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The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

W.W. Norton,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Nobody thought Wall Street-style statistical analysis could affect the baseball draft — until Oakland started winning.

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Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


Author Michael Lewis takes you inside the hidden process of the 2002 baseball draft as seen by Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane and his egghead staff, and by Beane’s snuff-sniffing, monosyllabic, case-hardened baseball scouts. Lewis moves with grace and speed, back and forth across 30 years of baseball history, delving into baseball lore, statistics, drafting processes, the baseball business, baseball’s current cast of characters and the way they all interplay. Lewis shows how baseball and derivative investment strategies can be viewed in the same framework. In the friendly confines of baseball, he presents a million dollar lesson about the inefficiency of sloppy data. Defective athletes as redeemed heroes, baseball as a metaphor for business, what a concept! recommends this intriguing book to everyone who loves baseball, numbers, box scores, statistics, business theory and a good yarn about unlikely heroes who are changing sports’ business and sports’ history.


The Body of Baseball Knowledge

Baseball is a business where management has inherited and propagated a belief system that forces it to spend too much money on employees who assure that it will fail to accomplish its goals: winning championships and making money. Baseball managers and scouts have always recruited apprentice ball players based on their speed, body shape and strength. This is baseball’s most basic logic and one cannot argue with it, especially by employing the facts.

Jeremy Brown, Meet Billy Beane

Take, for example, Jeremy Brown, a fat, short, slow catcher, who also happened to be the greatest hitter in the history of his college with the least number of outs and the highest on-base percentage. The most fundamental logic of baseball apprenticeship demanded that recruiters reject him. A new player is supposed to be a work in progress, carved marble awaiting the finishing touches of major league agents and managers. If he is fast, strong and lithe, he can be shaped into a major leaguer. If he is slow, short, fat and already a great hitter, it does not matter because Major League Baseball makes apprentices into great hitters but it does not draft ...

About the Author

Michael Lewis is the author of the bestseller Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street, based in part on his experience as an investment banker for Salomon Brothers. He is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine, a columnist for Bloomberg and a visiting fellow at the University of California at Berkeley. His writing appears in The New Yorker, Slate and Foreign Affairs. He has served as editor and columnist for the British weekly The Spectator and as senior editor and campaign correspondent for The New Republic. He filmed and narrated short pieces for ABC-TV’s "Nightline" and hosted a series on presidential politics for NPR.

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