Moneyball - The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (Anglais) Broché – 19 juillet 2011
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Don't get me wrong, the content focussing on dedication and drive is great, but it all goes down to baseball games. Not my thing.
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This is a really excellent book. If we managed the national security budget the way Billy Bean managed the Oakland A's, we'd have faster better cheaper military hardware, and a lot more plowshares. I was also impressed by the way in which Billy Bean built a team, in which players who might not have been individual stars excelled at setting up others in a true team effort where the group as a whole is stronger than the sum of the parts. Others have written better reviews from a baseball fans point of view--as a non-baseball fan, I can attest to this book's being an "aha" experience.
Watching Baseball Smarter: A Professional Fan's Guide for Beginners, Semi-experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks
The basis for the book is the question of how the Oakland A's, one of baseball's poorest teams as measured by payroll, managed to win so many games in the first few years of the new millennium. Lewis's potentially boring answer revolves around inefficiencies in the market for players, but he weaves this story around the A's General Manager, Billy Beane. Now, if you have some axe to grind with Beane, you might as well not read the book, 'cause Lewis tends to be rather fawning in many places. Still, Beane's own background and mediocre career form the perfect framework upon which to build this story about evaluating baseball talent. Beane was a hugely athletic, "can't miss" prospect, who turned down a joint football/baseball scholarship from Stanford to sign with the New York Mets out of high school. His pro career turned out to be utterly undistinguished, and this disconnect is what drove him to seek new methods of scouting and evaluating baseball talent. It also helped matters that the A's new owners refused to spend any excess money, and demanded that the team be treated as a business. Beane jettisoned conventional scouting wisdom (and to a certain extent, methods), to focus on statistical indicators not widely followed inside baseball. Here, the book takes a detour into the realm of "sabremetrics" (the statistical analysis of baseball), and various attempts to arrive at more meaningful ways to calculating a player's offensive value.
The result of developing a criteria of player valuation that was radically at odds with the prevailing wisdom of the market was that Beane was able to get the players he liked for very cheap. The rest of the book is devoted to detailing this process. Chapter 5 is probably the best, detailing how the A's orchestrated the 2002 amateur draft so that they got an inordinate amount of players they coveted for below market value. Chapters 6 and 7 discuss the loss of their three star players after the 2001 season and how managed to compensate for this. To show the Beane methodology in action during the season, the reader is taken inside several trades and roster moves. This includes a chapter on the mid-season trade for relief pitcher Ricardo Rincon, bracketed by chapters detailing Beane's pursuit of certain players who were not considered major-league material (Scott Hatteberg and Chad Bradford). The book ends on a valedictory note, as the A's set a record by winning 20 games in a row and other teams start to buy in to their methods.
It should be noted that the book is far from perfect. Lewis has an unfortunately tendency for repetition when it comes to important points and themes, hammering them home, again and again. And although he does point out many of Beane's logical inconsistencies and emotional flaws, Lewis does often come across as more of an enamored fan than a strict journalist. Some critics feel that the A's success detailed in the book was based on several star players obtained the old-fashioned way, thus disproving the whole premise. However, it has to be understood that the practices detailed in the book can't really be proven to work one way or another for another decade or so. Still the insights into challenging conventional thinking and searching for alternative data or data patterns will likely appeal to readers of Lewis' other works and are applicable far beyond baseball. And while the jury is still out, several other teams have since hired general managers with the same basic philosophy as Beane. Ultimately, it's an interesting story, and one that Lewis tells very well -- even for non baseball fans.
Along with Mike Schell's books and the ones like "Curve Ball" written by Albert and Bennett this is one of the most thoughtful and scientific books on the game of baseball, how to win at it and how to build a successful team. The other books I mentioned were written by professional statisticians. It is the great success of the statistical science of sports, sabermetrics that we are now witnessing a scientific and statistical approach to baseball and other sports that had been lacking for many years. What Beane proved with regard to money was that a small market team like Oakland without the big money of a Steinbrenner could build a great team through smart trades and drafts based on looking at the right statistics on the players, the statistics that determine value in terms of run production for offense and run prevention for pitchers and defense.
The amazon reviews of this book are almost unanymous in their praise of Lewis' book. Read it and enjoy it. If I haven't convinced you, read some of the other fine reviews here.