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Networks and “Moneyball”

With the end of the baseball season nearing and the opening of the critically acclaimed movie, Moneyball, one can see just how relevant networks, value, and power are in creating a winning baseball team. The movie is based off of a book that analyzes how Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, created a postseason worthy baseball team after losing star players to free agency after the 2001 season. In that off-season, he undertook a rebuilding project that contrasted with the typical baseball strategy of finding sought after, pricey players to replace those individuals who had left.

In terms of baseball networks, the Oakland A’s were a weak team. This is based primarily on the fact that they had a pay roll significantly lower than competitors such as the Yankees. With a heavy, multimillion-dollar payroll, the Yankees created a powerful networking situation, allowing them to communicate with virtually any free agent on the market. Limited by financial constraints, the A’s had only a small pool of players with whom they could communicate and make deals. This was where Beane’s creativity came into play.

Virtually all GM’s valued players in the same way, focusing on batting average, home runs, and runners batted in (RBIs). Beane changed the value system, valuing on base percentage (OBP) higher than other statistics. If players could get on base, regardless of how, it meant runs and therefore wins. Because Beane created his own value system, he was able to use networks that other teams didn’t see. He contacted undervalued players (in the eyes of other teams), and signed them for minimal cost. Because of Beane’s understanding of a different value of players, he gave himself and his club a huge payoff, as they essentially ‘purchased’ 103 wins in the season with a small payroll.

To learn more about Bean’s strategy, visit: http://www.npr.org/2011/09/26/140813409/the-man-behind-the-moneyball-sabermetrics

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