Liveblogging 'Moneyball' Underway

Fed up with the misconceptions and generalizations surrounding ‘Moneyball’ I decided to spend a whole day re-reading the book and live-blogging my experience.

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41 Responses to Liveblogging 'Moneyball' Underway

  1. dan says:

    hahhaha wow Eric, this is a fantastic idea. It’s really pointless since you could just review the chapters all at once, but it’s much more action-packed this way. I think you can safely say that you are the first person to ever live-blog a book, and for that I say congratulations, sir.

  2. Minda says:

    This is either awesome or completely insane. Nah, screw that, it’s *both* awesome and completely insane. Good luck; I’m looking forward to reading this beast.

  3. Haha, this is what happens when you’re angry and have nothing to do on a Wednesday. I have to play basketball to warm my eyes up for this bad boy.

  4. […] Seidman at Statistically Speaking is liveblogging his re-reading of Moneyball. Yeah, that’s pretty much what it sounds like: I am going to spend today re-reading Moneyball […]

  5. dan says:

    So far so good Eric. Since Joe Morgan refuses to read the actual book, maybe someone can get him to read this.

  6. Wow, I went to look at the time and all I saw was Scott Hatteberg’s OBP numbers. What I dislike about Joe Morgan’s stance on this isn’t that he finds it invalid, but that he won’t even give it a chance. In any situation wherein I feel I am right I will definitely at the very least give credence or Creedence Clearwater Revival, to something trying to prove I am wrong.

  7. Minda says:

    MUST HAVE MORE. Seriously, this is pretty awesome; it could serve as a primer for those who are interested in non-traditional stats but are to ashamed to tell their wives and coworkers.
    You could throw in a few more shameless book plugs, if you really want to. Also, I have pretty much LOLed every time you say “Lewis (not Beane)”.

  8. Haha, glad everyone’s enjoying it. It’s REALLY time-consuming so I would hope it’s going well. I want to wait a little before I post the conclusion to everything, but I found it fascinating how there were only a few instances of overtly discussing scouting inefficiencies.
    Lewis (not Beane) was something I did the first two chapters and then realized, why not, people are STILL going to insist Beane wrote this book so maybe the repetition will work.

  9. Justin says:

    I’ve gotta say, I really enjoyed this. I found myself checking back throughout the day to read your updates. Thanks for this.

  10. What’s the verdict? Should I do one of these each month?

  11. Minda says:

    My verdict: I’ll stick with my earlier assessment of an all-caps MUST HAVE MORE. This was pretty awesome (or “ballin,” as some crazy Nebraskans might say). What other books might you do?

  12. Not even sure. I don’t want to kill the idea since it seemed pretty new and creative. Maybe one every now and then if I find something interesting. I am really into baseball history and, while my upcoming book deals with sabermetrics, I’m in collaboration right now with a relative of former MLB pitcher Bucky Walters (who would have won 3 Cy Young Awards had the award been around in the 30’s and 40’s) to write a book about not only Bucky but his grandson’s pursuit to get into the HOF.
    The historical books I like to read are quite lengthy so it would preferably be one shorter. I don’t think I could read a 520 page, 10-inch fonted, Walter Johnson biography in 10 hrs.

  13. This was awesome. It was great to really see your perspective on the book and the issues it raised, and I would definitely be interested in seeing you apply this sort of treatment to other baseball books.

  14. Thanks, Jessica. It’s just very annoying how so many people, especially those with most of the power, can ignore and downright refute the validity of some of this stuff. Of course there is more to baseball than stats–which is what makes it so great–but to completely ignore the statistics because a guy “has a good body” or has “the good face” is ludicrous.
    The best possible evaluative method would combine both, which is what teams are finally starting to do. It’s okay to favor one over the other but not to completely ignore one.

  15. dan says:

    I laughed out loud reading this line:
    “All Lewis (not Beane) did was discuss how Beane (not Lewis) decided to change things around due to their financial limitations.”
    I imagine this project took more out of you than you first expected. I think that if you decide to do more of these, it would have to be a controversial book like Moneyball. For a normal book, reading chapter summaries would be like reading sparknotes.

