Moneyball – Baseball, Hockey and Edmonton

Had the chance to read Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game”. It follows the Oakland Athletics implementation of sabermetrics, a method of analyzing the game, which was developed by Bill James in the 1970’s. Using a small budget, compared to the Yankees and Red Sox, Athletics general manager Bill Beane used a number of James’ theories to not only find players, but also measure their performance.

Bill James sought to uncover an objective way to look at the game. He used statistical theories and methods to measure parts of baseball that were otherwise ignored. After producing and publishing “1977 Baseball Abstract: Featuring 18 Categories of Statistical Information You Just Can’t Find Anywhere Else”, James developed a small fanbase that steadily grew with each annual abstract.

According to Lewis (2004), two things happened that made the questions James raised more answerable and more valuable. One was the advancement in computer technology, which made compiling and analyzing data more efficient. The second event was the dramatic increase in player salaries (p. 72).

It’s important to note that the statistical analysis of baseball isn’t just a method of dissecting a game. It also isn’t about implementing a new way to measure performance. Sabermetrics is about challenging the existing wisdom and knowledge. It’s okay if a new or old theory doesn’t work. What’s important is that there is a tension from which new ideas and approaches can be formed. Across the web, there are thousand of discussions about which method is better. What it does show is that baseball fans are actively engaged with the game. Drew Balen of Great White North Baseball describes sabermetrics as “a lifestyle of asking questions and thinking about daily occurrences in non-traditional ways…it’s about the process of learning”. James discusses his approach further in an interview with Slate Magazine.

Edmonton Connection

It goes without saying that there’s a big community of Oilers hockey fans online. As mentioned by Gabriel Desjardins of Behind the Net, the Oilers data on his advanced statistics website receives the most hits compared to other teams.

During Billy Beane’s reign as GM of the Athletics, the organization had a minor league affiliation with the now defunct Edmonton Trappers. Is there a possible correlation between baseball analysis and hockey analysis in Edmonton? If sabermetrics is a process of learning, is it possible that baseball fans applied it to the game of hockey? The challenge would be to find baseball fans and determine what kind of networks they had as fans.

Lewis, M. (2004). Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Billy Beane. (2011, April 1). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 9, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Billy_Beane&oldid=421773445

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