Moneyball

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the W. W. Norton & Company edition of Moneyball published in 2004.
Chapter 1 Quotes

When things did not go well for Billy on the playing field, a wall came down between him and his talent, and he didn’t know any other way to get through the wall than to try to smash a hole in it. It wasn't merely that he didn’t like to fail; it was as if he didn’t know how to fail.
The scouts never considered this. By the end of Billy’s senior year the only question they had about Billy was: Can I get him?

Related Characters: Billy Beane
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Lewis discusses the early baseball career of Billy Beane, a once-talented athlete who, after being drafted by the Mets, floundered in the minor leagues and never lived up to his potential. As a high school player, Billy wowed professional talent scouts: they thought he was a sure-fire major-leaguer. However, beneath his impressive plays and charisma, Billy was insecure and couldn’t cope with failure, no matter how small. When he made a mistake, he’d allow his failure to tarnish the rest of his game, instead of moving past the mistake as the best athletes do.

One of Lewis’s insights here is that Billy’s psychological profile was as important as his physical profile to his success, a fact that the scouts couldn’t see. Naively, they assumed that Billy would be fine as a major league player, even though he wasn’t psychologically mature enough for big-league play. The traditional scouting system, Lewis suggests, is severely flawed: it focuses too much on an athlete’s big, impressive plays, and not enough on the athlete’s endurance, determination, or maturity. Years later, as General Manager of the Oakland A’s, Billy is inspired to institute a new, sabermetric approach to drafting and acquiring players, recognizing that, as evidenced by his own career, the traditional scouting methods don’t always work.

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Chapter 2 Quotes

There was, for starters, the tendency of everyone who actually played the game to generalize wildly from his own experience. People always thought their own experience was typical when it wasn't. There was also a tendency to be overly influenced by a guy's most recent performance: what he did last was not necessarily what he would do next. Thirdly—but not lastly—there was the bias toward what people saw with their own eyes, or thought they had seen. The human mind played tricks on itself when it relied exclusively on what it saw, and every trick it played was a financial opportunity for someone who saw through the illusion to the reality. There was a lot you couldn't see when you watched a baseball game.

Related Characters: Paul DePodesta
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, we’re introduced to Paul DePodesta, the man who used a sabermetric player acquisition strategy for the Oakland A’s during their 2002 season, rather than listening to the advice of talent scouts. DePodesta came from a sports background, but he’d also studied economics, and he realized that, by studying an athlete’s overall record of play, general managers could identify players for their holistic talent and get a good idea of how they’d perform in major league games. Before 2002, the Oakland A’s had sometimes used a limited sabermetric approach to player acquisition, but this approach had always been balanced out by the strong influence of old-fashioned talent scouts.

As the passage suggests, the management of the Oakland A’s was severely set back by the scouting system—in particular, three main sources of bias. When trying to identify good athletes, talent scouts ignored statistical record altogether—instead, they trusted what they saw with their own eyes. The athletes they selected had to wow them with big, impressive plays and, ass a result, scouts sometimes neglected steady, reliable players who ultimately performed better as professional athletes. Paul realized that by eliminating bias from the scouting system—trusting the numbers instead of his own senses—he could assemble a formidable baseball team while also saving a fortune.

There was no avoiding just how important the 2002 amateur draft was for the future of the Oakland A’s. The Oakland A’s survived by finding cheap labor. The treatment of amateur players is the most glaring of the many violations of free market principles in Major League Baseball. A team that drafts and signs a player holds the rights to his first seven years in the minor leagues and his first six in the majors.

Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

Necessity is the mother of invention, and one reason that Paul DePodesta instituted a new sabermetric strategy for the Oakland A’s is that the Oakland A’s were a poor team that needed to save money. In 2002, the conventional wisdom held that big teams, because of their higher budgets, could afford the most highly-valued (and therefore the best) players, and thereby ensure the team’s success throughout the season. Paul, recognizing the need to find budget players, realized that, in fact, some of the best players in the league were stranded in the amateur draft because they didn’t meet talent scouts’ arbitrary definition of talent. Therefore, by drafting and signing secretly talented players, the Oakland A’s could assemble a great team and save lots of money.