  16. Haha yeah. I wouldn’t do this unless there was really a point to it. Definitely took a lot out of me, which is one of the reasons it pisses me off how some people at Baseball Think Factory are nit-picking.

  17. dan says:

    Jesus, I just read the BTF thread… not sure what crawled up their asses. They obviously didn’t see the original paragraph that you’ve since deleted (“tomorrow at noon eastern time, I, Jackie Moon, will wrestle a bear”)

  18. Cardsfanboy didn’t bother me; that’s fine. The ‘philly’ guy is just annoying. I’m picturing a balding, 50-yr old, fat guy in his mom’s basement. Oh well. Such is life. I wish I could say stuff like that doesn’t get to me, but it does at times.

  19. Minda says:

    Oh, I went and read the BBTF discussion too. I’m pretty sure you could duct tape your argument to a sledgehammer, and hit that Philly guy with it, and he would still be unaware of what your actual point was. But he’d reiterate (maybe with a different set of unrelated quotes) what he thought you meant, and why he’s so up-in-arms about it. (So basically, I can see why stuff like this gets to you at times.)
    Ahh, the dear sweet Internet.

  20. Yeah, I see his point, but is it really worth going crazy over? Just have fun with something like this.

  21. Shane says:

    Eric, this was great and I’d love to see you do it with other books. Moneyball is a book that I’m interested in reading, but is low on my list of actually buying to read :).
    Also, what is the BBTF thread? Did I miss something?

  22. Shane, no, didn’t miss anything. I don’t even want to talk about it anymore as it was overblown, haha. Somebody just took exception with my summary of Chapter Five because I did not mention something, though the reasoning was that I had mentioned it in Chapter Two. That’s all.
    I’ll be posting a review of Geoff Young’s Ducksnorts 2008 Annual tomorrow or Saturday which I suggest any baseball fan buys.

  23. Evan (runner of this site) suggested I do one of these down the road on Canseco’s book “Juiced.” Thoughts?

  24. This a great idea Eric. I’m glad you shared your thoughts with us, and I enjoyed learning more about a book that I too have yet to read.
    I do feel there is some cherry picking being done here, as to who or what is correct regarding Beane’s strategies. Beane is a good-to-great GM, and has gained more notoriety than maybe he deserves because of this book (you can debate that somewhat, I mean without Moneyball is Beane a legend?).
    It’s still amazing to me that a general manager who has never taken his team to a World Series is widely considered the best in the game.
    I know money rules the roost in most instances, but I find it funny how quickly terrible A’s seasons aren’t scrutinzed in the least because of the “holier than thou” reputation of Beane.
    Also, his right hand men (DePo and Riccardi) haven’t succeeded either in their own right. DePodesta had the analytical skills no doubt, but you have to be personable as a leader of a team, which he failed at.
    Also, Riccardi has seemingly turned against these theories as he’s sunk tons of $ into mediocre players. Interesting, but in the end I feel this whole movement, while extremely valuable in how we view the game, has had far less success than people seem to give it credit for.

  25. One of the keys to the book is how much of a leader and personable guy Billy Beane is – there is even something about his philosophy on picking up women. He likes to tell women he cleans roadkill off the road because that way they will not be influenced by how he works in baseball/was a player.

  26. Tim Daloisio says:

    Juiced would be interesting…also John Fienstiens upcoming book about Glavine and Mussina last season. Others to consider: Last night of the Yankee Dynasty by Buster Olney, Chasing Stienbrenner by Rob Bradford.

  27. Tim, since it takes so long to do this, I want to avoid anything that is merely historical. As much as I love Mussina (half of a chapter in my upcoming book talks about him) and as much as I like the other two books you mentioned (very well-written) I feel like they would fall into Dan’s comment, about being sparknotes. Juiced or other books like that, if anyone has suggestions, could take on more of a Fire Joe Morgan approach, which would be funnier, and keep me more sane.

