1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Good reading, with a little too much game details for a non-fan of baseball,
This review is from: Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (Hardcover)
Let me start with a disclaimer: I'm not a fan of baseball. I don't even understand all the rules of the game.
This book however, is not only about baseball. Even though it has a few chapters that were, for me, a bit hard to follow because of the technical jargon and game details, it still was an enjoyable and instructive reading experience. If you approach the book simply as a an account of what goes on off the baseball field, such as drafting new players, negotiating contracts, etc... you'd be missing the gist of it. You'd be even missing as well it if you read it just as a historical account of a bunch of players or teams.
I believe the main idea of the book is about the opportunities that are inherently present in an inefficient market for anyone who can can grasp these inefficiencies, and approach them with rationality. It's invariably the most critical, but least explicit, factor in any successful business venture to address some inefficiency in the market, often illustrated in general economic terms as creating supply where there is unsatisfied demand. And this book shows how it turned out to be a critical factor in managing a baseball team as well. In particular, when drafting new skills, looking for undervalued players is the equivalent to looking for undervalued companies in the stock market.
Michael Lewis illustrates in this book how Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A's, has decided to challenge the traditional approach to drafting in baseball, which is largely based on cursory observations by the team's scouts as they travel the country trying to catch potential players playing one or two games at most, and which inevitably leads to decisions swayed largely by appearances (individual charm, as Lewis puts it), subjective impressions, and, as the books stresses repeatedly, the urge to preserve the image of the individual making the decision among his (apparently, "her" has no role here) peers. The combination of these factors characterizes the irrational decisions that Billy Beane and his assistants challenged. Lewis traces back this line of thought back to 1977 when a guy named Bill James self-published his first Baseball Abstract, effectively giving birth to the discipline of sabermatics, the analysis of baseball through objective statistics. From there, Lewis traces a brief history of how this line of thought developed into a full-fledged science and an industry, and how the Oakland A's made use of these ideas to become one of the most successful teams in the history of baseball, on a fraction of the budget of some of their competitors.
If you're a fan of baseball, this is definitely a book you will find thrilling and enjoyable. If you're not, you will still find it interesting, if you read it with an open mind. It's a well written book overall, and it succeeds in bringing the thrill of the game to the reader.