Internet Evolution: Interview with Moneyball’s Lewis and Beane

Here’s a neat little interview conducted by Internet Evolution’s Todd Watson of Michael Lewis and Billy Beane.  Watson was attending the Information OnDemand event this past month, where one of the key themes of the event was the idea of putting business analytics into practice to help improve business outcomes.  Watson felt that Beane did a great job of this in the business of baseball, and Lewis did a great job of writing about this, so he got both together for this interview.

Billy Beane is the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, changing the way that major league baseball uses data to field their rosters.  Michael Lewis is the author of Moneyball, documenting Beane’s efforts to build a winning baseball franchise while being limited with a payroll that dwarfs his competition.

Lewis’ book was recently turned into a major motion picture featuring Brad Pitt as Beane and Jonah Hill as the statistics whiz that helps Beane turn the A’s around.

Here’s just a little bit from Watson’s interview on how Lewis got turned on to writing about Beane and the A’s:

Todd Watson: One of the key themes of the IOD event has been “turning insight into action,” and that seems to be a theme prevalent in some of your books — most notably Moneyball and The Big Short. I’m curious, in terms of baseball managers who are using sabermetrics to make more informed decisions, I’m really interested in how you got turned on to that topic and also just how that came to be and what inspired you to write the book?

Michael Lewis: It was really simple. I was living in Billy’s backyard in Berkeley so I was paying attention to the A’s. I didn’t know… I wasn’t a baseball fanatic, but I did know there was this payroll issue and I got interested in that.

I got interested in that in the first place, because at first I thought I was going to write a piece about the A’s. I think it was when Jose Canseco got this giant deal, and he was being paid something like $8 million, and the right fielder and left fielder were being paid something like $150,000, and I wanted to know if the outfielders were pissed!

And, how they felt when those Jose Canseco dropped a fly ball. (Laughter) And I was going to come out and write about that, and then I started thinking about it, and I realized there were these huge discrepancies from team to team. And then I wondered, so how does the whole team feel about being poor?

I enjoyed Moneyball, both the movie and the book.  I have mentioned before that Lewis is a really great author – I wrote another post about Michael Lewis’ book on the 2008 global financial meltdown called The Big Short

You can read more of Watson’s interview with Lewis and Beane here

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I currently serve as Vice President of Decision Science at CenturyLink. I've previously served as a leader in the Advanced Risk & Compliance Analytics (ARCA) practice at PwC and as Director of Data Science & Analytics Engineering at Areté Associates. I've served the public as Chair of the Thousand Oaks, CA Planning Commission. I have been married to my wife Stephanie since 1993, and we have a wonderful daughter Monroe. Learn more about me »

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