  28. Jeff Kallman says:

    Maybe someone ought to have a whack at a blow-by-blow of Mind Games, particularly since it chronicles a team (the 2004 Boston Red Sox) that executed precisely what you say (and I said a few years earlier, when reviewing that book in tandem with Scout’s Honor about the Atlanta Braves—taking my own heat from elsewhere for my trouble)—melding the numbers to the makeups, taking each equivalently, when it comes to player evaluation.

  29. That sounds like a good idea. I actually just finished reading “Built to Win” the book by John Scheurholz and in it he dedicates a whole chapter to explaining how, while he does not rely on sabermetrics, it is not as if he is an old-timer and ignores statistics or does not treat them as importantly; and that is a common misconception of people like me and the stats-community.

  30. Jessica, “Three Nights in August” is one of my favorite books of all time. Buzz Bissinger is, how we say, the man… though I am biased because he’s a Philly guy. He wrote the book Friday Night Lights which then became, in my opinion–and I’m sure others will debate it–the greatest sports movie ever made, from all possible facets. Story, cinematography, screenplay, acting, you name it. I’m a professional screenwriter and this is the type of movie I wish I could have been a part of.
    Back to the topic, though, the fact that Joe Morgan wrote Baseball for Dummies is what really bothers me. Joe Morgan the player was tremendous, but anyone that is completely closed-minded should not be allowed to author a tutorial book.

  31. I can understand where the resistance to sabermetrics is coming from among former players who put up less-than-outstanding numbers. But when a great player like Joe Morgan goes out of his way to dismiss the sort of analysis that explains why players like him were so valuable, it’s just sad.

  32. Jeff Kallman says:

    Eric–Baseball for Dummies could have been worse. It could have been written by Tracy Ringolsby . . . ;)—Jeff

  33. Jeff Kallman says:

    Jessica—Imagine if it had been Henry Aaron or Yogi Berra and not Joe Morgan. Aaron would have first had to explain how he could have resented the sabermetric analysis that rates him as perhaps the single most consistent great player of all time. And Yogi would have first had to explain (and you know how much fun that would be!) how he could resent a sabermetric or near-sabermetric analysis (Allen Barra, in fact, has done one) that rates him as (yes, you could look it up) the greatest team player of all time in any sport.—Jeff

  34. Jeff/Jessica,
    The book I’m writing that is going to come out end of April/beginning of May is designed to show that not all sabermetrics is intimidating. One of the major reasons people dislike statistical analysis is that they are “afraid” of it. They feel everything is these crazy Good Will Hunting formulas, when in reality, that is a small percentage of it. I mean, the Bill James game score? That’s an incredible stat, takes 2 minutes to calculate, and tells you a ton. That’s the type of things I discuss – stats/formulas of mine as well as other ideas to explore sabermetrics-style that are non-intimidating and fun to do. It’s called “Bridging the Statistical Gap” because I hope it does just that – show non-statgeeks that you need not be a statgeek to enjoy statistical analysis.
    Oh, and Kevin Collazo from Take the 7 Train is making some amazing illustrations for the book, too.

  35. Didi says:

    This is excellent. I’ve been forgetting most of the details in the chapters and reading your entries here brought most of those back to mind.
    It never occurred to me that the cover is so important but the line about wise spending is terrific and the inside merely described one way of doing it then by the A’s. If only Joe Morgan and his likes are even remotely tempted to pick up the book and read the cover, they may change their opinion. He…umm…really writes Baseball for Dummies – I’m at a lost for words.
    Thanks. And yes, to more controversial books live-blogging. You are insane to do this and I appreciate that.

  36. Didi,
    Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad people responded to this. Otherwise it would have been a waste of 10 hours! The cover usually is not that important, content-wise, but when most of the country thinks someone else wrote it, said content is more likely to be taken out of context.
    As I said, it would be akin to thinking Barry Bonds wrote Game of Shadows. In the Afterword (which wasn’t noteworthy enough to liveblog) Lewis notes that the best part of the book for him was how everyone that crticizes it criticizes Billy Beane and not him; it’s the best possible situation.

