Nothing makes me roll my eyes more than when something bad happens with the A’s and some clever wag — often a print sports journalist who still bases his Cy Young vote on wins — makes some crack about “well, I guess “Moneyball” isn’t helping anymore, huh?” This is usually followed by chuckling, snorting and picking up the Andy Rooney book he had been reading, highlighter in hand.
The response to this, which has been obvious to anyone who actually read the book for several years, is that “Moneyball,” is not a synonym for “whatever Billy Beane is doing,” nor is it shorthand for “take walks, hit dingers.” Rather, it was a book that described the idea of finding market inefficiencies — which is something its author, the financial market experienced Michael Lewis, was exceedingly familiar — and applying it to baseball.
Anyone could do it, and for the past decade, everyone has been doing it. And, not soon after “Moneyball” was published, the idea of “take walks, hit dingers” ceased to be a market inefficiency because the very definition of a market inefficiency is something which has not been widely published in a best-selling book. By then it has become big bright information which, as everyone knows, is immediately gobbled up by the markets as soon as it is made big and bright. Which, by the way, is why you should never take your investing advice from books you can buy at the airport, but that’s another subject.
Which isn’t to say that there aren’t still market inefficiencies. There always will be because markets aren’t perfect and, at any given time, there will be ways in which the savvy can exploit those concepts which can’t be found in best-selling books.
I hadn’t read it until today, but Bill Barnwell tackled that topic over at Grantland last week. And, after making a longer and better argument out of the concept I mentioned above, set out to describe the many areas — aside from “take walks, hit dingers” — that teams are or should be trying to exploit. Like defense and bullpen usage and that sort of thing.
It’s a good piece if you have the time. But if you don’t have the time, at least enjoy this little nugget that would have been Quote of the Day fodder had I not wanted to write a little more:
Moneyball was about statistics and on-base percentage in the same way that the ‘77 punk revolution was about looking like Richard Hell; what was relevant and counterculture then is mainstream and comfortable now. Babies get mohawks now, and they come out of the womb knowing that Jeff Francoeur sucks. So what’s a small-market team to do now? Where are the market inefficiencies for them to exploit in 2011? What’s the new Moneyball?
Once again, Richard Hell shows us the way. So forget that [blank] generation that likes to make the dumb and easy “Moneyball” jokes. They’re going, going gone.