Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

by Michael Lewis


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

The Oakland Athletics have a secret: a winning baseball team is made, not bought.In major league baseball the biggest wallet is supposed to win: rich teams spend four times as much on talent as poor teams. But over the past four years, the Oakland Athletics, a major league team with a minor league payroll, have had one of the best records. Last year their superstar, Jason Giambi, went to the superrich Yankees. It hasn't made any difference to Oakland: their fabulous season included an American League record for consecutive victories. Billy Beane, general manager of the Athletics, is putting into practice on the field revolutionary principles garnered from geek statisticians and college professors. Michael Lewis's brilliant, irreverent reporting takes us from the dugouts and locker rooms-where coaches and players struggle to unlearn most of what they know about pitching and hitting-to the boardrooms, where we meet owners who begin to look like fools at the poker table, spending enormous sums without a clue what they are doing. Combine money, science, entertainment, and egos, and you have a story that Michael Lewis is magnificently suited to tell. About the Author

Author of the bestsellers Liar's Poker, The New New Thing, and Next, Michael Lewis is also a columnist for Bloomberg News. He lives in Berkeley, California.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393324815
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 03/17/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 27,542
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Michael Lewis is the best-selling author of Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, The Blind Side, The Big Short, and The Undoing Project. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife and three children.

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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Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 448 reviews.
tsmom1219 More than 1 year ago
Moneyball is way more entertaining than it has any right to be. It follows the story of the low-budget Oakland A's and their unorthodox general manager Billy Beane as they use statistics and the scientific method to succeed against teams with much larger payrolls. Lewis is a very entertaining writer, at times laugh out loud funny, who has turned what could have been a very dry subject into a real page turner. I read this in one day, which is unusual for me with non-fiction. Highly recommended, especially in the dead of winter when the beginning of baseball season seems so far away.
gvanmeter More than 1 year ago
I'm neither a fan of baseball or statistics, but Michael Lewis has the ability to explain both of them in such a compelling way, I couldn't put it down. I read it after watching the movie, and found a much more nuanced chronicle in the book. Well worth the read, especially if you enjoyed the movie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book Moneyball is about a professional baseball player, Billy Beane, who was a good player in high school and college. Out of college, he was drafted by Oakland Athletics. Beane decided he wanted to become the General Manager of the A¿s after he had played for them for a few years. As a player, he learned that he did not want to be an actual baseball player; he wanted to be the person who picked the players that would make the team. When he became the General Manager for the Oakland Athletics, he developed a strategy to form a baseball team out of players that other teams did not necessarily want. Beane used players¿ high school and college statistics to choose the good players that he wanted and ones that would sign for less money.
Though there were many parts that I liked and disliked, one of the big things that I liked about this book was that it taught me a new way to look at how baseball players are chosen for a team. It showed me what coaches look for in a strong player and that it¿s not necessarily all talent; it is how many runs they produce, bases they steal. Even though this book is really good, the language is not appropriate for young readers, it contains inappropriate words. The hardest part about this book was understanding all the numbers and formulas he used. Since there were so many numbers, it distracted me from what the book was actually about, how he built the Oakland A¿s. That was the only dislike I really had reading this book. Other than the numbers, the book was really interesting.
I believe the main message in this book is that you don¿t have to be the richest team to get the better players for your team. Even though the Oakland A¿s pay roll was really low compared to the Yankees huge pay roll, the A¿s knew the best way to make a good team without spending a lot of money on players. Beane used player statistics to find who the best players were and ones that would sign for less money.
I would suggest this book to a specific group, people who like baseball and math. This book is all about numbers, probability, playing and managing baseball. It was a great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rick489 More than 1 year ago
This was the best book relating to sports that I've ever read. It gives great insight into how one team (the Oakland A's) used unique decision making to compete against teams with grossly larger payrolls. I especially liked the behind the scenes look it gave to some of the tough evaluations that need to be made by a professional sports team's front office, and the untraditional formulas employed by Billy Beane and his staff to reach them. While I cant imagine any baseball fan not enjoying this book, I would suggest that it a good read for the nonsports fan as well, as many of the ideas discussed in relation to running a basball team can be correlated to just about any form of businees.
Charles F Canfield Jr More than 1 year ago
I am not a baseball fan at all, personally, I think the sport is downright boring. However, I throughlly enjoyed this book. It has rekindled my interest in baseball. I know find myself watching games anf paying attengion to stats.
Tony72 More than 1 year ago