In many ways, the Major League Baseball world is an economic market like any other. As Lewis points out here, baseball franchises survive by buying players before they become famous, and then continuing to pay them far too little for years to come. There’s nothing glamorous or noble about the Oakland A’s practice of hiring cheap players and exploiting them for cash—Paul and Billy aren’t trying to do right by the players; they’re just trying to make their team financially viable.

"He's the only player in the history of the SEC with three hundred hits and two hundred walks," says Paul, looking up from his computer.
It's what he doesn't say that is interesting … He doesn't explain why walks are important. He doesn't explain that he has gone back and studied which amateur hitters made it to the big leagues, and which did not, and why. He doesn't explain that the important traits in a baseball player were not all equally important. That foot speed, fielding ability, even raw power tended to be dramatically overpriced. That the ability to control the strike zone was the greatest indicator of future success. That the number of walks a hitter drew was the best indicator of whether he understood how to control the strike zone.

Related Characters: Paul DePodesta (speaker)
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Lewis discusses one of the most important underrated statistics in baseball: walks. Traditionally, people don’t think of a walk as a sign of success. If a player walks to first base, most people would argue that it’s because he’s failed to hit the ball. But from a purely statistical perspective—i.e., from Paul’s perspective—a walk is a success because it gets more men on base. Therefore, he encourages the A’s general manager, Billy Beane, to hire as many players with high numbers of walks as possible. Before 2002, the Oakland A’s used some sabermetric management strategies, but in Moneyball, Paul essentially gets a “free reign” over the Oakland A’s, and encourages Billy to emphasize certain statistics, such as walks, that haven’t played a major role in A’s management before.

Paul’s advice is indicative of his unglamorous, rational approach to baseball. Walks aren’t traditionally impressive, but the fact remains that they’re useful to the team in the long run. Unburdened by tradition or bias, Paul assembles a team that isn’t particularly impressive to the untrained eye, but which wins a record number of games over the course of the 2002 season.

Chapter 3 Quotes

"Baseball organizations don't understand that with a certain kind of highly talented player who has trouble with failure, they need to suck it up and let the kid develop," Dorfman said. "You don’t push him along too fast. Take it slow, so his failure is not public exposure and humiliation. Teach him perspective—that baseball matters but it doesn't matter too much. Teach him that what matters isn't whether I just struck out. What matters is that I behave impeccably when I compete. The guy believes in his talent. What he doesn't believe in is himself. He sees himself exclusively in his statistics. If his stats are bad, he has zero self-worth. He's never developed a coping mechanism because he's never had anything to cope with."

Related Characters: Harvey Dorfman (speaker), Billy Beane
Page Number: 53-54
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Lewis discusses Billy Beane’s baseball career: a career marked by failure, disappointment, and the inability to live up to potential. There are many possible reasons why Billy never became a great professional athlete, but most of the explanations for Billy’s burnout that Lewis offers hinge upon Billy’s inability to cope with the psychological pressures of Major League Baseball. As the Mets’ psychologist, Harvey Dorfman, argues, the Mets didn’t prepare Billy for the stresses of professional play: they just naively assumed that he’d be well-equipped for pro ball based on his physical skill.

The passage is important because it suggests that, in some ways, being extremely talented and charismatic is a liability in the long run. Talented professional athletes command a lot of attention, and scouts have high expectations of them. As a result, some talented prospects burn out early and crack under the pressure to succeed. Years later, perhaps confirming Dorfman’s ideas, Beane assembles a team for the Oakland A’s that consists almost entirely of underdogs who, slowly and steadily, proceed to dominate their league.

Since the late 1970s the A’s had been owned by Walter A. Haas, Jr., who was, by instinct, more of a philanthropist than a businessman. Haas viewed professional baseball ownership as a kind of public trust and spent money on it accordingly. In 1991, the Oakland A’s actually had the highest payroll in all of baseball. Haas was willing to lose millions to field a competitive team that would do Oakland proud, and he did. The A’s had gone to the World Series three straight seasons from 1988 to 1990.
Deferring to success became an untenable strategy in 1995.

