Braswell: Big money comes to ‘Moneyball’

From Sean Braswell at on March 30, 2015, with mention of SABR member Lewis Pollis:

A lot has changed in Major League Baseball — whose season starts next week — since Michael Lewis’ 2003 best-seller Moneyball chronicled Oakland’s attempts to combat an “unfair game” tilted in favor of large-market clubs by employing statistical models and data analytics to better identify undervalued players. For one thing, there’s a lot less crap, or perhaps it’s just spread around more evenly. Increased revenue sharing and luxury taxes have helped improve parity between large- and small-market teams in the league. On the other hand, Moneyball’s “sabermetric revolution” — meaning the use of data analysis to measure player performance and value — is practically universal now, with wealthier teams such as the New York Yankees investing their millions on number crunchers and analysts, as well as star free agents, in an effort to re-establish their competitive advantage.

Indeed, the next big wave of Moneyball-like innovation in baseball may come from the sport’s most wealthy. This time in the form of “Hollywood’s team,” the Los Angeles Dodgers, owners of baseball’s largest payroll for the past three seasons, but not of a single title since 1988 — when Ronald Reagan was president, Nike was just starting to “Do It,” and a high-flying Michael Keaton was Beetlejuice, not Birdman. Over the past few seasons, the once-storied franchise has been plagued by costly long-term contracts, off-the-field turmoil and poor management decisions. But this offseason, the Dodgers made some key early acquisitions, though not of anyone who will ever don the Dodgers’ iconic blue-and-white uniform. Rather, the organization brought in a “dream team” of Moneyball-style execs poached from other ball clubs, including Andrew Friedman (from the Tampa Bay Rays), Farhan Zaidi (one of Beane’s deputies in Oakland) and Josh Byrnes (formerly of the Arizona Diamondbacks).

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Originally published: March 30, 2015. Last Updated: March 30, 2015.