What are some important facts that everybody should take away from Moneyball by Michael Lewis?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the most important facts to emerge from Moneyball is that value in baseball can be found if people are willing to look.  The purpose of Lewis's work is to analyze how general manager Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics baseball team established a new definition of "value:"

...a small group of undervalued professional baseball players and executives, many of whom had been rejected as unfit for the big leagues, who had turned themselves into one of the most successful franchises in Major League Baseball.

Beane's work helps to establish the fact that value can be found if people know how to search for it.

Another important fact in Moneyball is the way value is determined. Beane's work with Paul DePodesta highlights the importance of statistics in establishing value. This emphasis on sabermetrics focused on data points that most people overlooked. For example, Beane and his staff saw greater value in a hitter who was skilled at drawing bases on balls than one who solely possessed "power numbers" like home runs.  The way Beane and his staff determined value was fundamentally different than how baseball executives at the time perceived it.  It is a fact that Beane's approach triggered a movement away from excessively spending on free agents with gaudy "power numbers."  As a result of Beane's efforts, teams mirrored an approach that emphasized value through sabermetrics. 

The result of this paradigm shift represents another fact that emerges from Lewis's work.  Beane's embrace of a sabermetric approach directly challenged the prevailing thinking in the baseball community.  He faced rebuke from other executives and, sometimes, his own athletes and fans who did not understand his approach.  It is a fact that Beane endured negative publicity for embracing sabermetrics as a way to construct a ball club.  Another fact from the flip side of this reality is that many teams copied Beane's approach. Once it was clear that what Beane did actually worked, teams like the Yankees and Red Sox as well as the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Devil Rays embraced sabermetrics.  In the current major league climate, statistical approaches to valuing talent and making on-field decisions have become standard practice. 

Another fact is that the "eye test" approach, where personnel decisions were based off of the "gut instinct of scouts, has been devalued.  It is not common practice for teams to sign a guy who "looks good" or has "the good face."  They are less inclined to take "chances" on a "guy who looks great" or "can hit the ball a mile."  The financial implications of poor decisions have forced teams to embrace approaches similar to Beane's use of statistics and numbers.  Baseball has entered a period where the days of the scout's "hunch" is secondary to what the numbers say.

A fact that emerges from Lewis's book is that small market baseball teams can be competitive.  Prior to Oakland's successful use of sabermetrics, wealthier teams were able to simply take what they wished.  For example, Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon were integral parts of Beane's successful Oakland teams.  However, when they became free agents, the Yankees and Red Sox swooped in with lucrative contracts and lured them both.  Beane's approach gave a model for small market teams to follow. For example, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays fielded competitive teams for years because of their devotion to statistical analysis.  Even large market teams like the New York Yankees are moving away from lucrative free agent contracts in favor of developing minor league talent with an eye on data-based decision making. The Boston Red Sox were 2004 champions because they created a team that emphasized Beane's statistical approach.  When the "wealthy" teams start mirroring the "poorer" ones, it shows how all teams can be successful if they are coherent and clear in their thinking and approach to the game.