Related Characters: Walter A. Haas, Jr.
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

The rise of sabermetrics in Major League Baseball coincided with the rise of sports franchises as major moneymakers. For example, in the case of the Oakland A’s, one of the first franchises to use sabermetrics extensively for drafting and acquiring players and for determining team strategies, the team needed to start generating income. In the past, under the leadership of owner Walter A. Haas, the goal of the Oakland A’s wasn’t to make money, but rather to provide pride and entertainment to the people of Oakland. However, under its new leadership, the Oakland A’s needed to sell tickets and save money through wise resource allocation. Ultimately, Paul DePodesta instituted sabermetric strategies because he recognized the necessity of maximizing profits by spending as little money as possible to acquire good players.

Chapter 4 Quotes

The statistics were not merely inadequate; they lied. And the lies they told led the people who ran major league baseball teams to misjudge their players, and mismanage their games. James later reduced his complaint to a sentence: fielding statistics made sense only as numbers, not as language. Language, not numbers, is what interested him. Words, and the meaning they were designed to convey. "When the numbers acquire the significance of language," he later wrote, "they acquire the power to do all of the things which language can do: to become fiction and drama and poetry.”

Related Characters: Bill James (speaker)
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

In Chapter Four, we learn about Bill James, the father of sabermetrics. James was an important influence on sabermetrics because he knew enough about mathematics to recognize that traditional baseball statistics, such as batting average, were wildly misleading. Statistics, he argued, became so fetishized over time that they became more important to the players than winning games. Furthermore, general managers made important, million-dollar decisions based on their analysis of player statistics—however, too often, they made their decisions based on the wrong statistics. James’s goal as a sports writer was to expose some of the traditional biases in sports stats, and replace those biases with an accurate, mathematical system for evaluating players’ strengths.

James’ innovations were important because they emphasized that general managers were overvaluing and undervaluing certain players, and that statistical analysis, if done correctly, could correct general managers’ errors. Years after Bill James began writing about baseball, Paul DePodesta used some of James’s ideas to identify which players were undervalued and then buy those players at bargain rates.

By the early 1990s it was clear that "sabermetrics,” the search for new baseball knowledge, was an activity that would take place mainly outside of baseball. You could count on one hand the number of "sabermetricians" inside of baseball, and none of them appears to have had much effect. After a while they seemed more like fans who second-guessed the general manager than advisers who influenced decisions. They were forever waving printouts to show how foolish the GM had been not to have taken their advice.

Page Number: 89-90
Explanation and Analysis:

The strange thing about the sabermetric revolution—the period, beginning in the late 1970s, when average Americans had access to statistics about baseball, and used those statistics to analyze general managers’ decisions—was that it took a long time for this new knowledge to influence the actual management of professional baseball. Amateur players and baseball fans loved studying statistics, but the actual general managers of sports franchises continued with the same strategies they’d used for decades previously.

Lewis doesn’t give one clear reason why general managers ignored sabermetrics for so long. Perhaps there was a strong anti-intellectual bias in the sports world, and perhaps baseball insiders had other factors to consider, such as entertaining the public (for example, a glamorous, impressive player who occasionally hit home runs might sell more tickets than a solid, unglamorous player who, sabermetrically speaking, was a more valuable team member). However, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Oakland A’s began applying sabermetrics to the player acquisition process and showed that sabermetrics could not only create a formidable team; it could also create a popular and entertaining team that people would pay to see.

Chapter 5 Quotes

Jeremy Brown, owner of the University of Alabama offensive record books as a catcher, had been so perfectly conditioned by the conventional scouting wisdom that he refused to believe that any major league baseball team could think highly of him.

Related Characters: Jeremy Brown
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we’re introduced to one of the most unlikely players on the Oakland A’s: Jeremy Brown. Jeremy isn’t a very impressive player, at least not traditionally speaking. He’s overweight, slow, and generally incapable of wowing the talent scouts. However, Paul DePodesta uses sabermetrics to prove that Jerry is actually one of the most impressive players in baseball—he just doesn’t fit with the traditional profile of how a great player looks and acts. Most surprisingly, Jeremy has been surrounded by traditionally-minded scouts for so long that he doesn’t even think of himself as a great player, even though he is. During his time with the Oakland A’s, coaches shape Jeremy into one of the most impressive players in the entire league, proving that sabermetrics can identify great players who would otherwise be ignored by Major League Baseball.

