Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game is a 2003 book by Michael Lewis. The book follows the 2002 Oakland Athletics season with a focus on the front office and their analytics based approach to building a baseball team.

Moneyball was highly regarded at the time of its release and led to a whole new generation of baseball fans who took a greater interest in the statistics of the game. The book portrays Billy Beane, his assistant Paul DePodesta and their staff as ahead of the curve as they work their way through the 2002 season. While the Yankees, Red Sox and other teams of their ilk have a ton of money at their disposal to build their team, the Athletics don’t have that luxury and have to find other ways of building the team.

The way that they build a competitive team is through advanced statistics and a focus on OPS, which is on-base percentage added together with slugging percentage. The team throws the old statistics out the window and builds their team with math. The results are there as the Oakland A’s make the playoffs in the season covered in the book.

Michael Lewis also tells the story of certain players and how they were affected by this way of doing things such as Scott Hatteberg who makes the transition from catcher to first base in the book and has a great second career from that point forward.

Michael Lewis Sports Books

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (2004) Shop at Amazon
The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game (2007) Shop at Amazon
Coach: Lessons on the Game of Life (2008) Shop at Amazon

Other Michael Lewis Books

Liar's Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street (1989) Shop at Amazon
The Money Culture (1991) Shop at Amazon
Pacific Rift: Why Americans and Japanese Don't Understand Each Other (1993) Shop at Amazon
Losers: The Road to Everyplace but the White House (1998) Shop at Amazon
The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story (1999) Shop at Amazon
Next: The Future Just Happened (2001) Shop at Amazon
The Real Price of Everything: Rediscovering the Six Classics of Economics (2008) Shop at Amazon
Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood (2009) Shop at Amazon
Panic!: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity (2009) Shop at Amazon
The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine (2010) Shop at Amazon
Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World (2011) Shop at Amazon
Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt (2014) Shop at Amazon
The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds (2016) Shop at Amazon
The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy (2018) Shop at Amazon

About the 2002 Oakland Athletics

The 2002 Oakland Athletics were focused on because they had just lost former MVP Jason Giambi to the Yankees and many people thought that their mini-run of competitiveness was over. The team’s plan to replace him is the main focus of the book.

The book has gained some criticism for glossing over what the 2002 Athletics were best known for – their rotation. Barry Zito won the 2002 Cy Young award that season while Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder made up the other part of the “Big Three” as they were known at the time.

The team not only had the Cy Young award winner, but also the MVP in Miguel Tejada. Funnily enough, Tejada didn’t even rank in the top ten of OPS that year and was mostly given that award based on the type of statistics that the book posed as bad. His 34 homeruns and 131 RBIs to go with a .308 batting average were impressive, but nowhere near close to the value that Jim Thome, Alex Rodriguez or Jason Giambi put up that year. Miguel Tejada would go on to leave the team after the 2003 season.

As detailed in the book, the team went on an AL-record 20-game winning streak that season that carried them back to the playoffs. They won the division, but would end up losing the Twins in the first round in five games.

About the Author

Micheal Lewis has a background in the financial world and his first book was about the mortage-backed bonds, Liar’s Poker. He’d continue to write about the financial world in The New Thing before writing Moneyball. He is perhaps best known for his 2010 book The Big Short which covered the housing bubble crash during the 2000s. He also dabbled in sports writing again to pen The Blind Side, which is about the evolution of football strategy and the importance of a good left tackle, focusing on a young Michael Oher. Lewis has had three of his books adapted into movies.

Moneyball Adaptation

Moneyball was adapted into a film in 2011. The movie was directed by Bennett Miller and written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. The film stars Brad Pitt as Billy Beane with Jonah Hill playing “Peter Brand” who is the movie version of Paul DePodesta. The movie was well-received by critics and was a minor hit at the box office.

The book was also parodied on the Simpsons in the episode MoneyBART that features Lisa taking over managerial duties of Bart’s little league team.

Other Books You May Like

Big Data Baseball: Math, Miracles, and the End of a 20-Year Losing Streak by Travis Sawchik is another great book about a poor team using advanced analytics to build a winning team. Long after Moneyball, OPS and other stats are now the law of the land. The Pirates focus on infield shifting and catcher framing helps lead them to the playoff after a long, long time away.

The Extra 2% by Jonah Keri is another great books about general managers and team building. The Rays may be even poorer than the Athletics or Pirates so their front office had to get real creative in building a winner. Their solution was simple: bring Wall Street strategies to Major League Baseball.

Moneyball Podcasts

Effectively Wild: A FanGraphs Baseball Podcast: If you are interested in the world of baseball analytics then you need to check out Effectively Wild with hosts Ben Lindbergh, Meg Rowley, and Sam Miller. The show gets deep into the world of analytics while keeping a light heart and often covering some off-the-wall portions of the world of baseball.

Against the Rules with Michael Lewis: Fans of The Blind Side or Moneyball absolutely need to check out Michael Lewis’ podcast. The podcast does a great job of combining real life stories with sports stories in a way that talks about how we live in today’s society. The podcast has seasons covering the role of coaches and referees in today’s society, both in and out of sports.