML: The Oakland A's built a model to explain where runs came from. Lots of people outside baseball did this, but people inside baseball didn't do it. In their model, they said walks, singles, doubles, and triples each have a certain effect on run production. They assigned weight to each kind of event. They tested this model. If they have so many of this or that, they have so many runs by the end of the year. These various components have extreme value. Walks are a lot more valuable than people thought. The A's can find players who are otherwise unexceptional, except for walking, and insert them into the lineup. It's analysis, not numbers alone.

B& What was the most challenging thing about writing this book?

ML: It was breaking down the resistance in the clubhouse and getting to know the players. Hanging around among naked men. I needed to get more than quotes, needed to visit them in the off-season. That was hard to do.

B& What was it like talking to Beane and the players?

ML: It was exhilarating, because I felt like I was seeing this completely novel approach in building a baseball team from the inside. I did it in a season. The team broke a 50-year-old record for consecutive wins in the American League (20). It was exhilarating. It took a while for them to understand what I was doing. Writing this kind of a book is a bit like dancing. You have to get used to your partner. It was awkward at first, but then it became natural.

B& What particularly impressed you about baseball culture, so to speak, in the Major Leagues?

ML: Nobody talks with anybody else. Huge amounts of communication are nonverbal. I could tell the front office things that it didn't know about what players were thinking, and vice versa. There is so much information that is not exchanged. This is what happens when muscular men gather. It is not cool to talk.

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