Tony DeMeo

Moneyball by Michael Lewis

By: Michael Lewis
On September, 23rd the movie “Moneyball” is coming out in movie theaters. It will be starring Brad Pitt so you should be able to get your wife to go. However, the book: Moneyball by Michael Lewis is a book that is worth reading for every football coach. I would recommend to anyone in a leadership position.

Michael Lewis is an excellent writer who also penned The Blindside which was also made into a movie. The Blindside was about a football player but Moneyball is much more helpful to a football coach. This book is an easy entertaining read and would be a great companion on one of those bus trips.

Moneyball is the story of Billy Beane who never made it as a baseball player but as a General Manager revolutionized the way a baseball team operates. Beane was GM of the struggling Oakland A’s with very limited resource. He couldn’t compete financially with the big dollar teams for talent. The A’s had to find a way to compete in the American league with the lowest payroll in baseball.

Many football coaches are faced with the same dilemma. If you’re at a “have-not” how do you compete with the “Haves”? This book shows some things that you can use to level the playing field.

Beane realized the key point was HOW they spent their money was the key to their success. He had to think outside the box and do things differently than the rest of the league. There’s an old saying you have to either be better or different to succeed. Beane had to get bargains, rejects, or guys that didn’t fit other teams system. He instituted the policy of putting value on performance not potential. Beane wanted to emphasize stats over potential, but what stats were important?

Having a great system of evaluating performance is a critical part of the puzzle. I have written and spoken at clinics on “Meaningful stats” in football. What stats are important to winning? (Next month I’ll write about a system of evaluating individual performance called: The Four Aces). Beane turned to stat guru Bill James. The key stat in James’ universe was on base percentage. This is not a glamorous stat like homeruns but James feels to win baseball games – Don’t make outs. Everyone in the line -up is a leadoff hitter. Beane was about scouting measurable performance not potential. On base percentage was the most important stat he valued. Because on base percentage was not valued by the rest of the league he didn’t have to get in bidding wars with the big dollar guys, he was getting guys no one else wanted. Beane was getting the best players for what he valued at bargain prices.

The New England Pariots under Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick used a similar process to turn the Pats from a laughing stock to a dynasty. They put together a system of weighing price/production that put the Pats ahead of the NFL in salary cap management. This translated into Super Bowl victories.

As a Head Football coach, I was involved in 4 turnaround situations. We created a system of offense that featured the type of player that other schools were not interested in. We always used the option which allowed us to recruit smaller athletic offensive linemen. We also recruited small quick backs that were not a good fit in conventional systems. As a result we were able to make our dollars go further. We created greater depth and balance throughout our program.

Summing up the premise of Moneyball it would be the following:
1. Study what are the important factors that win games.
2. Create a system that emphasizes those areas.
3. Develop a unique system that is different than your competitors.
4. Have a system of evaluating performance.
5. Be better or be different. Or both.

I am only skimming the surface of this excellent book. Moneyball is a very worthwhile read that will stir your creative juices. It’s very informative, entertaining and hard to put down. I strongly recommend Moneyball especially if you are in an underdog situation. If you can’t get the book, take your wife to the movie.