A revaluation in the stock market has consequences for companies and for money managers. The pieces of paper don't particularly care what you think of their intrinsic value. A revaluation in the market for baseball players resonates in the lives of young men. It was as if a signal had radiated out from the Oakland A’s draft room and sought, laserlike, those guys who for their whole career had seen their accomplishments understood with an asterisk. The footnote at the bottom of the page said, "He’ll never go anywhere because he doesn't look like a big league ballplayer."

Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Michael Lewis gives an overall evaluation of the sabermetric revolution in baseball management that occurred in the early 2000s. Thanks to the policies of Paul DePodesta and the success of the Oakland A’s in the 2002 season, other sports franchises gradually realized that they, too, should be using sabermetrics to evaluate players’ abilities, rather than relying on the testimony of experienced but ultimately unreliable talent scouts who based their decisions on superficial factors (such as appearance, or performance in a small handful of games). It’s no coincidence that many of the players drafted by the A’s in 2002, don’t look like professional athletes in the slightest—they’re overweight and uncharismatic, and therefore undervalued in the economy of the draft. It's a mark of the shallowness of the traditional drafting system that scouts overlooked so many gifted ballplayers simply because of their appearances.

Chapter 6 Quotes

Volcker was also the only commissioner with a financial background. To the growing annoyance of the others, he kept asking two provocative questions:
1. If poor teams were in such dire financial condition, why did rich guys keep paying higher prices to buy them?
2. If poor teams had no hope, how did the Oakland As, with the second lowest payroll in all of baseball, win so many games?

Related Characters: Paul Volcker
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

In the 1990s, the Major League Baseball organization set up a commission whose purpose was to study the economic inequalities in the sport. One of the people appointed to the commission was the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Paul Volcker. Volcker recognized that, as most everybody knew, Major League Baseball was wildly unfair. The biggest, richest teams had the budget to afford the best players, and, as a result, they made more money and got bigger in the long run. However, Volcker also recognized that some small, underfunded teams, such as the Oakland A’s, did very well in spite of their poorness—why?

In many ways, Volcker’s question dominates the entire book. As we come to see, the traditional system for evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of ballplayers is highly misleading: some excellent players aren’t valued very highly at all, while others are overvalued. The result is that, at times, franchises like the Oakland A’s can identify gifted players that fly under the radar of wealthier teams, such as the New York Yankees, and assemble a great team that doesn’t cost much money. The premise of Volcker’s question is that the economy of baseball is operating efficiently: the A’s use of sabermetrics showed that this premise was false.

The system then carved up what happened in every baseball play into countless tiny, meaningful fragments. Derivatives. "There are all sorts of things that happen in the context of a baseball play," said Armbruster, "that just never got recorded."

Related Characters: Jack Armbruster (speaker)
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Lewis describes the system of derivatives, which was invented in the 1980s on Wall Street. Derivatives are a way of selling stocks and futures by dividing them up into tiny fractions and bundling those fractions together into one Frankenstein’s monster of a stock. In much the same way, Paul DePodesta, who’d studied economics in college and knew about derivatives, treated players as bundles of different statistics: batting average, runs batted in, walks, etc. Paul was inspired by the example of Jack Armbruster, a former Wall Street trader who turned to studying baseball in the late 1990s. Armbruster developed a system whereby every single action in a ball game—right down to walks, steals, and catches—could be measured in terms of runs. Armbruster based this system on the derivatives market.

The beauty of Armbruster’s system is that it measures everything in baseball very, very precisely in order to paint a perfect picture of a player’s ability. When a player makes a catch, for example, Armbruster’s method allows statisticians to measure that catch’s overall contribution to the game. However, Armbruster’s method could be considered dehumanizing for baseball players: instead of treating athletes as irreplaceable, larger-than-life figures—as most baseball fans would be inclined to do—his method conceives of players as interchangeable and, in a way, disposable.

