The father of sabermetrics, Bill James was an amateur sports journalist who, in the late 1970s, began self-publishing a legendary series of annual treatises on baseball. James’s great insight, Michael Lewis argues, was to realize that traditional sports statistics, such as batting averages, give wildly misleading ideas about a player’s talent. This observation reveals that ballplayers are often dramatically over- or undervalued. James’s shrewd observations and humorous writing style made him a cult figure in the 1980s and 90s. But, incredibly, the vast majority of baseball managers, general managers, and team owners ignored his findings, continuing to base their operations on old-fashioned, deeply flawed ideas of how baseball worked. It wasn’t until Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta took control of the 2002 Oakland A’s draft that a baseball team fully put Bill James’s ideas into practice.

Bill James Quotes in Moneyball

The Moneyball quotes below are all either spoken by Bill James or refer to Bill James. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Statistics and Rationality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the W. W. Norton & Company edition of Moneyball published in 2004.
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:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Moneyball quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Get the entire Moneyball LitChart as a printable PDF.

Bill James Character Timeline in Moneyball

The timeline below shows where the character Bill James appears in Moneyball. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3: The Enlightenment
Statistics and Rationality Theme Icon the game. Billy’s excitement grew after Alderson referred him to a writer named Bill James. James’s ideas led Billy far away from the pressures of professional baseball and toward a... (full context)
Chapter 4: Field of Ignorance
Statistics and Rationality Theme Icon
Bias Theme Icon
Bill James, the father of sabermetrics (and the man who coined the word), was the rare kind... (full context)
Statistics and Rationality Theme Icon
Bias Theme Icon
James proposed a new sports statistic that could help GMs make intelligent decisions with their players:... (full context)
Statistics and Rationality Theme Icon
Bias Theme Icon
Between Chadwick and James, there had been periodic attempts to rethink baseball statistics. But it wasn’t until James’s lifetime... (full context)
Statistics and Rationality Theme Icon
One of James’s most important contemporaries was a pharmaceutical scientist named Dick Cramer. Cramer’s most famous idea was... (full context)
Statistics and Rationality Theme Icon
Bias Theme Icon
...that people began petitioning Major League Baseball to publicize player statistics. Dick Cramer and Bill James started a business called STATS Inc., the purpose of which was to measure and publicize... (full context)
Statistics and Rationality Theme Icon
...process of becoming a mainstream movement; indeed, Sports Illustrated wrote a feature article on Bill James. Also around this time, sports fans were becoming more interested in fantasy league teams, reflecting... (full context)
Statistics and Rationality Theme Icon
As time went on, James became increasingly frustrated with the slowness of professional baseball and its disrespect for the mathematics... (full context)
Chapter 5: The Jeremy Brown Blue Plate Special
Statistics and Rationality Theme Icon
Bias Theme Icon
...Beane had become GM of the Oakland A’s, and he’d read a lot of Bill James. He agreed with James’s argument that college players were a far better investment than high... (full context)
Chapter 10: Anatomy of an Undervalued Pitcher
Statistics and Rationality Theme Icon
Psychology and Talent Theme Icon was a paralegal named Voros McCracken, who, like Paul, was a fan of Bill James. McCracken realized that Chad was actually one of the most talented ballplayers in the sport.... (full context)
Chapter 11: The Human Element
Psychology and Talent Theme Icon
Back in the eighties, Bill James argued that psychology always pulls winners down and builds the losers up. Here, tonight, the... (full context)