Michael Lewis, the author of Boomerang, Liar's Poker, The New New Thing, Moneyball, The Blind Side, Panic, Home Game and The Big Short, among other works, lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, Tabitha Soren, and their three children.
I never understood nor really liked baseball. I bought the book mostly to read about the inspired use of statistics, and the creative thinking that went into looking for the real keys to victory. I can safely say that while I may not have fallen in love with baseball, I will never find it boring again. If you have someone you want to turn into a fan, this book a superb gift option. The amount of detail in this book--for example, just the description of the strike zone and what different pitches and batters do to narrow the zone, what can be known about specific individual propensities and vulnerabilities associated with that little box, are truly inspirational.
This is a really excellent book. If we managed the national security budget the way Billy Bean managed the Oakland A's, we'd have faster better cheaper military hardware, and a lot more plowshares. I was also impressed by the way in which Billy Bean built a team, in which players who might not have been individual stars excelled at setting up others in a true team effort where the group as a whole is stronger than the sum of the parts. Others have written better reviews from a baseball fans point of view--as a non-baseball fan, I can attest to this book's being an "aha" experience.
Lewis, who previously wrote some of the best books on Wall Street's go-go '80s (Liar's Poker) and Silicon Valley's go-go '90s (The New New Thing), here turns his attention to professional baseball. Now, I should preface this by saying that I used to love baseball and these days it doesn't interest me much at all. There was a time when I was a total stats geek, I bought all the Bill James abstracts, played tabletop games, etc., but a combination of playing in college and the escalating money completely turned me off to the game. I knew this was supposed to be a good book but had no intention of reading it until Nick Hornby's rave review in his column in The Believer. I figured if one of my favorite British novelists liked the book, there must be something to it. I picked it up and within ten pages I was totally hooked.
The basis for the book is the question of how the Oakland A's, one of baseball's poorest teams as measured by payroll, managed to win so many games in the first few years of the new millennium. Lewis's potentially boring answer revolves around inefficiencies in the market for players, but he weaves this story around the A's General Manager, Billy Beane. Now, if you have some axe to grind with Beane, you might as well not read the book, 'cause Lewis tends to be rather fawning in many places. Still, Beane's own background and mediocre career form the perfect framework upon which to build this story about evaluating baseball talent. Beane was a hugely athletic, "can't miss" prospect, who turned down a joint football/baseball scholarship from Stanford to sign with the New York Mets out of high school. His pro career turned out to be utterly undistinguished, and this disconnect is what drove him to seek new methods of scouting and evaluating baseball talent.Read more ›
For a former baseball player Billy Beane is a rare bird as a baseball GM. He used real baseball statistics, the kind the sabermetricians use to make great trade and bring a strong team back to Oakland. He had a great advantage over other GMs because he took advantage of their ignorance and tendencies to rely on the somewhat biased eyes of basebll scouts. What Michael Lewis did with this book was to show the world of baseball how Billy Beane did it and now I am sure that other GMs like Brian Cashman at New York and Theo Epstein in Boston are catching on. I don't know how much Steve Phillips put into action when he was the Mets GM. His lack of great success there indicates that he [robably didn't follow it enough. But now as an ESPN commentator he definitely mentions it. This book si so good that the term moneyball now means the strategy that Billy Beane used. So the title of this book became a baseball term! This book is a must for managers, general managers and owners of professional baseball teams. It is also great for the fans and the fantasy baseball enthusiasts.
Along with Mike Schell's books and the ones like "Curve Ball" written by Albert and Bennett this is one of the most thoughtful and scientific books on the game of baseball, how to win at it and how to build a successful team. The other books I mentioned were written by professional statisticians. It is the great success of the statistical science of sports, sabermetrics that we are now witnessing a scientific and statistical approach to baseball and other sports that had been lacking for many years.Read more ›
I can't recommend this book highly enough. Not only is it the first look inside the most successful franchise - sure, there's the Yankees, but when historians look back, it will be Beane's A's that are remembered as the innovators. Even non-baseball fans will enjoy the crisp writing and phenomenal story-telling. Lewis' previous books are a high standard, but Moneyball may be even better. I'm still amazed that Beane allowed so much access - either Lewis is every bit as persuasive as Beane or Beane has something up his sleeve! The true star of the book may end up being Paul DePodesta, who will likely be the next great GM, following JP Ricciardi and Theo Epstein as "Beane Counters" and likely the men that saved baseball. I can't speak for the rest of Baseball Prospectus, but this has to be the best baseball book not written by us in the last decade.
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