Chapter 7 Quotes

The A’s front office realized right away, of course, that they couldn't replace Jason Giambi with another first baseman just like him. There wasn't another first baseman just like him and if there were they couldn't have afforded him and in any case that’s not how they thought about the holes they had to fill. The important thing is not to recreate the individual," Billy Beane would later say. "The important thing is to recreate the aggregate.”

Related Characters: Billy Beane (speaker), Jason Giambi
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

In Chapter Seven, the Oakland A’s try to solve a major problem: replacing their star player, Jason Giambi, who’s left for a more lucrative contract with another team. The A’s try to use the derivatives method pioneered by Jack Armbruster to replace Giambi, and the core of this strategy is that they should try to replace Giambi’s statistics, not Giambi himself. In other words, they should try to find multiple players who, when their stats are combined, resemble Giambi’s own statistical record. As Billy puts it, the A’s are trying to recreate the aggregate, rather than find another Jason Giambi.

The beauty of the A’s strategy is that it finds a creative, scientific solution to a difficult problem—replacing a talented, beloved (and expensive) player. But, as with the derivatives method in general, the A’s strategy is dehumanizing: it treats Giambi as a mere collection of numbers and stats who can be replaced with comparable stats.

Justice walked a lot. Just a few years ago Justice's ability to wait for pitches he could drive—to not get himself out by swinging at a pitcher's pitch
–had enabled him to hit lots of home runs, too. Much of his power was now gone. His new Oakland teammates witnessed his dissipation up close. After he'd hit a long fly ball, Justice would return to the A’s dugout and say, matter of factly, "That used to be out." There was something morbid about it, like watching a death, play-by-play.
The A’s front office didn't care. They sought only to milk the last few ounces of superior on-base percentage out of David Justice before he expired.

Related Characters: David Justice
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we learn about David Justice, a formerly impressive ballplayer who’s now a little past his prime. Justice has been acquired by the Oakland A’s, and, though he assumes it’s because he’s a talented hitter, that’s not the reason that the A’s brought him on. On the contrary, the A’s acquire Justice because he’s phenomenal at getting on base—an underrated talent in Major League Baseball, at least in 2002, which Paul exploits to the great advantage of the team.

As with many other passages in Chapter Seven, this passage is almost cruel in the way it describes Billy and his colleagues cynically manipulating Justice for their own profit. Justice is fairly well-paid (although, as Lewis makes clear, the A’s pay him far less than he’s worth), but the general manager and team manager mislead him into thinking he’s more talented than he really is. The A’s managers’ strategy is, as Lewis acknowledges here, morbid.

Chapter 8 Quotes

Billy Beane wanted him to hit. Hatteberg told his agent to cut a deal with Oakland: one year with a club option for a second with a base salary of $950,000 plus a few incentive clauses. The moment he signed it, a few days after Christmas, he had a call from Billy Beane, who said how pleased he was to have him in the lineup.
And, oh yes, he'd be playing first base.

Related Characters: Billy Beane, Scott Hatteberg
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

At the beginning of Chapter Eight, Billy Beane has signed a one-year contract with Scott Hatteberg, an unpopular, unglamorous player who nonetheless has a superb on-base percentage (i.e., he has a lower than normal probability of getting an out). Billy signs Hatteberg to the A’s, but he doesn’t tell Hatteberg why, exactly, he’s signed him. As a result, Hatteberg is confused about what he’s supposed to be doing for the A’s. He’s assigned the position of first baseman, which is surprising since Hatteberg can barely throw anymore—he’s had a bad accident in the past, and his right arm isn’t in good shape at all.

Billy’s strategy in the 2002 season is novel because it involves players taking positions for which they have little training or talent. However, in the long term, Billy’s strategy works out. Even though Hatteberg isn’t much of a first baseman, it’s worth it: playing first base means that Hatteberg gets to hit, which further means that Hatteberg is almost guaranteed to get on base and help the A’s win the game.