  37. lisa gray says:

    eric,
    i read the book not long after it came out, and i remember thinking that michael lewis had portrayed billy beane as, to be very nice about it, a self-important, arrogant jerk who can’t wait to display his contempt for everyone not attached to a computer.
    IF the point of the book was actually “Beane was looking to find players that could provide similar production but cost much less”
    THEN it got lost in a whole lot of emotion, to a great extent.
    michael lewis made it clear that billy beane had out and out contempt for scouts BECAUSE they had made an obvious mistake with him, going by his body type, handsome (well i gues THEY thought so) face and stats as a junior in hs.
    michael lewis made it clear that anyone who drafted ANY high school player for ANY money in the first round was an idiot (wonder what he thought of jr griffey and arod, to name a few…)
    it was not made clear that IF HE HAD HAD THE MONEY, that beane would have drafted hs players in the first round.
    there was a good reason that their famous list contained ONLY college players.
    however, it is silly for some MSM commentators to complain that beane had the nerve to try to evaluate players differently to see if he could come up with players not usually wanted who could succeed at a cheaper price. IF they even said that, which they don’t.
    but the billy beane worship copntinues, unabated, to this day. billy makes his share of mistakes, he misjudged all KINDS of guys using his “computer” just as much as scouts did him.
    trouble with movie stars, or any kind of star, is that people believe that whatever persona the media portrays is actually the person – who knows, beane may really be the kind of insufferable pompous jerk that lewis portrayed, but the fact is that if he really WAS that bad, the other GMs wouldn’t work with him (see tim purpura…)
    lisa

  38. Lisa, I appreciate your thoughts though I unfortunately have to disagree on some points, with no disrespect towards you at all, but rather because I literally read the book yesterday. Finding inefficiencies in the market is not lost at all throughout the book and it is, in fact, mentioned numerous times in Chapter Two, Chapter Five, Chapter Eight, and Chapter Ten, and at points in Chapters Four, Eleven, and Twelve; that’s more than half of the book.
    Lewis definitely painted Beane as arrogant, you hit that right on the head.
    It was made clear that if he had had the money he WOULD NOT draft HS players. The list of players they coveted that draft was said to have been the players they would draft in an ideal situation, if they had no limit for money and nobody else knew about the players – that literally says regardless of money they wanted college players.
    I did find it a bit odd that they thought people drafting HS players were idiots; though, for every A-Rod and Griffey there are most likely hundreds we’ve never heard of and never will hear of.
    Not sure what the MSM comment means, hopefully you can clarify that because I have heard many announcers and read many newspaper articles that shoot down this theory while incorrectly stating the theory.

  39. Ron says:

    I think too many of the sabermetric people project an attitude of intolerance. “We’re right and the baseball establishment is wrong!” That’s probably where Joe Morgan bristles. Certainly not everyone who played the game knows best how to build a winning baseball team, but crunching numbers into VORPs and BABIPs is no guarantee either. You people have turned your analysis into an orthodoxy. Something like OBP is important but you can’t quantify everything into a statistical box and make it fit. See Arizona’s W-L record last year compared to their “Pythagorean”. You people are doing backflips trying to explain that.

  40. Ron, you’re definitely correct that many people involved in sabermetrics come off as arrogant or intolerant, however the same can more easily be said for traditionalists. Many sabermetricians, myself included, are extremely interested in combining the scouting and statistics in order to get a much clearer picture, however people like Joe Morgan, for lack of a better word, SHIT all over the idea that in-depth stats can provide anything useful. While it is certainly correct that VORP’s and BABIP’s cannot quantify “grittiness” and “toughness” or “testicular fortitude,” having “the good face” or being a “soft tosser” is merely the opinion of someone. Neither is 100 % correct however a combination of both is pretty darn close.
    It’s the people that blindly shoot down the others without giving it a chance that irk sabermetricians. For Joe Morgan to put down Moneyball without ever opening it up or even knowing who wrote it is unacceptable given his position of power (purveying analysis to millions of viewers) as a broadcaster.

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