Book & Movie Review

Moneyball is the third Michael Lewis book that I’ve read this year, but this time it’s accompanied by a movie. Lewis has quickly become one of my favorite authors, mainly because he is a good storyteller, but also because he is good at bridging the gap between economics and the world that we know and experience. In Moneyball, Lewis focuses on the flaws of player evaluation in baseball, and how the general manager of the Oakland A’s, Billy Beane, changed the game on a shoestring budget.

For those of you who have not seen the movie or read the book, I will not ruin it for you. The gist of the plot, though, is that a man named Bill James thought of a new way to look at the game of baseball. James noticed that many of the player abilities that baseball teams paid top dollar for were not the abilities that made the most difference in the game. James dedicated his life to the study of baseball statistics, now known as SABRmetrics. He wrote several books on the ways that baseball could be improved, and how the game valued the wrong components in its players. James eventually gained quite a following, and his research made its way to the ears of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s. Beane was in a position to actually put James’ theories into play. The Oakland A’s had a problem, though – their budget was one-third the budget of larger teams like the Yankees. In baseball, big money buys big players, and big players win games. This was the situation facing Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s.

The most interesting part of Moneyball is how applicable these theories are to so many aspects of life, and I can even see how it connects to what we’re learning in business school. Lewis compares Beane’s use of Bill James’ theories to the implementation of stock derivatives, but they could easily fit almost anything – sports, shopping, finance, transportation – the list goes on. Moneyball is economic theory neatly tied up in a baseball package, and really is quite a story.

The movie and its cast were nominated for several academy awards, which might give you some idea as to the quality of both the acting and the story. Read the book, then watch the movie. I am willing to bet that by the time you have, you will understand the beauty and complexity that is the game of baseball.