By late l996 he was in the big leagues for good. Once he arrived however, he faced another challenge: the idiocy of the Boston Red Sox. His cultivated approach to hitting—his thoughtfulness, his patience, his need for his decisions to be informed rather than reckless—was regarded by the Boston Red Sox as a deficiency. The Red Sox encouraged their players' mystical streaks. They brought into the clubhouse a parade of shrinks and motivational speakers to teach the players to harness their aggression. Be men!

Related Characters: Scott Hatteberg
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:

In Chapter Eight, we learn about Scott Hatteberg’s career in the big leagues; at the same time, we learn a lot about the incompetence of traditional baseball coaching. During Scott Hatteberg’s time playing ball for the Red Sox, for instance, he’s told to swing at more pitches, even though doing so drastically weakens his performance and hurts the team overall. Scott’s greatest asset as a hitter is his caution: he doesn’t swing at the first pitch, and, as a result, he almost always hits the ball or gets a walk. However, the Red Sox coaches think that walks are for cowards and weaklings, and they virtually force Hatteberg to play more recklessly.

Professional baseball, Lewis suggests, is heavily biased toward a showy, reckless style of play that doesn’t always result in wins. Part of the reason that the Oakland A’s were so successful in 2002 was that they didn’t play recklessly: instead, they favored mature hitters like Hatteberg who waited before swinging at the ball. In the long run, thanks to Hatteberg and his teammates, the Oakland A’s steadily accumulated a record number of wins.

Chapter 9 Quotes

The moment he hangs up he calls Mark Shapiro, current owner of Ricardo Rincon, and tells him that he has the impression that the market for Rincon is softening. Whoever the other bidder is, he says, Shapiro ought to make sure his offer is firm.

Related Characters: Billy Beane, Mark Shapiro
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:

In this impressive and somewhat comical scene, Billy Beane negotiates with multiple general managers (GMs) simultaneously. Billy is trying to trade some of his lesser players to other teams and acquire good players in return. Here, Billy is trying to acquire a talented, popular player named Ricardo Rincon from Mark Shapiro, the GM of the Cleveland Indians. In order to convince Shapiro to trade Rincon to the A’s—and not the many other teams clamoring for Rincon—Billy tricks the Giants’ GM into hedging on his (the Gants GM’s) negotiations with Mark Shapiro. Convinced that Billy will be the most reliable market for Rincon, Shapiro agrees to trade Rincon to the A’s rather than the Giants.

The passage is entertaining, because it allows us to see Billy at his finest: quick-thinking, charismatic, and effortlessly persuasive. Indeed, the passage confirms something Lewis suggested about Billy’s athletic career: Billy’s real passion was always managing baseball, not playing it. As a GM, Billy gets a chance to flex some mental muscles that he never got the chance to use in a professional game.

In his youth he might have mouthed off. He would certainly have borne a grudge. But he was no longer young; the numbness had long since set in. He thought of himself the way the market thought of him, as an asset to be bought and sold. He'd long ago forgotten whatever it was he was meant to feel.

Related Characters: Mike Magnante
Page Number: 216
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of this chapter, Billy Beane is finished trading his players. As a result, one of the Oakland A’s athletes, Mike Magnante, is told that his big-league career is effectively over—Billy doesn’t need him anymore. Magnante isn’t angry with this news, though—he’s so used to being treated like an asset to be bought or sold that he accepts his GM’s decision.

The passage is one of the clearest evocations of how professional sports dehumanizes its athletes. Billy doesn’t show any loyalty to Mike Magnante because loyalty would interfere with Billy’s ability to make the smartest, most mathematical choice. Instead of protesting against Billy’s callousness, Magnante seems to accept it: he accepts that he really is useless to the A’s at this late stage in his career.

Chapter 10 Quotes

The White Sox GM … told Chad that his pitches weren’t moving like they used to move. He was sending Chad down to Triple-A. Chad didn’t have the nerve to say what he thought but he thought it all the same: My ball doesn't move? But all I have is movement! When he got to Triple-A, a coach assured him that his ball moved as it always had, and that the GM just needed something to tell him other than the truth, that the White Sox front office viewed him as a "Triple-A guy."