I purchased my nook never having been much of a book reader at 38, but in the hopes of becoming one. This was the 1st book I downloaded and finished it in less than a week. It kept my attention that much and i have been known to have the attention span of a gnat. It's not just a book about baseball, but about business economics, evaluating talent and an individuals character as well. Inviting people to think outside the conventional wisdom. I would recommend it to anybody. Baseball fan or not.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good story, well written and an entertaining intro to baseball stats.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book teaches you the importance of baseball. Its very emotional and sensative.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books iv ever read
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Whoever wrote boring most likely did not read it
Grayle Kendall More than 1 year ago
I really like this book. Great for baseball fanatics.
TwinsfanLR More than 1 year ago
A look at one of the poorest teams in baseball, the Oakland A's, and how their general manager Billy Beane makes them contenders every year. It shows you how they scout, draft, and play the game, only to name a few things. He does things his way, and nobody is going to change that, and he does them well. One of the most criticized books in the baseball world since Ball Four, and a real winner. Lewis is an extraordinary writer who should do sports as much as he does Walstreet. A MUST read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the film so thought I'd try the book. Great for fans of baseball everywhere!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If your a baseball fan with an outsiders perspective of the game, its a must read. My only concern is that we only received insight to part of who Billy Beane really is.
JoeVerde More than 1 year ago
Baseball, I love. Statistics... I could leave. Lewis somehow makes both halves of this book interesting. Don't get me wrong, it's not really a book about crunching numbers... it's a story about the science behind a sport, the brains who take that science to the next level, and the brawns who sometimes dogmatically resist them. A very interesting read.
AndrewTLePeau More than 1 year ago
Moneyball is the kind of book (as was the movie) that you can love even if you aren't interested in baseball. It's a David and Goliath story. It's story of calcified tradition vs. gritty innovation. It's a story of rising from the ashes. David and Goliath? The Oakland A's are one of the least wealthy teams in baseball with a player payroll a fraction of teams like the Yankees. Yet they regularly outperform many superwealthy teams. How do they do it? Tradition vs. Innovation? Twenty years ago scouts relied mostly on how a player looked (tall, dark and handsome) or on less-than-consequential metrics (like footspeed or even RBIs). No more. Now on-base-percentage is all the rage. Steals and sacrifice bunts are at historic lows across the league. The book tells the fascinating tale of why, and of the pioneers who broke free and transformed a very traditional game. Rising from the ashes? Billy Beane was one of the most impressive high-school prospects of the last fifty years. Yet he had an unhappy, mediocre major league career that often found him on the bench. He was thus the perfect person to transform how players were selected and used on the field, with the Oakland A's as his laboratory. He was a victim of scouts who and of a system that persisted in selecting talented but untested high schoolers even though they failed in the major leagues at a much higher rate than successful college players. As a result, Beane was had no qualms about demolishing it. Who would have thought twenty years ago that a word like "sabermetrics" would become central to major league baseball chatter? But now, fifteen years after Moneyball first popularized that term, big data rules the game. Sure there is push back that it has been overdone and some teams don't buy in, but the genie is not going back in the bottle. When it comes to New Baseball, the last two World Series champions--the Cubs and the Astros--were all in. Here is the story of how a game was transformed.
Dana-Clary More than 1 year ago
Almost every baseball or softball player I know is riddled with superstitions, beliefs that they get stuck in. Moneyball is a glimpse into the world of baseball and the games relentlessness in traditional beliefs, even if they have been proven to be hindrances or that more effective strategies have been discovered. The author, Michael Lewis, writes about Billy Beane’s unconventional tactics of turning the Oakland A’s into a winning team within his tenure as general manager, despite their lack of money and resources. Beane, with much help from Paul DePodesta, uses statistics to find undiscovered Major League Baseball (MLB) stars. Instead of evaluating rookies based off their physique, as traditionally done, they find statistics that none have thought of before, encompassing what it actually takes to make it in the big leagues. I was expecting the book to be dominated with formulas and statistical jargon, however I was pleasantly surprised to find that was not the case. Instead, Michael Lewis tells the story of the Oakland A’s in a way that makes sure that the reader knows that the methods that Beane and DePodesta use are not just a theory, but was essentially an experiment that they reaped the benefits from. Lewis didn’t just explain the methods behind the experiment, but illustrated the story of the experience, making it real to the reader. As someone that is a casual baseball follower, I find the book to be insightful in regards to the workings of the MLB world. I’ve come away with a better understanding of the game itself and with a slice of its history that proved to be revolutionary. The book doesn’t just teach the audience about what happened, but also tells the tale of how it happened. I would recommend Moneyball to anyone that wants to learn about what makes a good player, a good team, and a good story.
Golfer18 More than 1 year ago
Tossing Tradition to the Side Moneyball is a fantastic tale of making it big off of a small opportunity. Billy Beane, the manager of the Oakland A's, decides to toss the typical way of recruiting to the side and base it off a few simple statistics (On base percentage and slugging percentage).  Michael Lewis does a great job at turning a relatively boring topic into a great read. Lewis did a great job showing the ego that Billy Beane carries by attempting to change baseball forever. This book inspires you to face problems head on no matter the difficulty. Everyone searching for a fantastic story of defeating the odds should read Moneyball. The book earns a perfect 5 out of 5.
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