The Dispersion of Moneyball

Two diverse mentions of Moneyball over the past week. Both lend credibility to treating the Moneyball approach as a technological innovation in the assessing of players and valuing their roles on teams dispersing over time and across different sports. The first reference comes from Peter King on discussing head coaching candidates, adding another to the list of Econo-Coaches:

Jim Schwartz (41), defensive coordinator, Tennessee. Quite likely the only economics major from Georgetown on the list, Schwartz finished second to Mike Nolan in San Francisco two years ago. He’s an outside-the-box thinker who read Moneyball and learned some things he could adapt to football. Smart, obviously, but tough enough to get players’ respect. Any owner who has an opening should talk to Schwartz, if only to learn what a strong, bright mind can do to energize a program.

The second story appears on ESPN Soccernet on “Beane Brings Moneyball Approach to MLS.”

I think the misconception about any statistical analysis is that you’re not going to be 100 percent correct,” Beane said. “What you’re trying to do is create an arbitrage … if you’re right 25 percent versus 20 percent you’ve created a 5 percent arbitrage opportunity. That’s really all you’re trying to do.”

But when it comes to soccer, such a strategy is up against what can be described as the Power of Too; as in too many players, in too many leagues, at too many levels in a game that has too many intangibles to easily render itself to statistics. But Beane contends that when it comes to soccer, such analysis is not uncharted territory.

“Let’s face it, every business has metrics that can be used,” Beane said. “It’s just identifying the metrics that have the greatest weight and the greatest correlation to ultimately winning. It’s a work in progress, and I say this with a tremendous amount of respect [for soccer].”

To that end, Beane confirmed that he is working with Leeds University Business School professor Bill Gerrard in the hope of developing a proprietary system for evaluating soccer players, as well as looking to acquire additional sources of data.

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Author: Brian Goff

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