Related Characters: Chad Bradford
Page Number: 233-234
Explanation and Analysis:

In Chapter Ten, we meet Chad Bradford, yet another unlikely player for the Oakland A’s. Bradford has never been a fan-favorite during his games—he simply doesn’t look the part of an athlete. Indeed, during Bradford’s time with the Chicago White Sox, he was transferred out of the big-league team, in spite of his excellent record as a pitcher, and told that he was better suited for the Triple-A team (the best minor league team).

Lewis strongly suggests that Chad is sent back to the minor leagues because he doesn’t look the part of a professional athlete, not because he’s a lackluster pitcher. In traditionally-managed baseball teams, looks, charisma, and glamor are often more important assets than outright talent. The Oakland A’s try to correct for these longstanding biases in pro sports by hiring unglamorous athletes who, sabermetrically speaking, are some of the best in the country.

At length, he penned an article revealing his findings for baseballprospectus.com. Its conclusion: "There is little if any difference among major league pitchers in their ability to prevent hits on balls hit into the field of play.”

Related Characters: Voros McCracken
Page Number: 239
Explanation and Analysis:

As late as the 1990s, sabermetrics-savvy sports fans are making incredible discoveries about the game. One of these fans, a man named Voros McCracken, publishes an article in which he argues, in the face of a hundred years of baseball consensus, that there’s no such thing as a pitcher who’s especially good at preventing hits when he pitches into the field of play (i.e, out of the strike zone, over the plate). For decades, coaches and fans believed that a good pitcher was one who could pitch over the plate so quickly and accurately that hitters would be unable to return the ball. McCracken argues— correctly, as it turns out—that all major league pitchers can throw the ball over the plate quickly, meaning that a hitter’s ability to return the ball has nothing to do with the pitcher himself.

That McCracken could make such a major discovery about baseball so late in the 20th century proves that baseball is a highly conservative, traditional-minded game, in which overturning the consensus is difficult if not impossible. It also shows the unpredictability of baseball. Though this finding is statistical, it’s a statistic that actually shows that the relationship between a batter hitting or missing a good pitch is essentially random. Therefore, this finding shows that sabermetrics, while it makes the game more mathematical, can never remove the excitement and spontaneity of the sport.

Chapter 11 Quotes

This was the character whose behavior was consistent with the way he said he wanted to run his baseball team: rationally. Scientifically. This was the "objective" Billy Beane, the general manager who was certain that "you don't change guys; they are who they are." Who will describe his job as "a soap box derby. You build the car in the beginning of the year and after that all you do is push it down the hill." To this Billy Beane's way of thinking there was no point in meddling with the science experiment … But there is another, less objective Billy Beane … And he allows me to see that the science experiment is messier than the chief scientist usually is willing to admit.

Related Characters: Billy Beane (speaker)
Page Number: 249
Explanation and Analysis:

In Chapter Eleven, Billy Beane faces one of the most stressful games of his career as general manager of the Oakland A’s. If the A’s win this game, they’ll set an all-time league record for most consecutive wins. As Lewis sees it, Billy’s attitude on the night of the game exemplifies some of the contradictions in his character. On one hand, he likes to say that he’s very logical and rational about baseball: he makes smart, economic decisions instead of letting his emotions get the better of him. On the other hand, Billy is obviously an emotional guy: he becomes emotionally invested in his team’s success and failure, and it shows.

The final words of the paragraph, about the “science experiment” being messier than most would admit, illustrate an interesting tension in the book. Sabermetrics is a powerful science, which allows people like Paul DePodesta to take a lot of the randomness out of baseball. At the same time, sabermetrics doesn’t take all the randomness out of the game—baseball remains an exciting, edge-of-your-seat competition between world-class athletes. By the same token, Billy Beane takes a scientific approach to the sport, but he remains emotionally invested in the outcomes of individual games.

Chapter 12 Quotes

Coaches, players, reporters: everyone at once starts to worry that the Oakland A’s don't bunt or run. Especially run. Billy Beane's total lack of interest in the stolen base—which has served the team so well for the previous 162 games—is regarded, in the postseason, as sheer folly. Even people who don't run very fast start saying that "you need to make things happen" in the postseason. Take the action to your opponent. "The atavistic need to run," Billy Beane calls it.

Related Characters: Billy Beane (speaker)
Page Number: 269-270
Explanation and Analysis:

After the A’s win a record number of games in the 2002 season, their success should speak for itself. However, instead of drawing the obvious conclusion—that the A’s sabermetric strategies are revolutionizing the game of baseball—other baseball insiders’ first reaction is to question the A’s strategy and suggest that the A’s won so many games because they were lucky.

Right away, it should be obvious that the A’s didn’t win because of luck. Teams may win individual games because they’re lucky, but they don’t win twenty consecutive games due to sheer random chance. Nevertheless, it’s easier for coaches, players, and reporters to believe that the Oakland A’s strategies are “sheer folly.” Baseball insiders have very clear ideas about how the game should and shouldn’t be played. Rather than give up on some of these ideas as outdated superstitions (which is what the Oakland A’s success has proven them to be), baseball insiders compensate by criticizing the A’s performance in 2002.

"I made one decision based on money in my life—when I signed with the Mets rather than go to Stanford—and I promised I'd never do it again." After that, Billy confined himself to the usual blather about personal reasons. None of what he said was terribly rational or "objective"—but then, neither was he. Within a week, he was back to scheming how to get the Oakland A’s back to the playoffs, and Paul DePodesta was back to being on his side.

Related Characters: Billy Beane (speaker), Paul DePodesta
Related Symbols: The 2002 Playoffs
Page Number: 280
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the book, Billy gets a shot at an incredible contract with the Boston Red Sox: he has the opportunity to manage the team for more than twelve million dollars over the course of five years, a record for professional baseball. At first, Billy is excited about the prospect being a highly paid general manager for the Red Sox, but in the end, he chooses to remain on as the general manager of the Oakland A’s.

Billy’s explanation for his surprising decision is tantalizingly vague. He claims that he didn’t want to make a decision purely for the money—i.e., he didn’t want to manage the Red Sox, a team he didn’t really care about, just because they wanted to pay him a lot. But Billy doesn’t explain why he chose to remain with the A’s instead of transferring to another team. It’s not clear if Billy was motivated by loyalty to his team and his players, a desire to win a World Series with the A’s, or some other reason. Nevertheless, his decision not to leave the A’s brings the book full circle from where it began—with Billy’s decision to sign with the Mets. Billy is fond of saying that after signing with the Mets, he never made another decision purely for the money. Billy honors his promises to himself and he remains with the A’s.

Epilogue Quotes

Everybody's laughing at him again. But their laughter has a different tone. It's not the sniggering laughter of the people who made fun of his body. It's something else. He looks out into the gap in left center field. The outfielders are just standing there: they've stopped chasing the ball. The ball's gone. The triple of Jeremy Brown's imagination, in reality, is a home run.

Related Characters: Jeremy Brown
Page Number: 286
Explanation and Analysis:

In the epilogue of the book, Michael Lewis describes one incredible play by Jeremy Brown. In the game, Brown hits the ball hard into the crowd, but he assumes it’s going to bounce back into the field. In the meantime, he hustles to first base and slips. Embarrassed, Jeremy gets up and realizes that, contrary to what he expected, he’s just hit a home run.

In many ways, the passage is symbolic of the Oakland A’s new approach to baseball. Jeremy Brown isn’t the most graceful ballplayer in the league—he slips in the dirt, after all. But Jeremy is, without a doubt, one of the most successful and talented players in the league, even if his plays aren’t always that beautiful to watch. By using sabermetrics so extensively, Paul DePodesta has ushered in a new generation of ballplayers like Jeremy, who lack conventional baseball talent and polish but who still succeed at the sport. Moreover, as the passage—with its deft mixture of comedy and drama— proves, sabermetrics isn’t going to ruin baseball, as some people have claimed. Instead, sabermetrics creates ballgames that are fun, entertaining, and surprising to watch.

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