How Moneyball and Human Resources Fit Together

You might not think of a Brad Pitt movie and human resources as fitting together, but stay with me…

Josh Bersin of Bersin and Associates makes the case that human resources professionals need to exploit data science to support their businesses better.  Just as analyzing the statistics of baseball helped Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s beat their better-financed competition, so too can HR departments win the battles to attract and keep top talent for their organization through data science.

According to Bersin, in surveying 711 HR departments, “attracting and selecting the right talent” rates highest among HR skills and capabilities, yet even though better data analysis can more successfully achieve this top goal, these HR departments rate “developing workforce analytics for management” and “measuring HR program effectiveness” at the bottom.  Basically, measurement, analytics, and assessing performance objectively is ranked as the least important skills for HR departments.

Bersin is advocating that HR departments can raise the bar for their effectiveness by embracing data science (I agree!…).  Bersin’s presentation is on SlideShare and can be found here…  Whether you are an HR professional or a data science weenie, you’ll likely find the slides interesting.

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

Moneyball: Better Baseball Through Data

This week, the movie Moneyball arrives in theaters, and I’m completely looking forward to seeing it.  I’ve read the book (by Michael Lewis, author of other books such as The Blind Side and The Big Short, which I wrote about here) and it is a fascinating read.

If you are a baseball fan, you’ll appreciate the passion that baseball historians have for the statistics of the game, and the magic that some of these numbers have.  755 (Hank Aaron’s home run total), 511 (Cy Young’s win total), .424 (Rogers Hornsby’s batting average for the 1924 season), and so on…

However, as the Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane knew (thanks partly to the contributions of Bill James and his famous Baseball Abstract), some statistics don’t tell the right story if what you’re trying to do is win baseball games.  Given a salary budget that paled in comparison to his competition (like the New York Yankees), Beane crafted a strategy of picking players who were undervalued. 

Beane found that some statistics, like a high batting average, didn’t paint a complete picture for winning games.  For example, getting hits (singles, double, home runs) was important, but getting on base was actually more important.  So, even though dull, walks (getting on base by being patient and not swinging at bad pitches) were incredibly valuable to winning at baseball.  Beane found players that had a high on-base percentage, which he could acquire more cheaply than other players.

In doing so, Beane put together a string of four straight playoff appearances, despite having one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.  Quite an accomplishment – other teams have followed suit, and it has changed the nature of the game.  I had a post on this topic about a year ago…

Moneyball shows the example of how we can look at the data the right way, and make better decisions, and sports is just one area where it can be applied.  I’m looking forward to seeing the movie, and I recommend reading the book as well!  Here’s another article from Wired magazine for further reading…

And The Champion Is…

On the night of the BCS National Championship, when Oregon is taking on Auburn, we’re about to crown the champion of the First Ever Cheesecake Playoffs. (At least one sport has the courage to have a playoff to determine its champ!…).

So the matchup pits the #1 seed 30th Anniversary Chocolate Cake Cheesecake against the #2 seed Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple!  A battle of the big dogs!

These two offerings fought off upstarts like the lowest seed #12 Oreo Cheesecake and the seasonal favorite Pumpkin Cheesecake.  They even had to overcome defenders of the old guard Original Cheesecake on their way to the championship game!

So, the Farris Family picked up a piece of each and sat down to make our selections.  Before we got started, unlike in the previous semifinal match, Monroe clearly said that she wasn’t going to bias herself and vote for Adam’s before we even take a single bite of cheesecake…

However, things weren’t looking good for the playoff favorite!  30th Anniversary is a chocolate cake and cheesecake mix, but Adam’s has fudge and peanut butter, and going into the prize fight, Stephanie said that she “was in a peanut butter mood”.  Whoa Nellie!!

So, forks in hand, we each dove in and then made our picks.  Stephanie, consistent with her initial mood, selected Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple.   Although each tasted fantastic and it was a tough call, I decided on 30th Anniversary – for me, the chocolate overcame the peanut butter fudge on this day…

As it happens, the final vote came down to Monroe (as it probably should for an 11 year old…).  And the champion is…

An upset!  Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple!

So, peanut butter trumps chocolate and Adam sits atop the cheesecake world as the champion of the First Ever Cheesecake Playoffs!  (Way to go, Adam!)

The process was delicious (can a process actually be delicious? Well, I guess this one was!…), and we’ve had a great time!  To all the competitors, thanks for playing – better luck next year.

Will there be another Cheesecake Playoffs?  Time will tell, but our metabolisms probably need a little time off.  But who knows?  We may be up for another round!…

Peanut Butter Smackdown

It’s official – we have a final matchup set in the First Ever Cheesecake Playoffs!

In the second semifinal, it was a battle of peanut butter chocolate cheesecakes – #2 seed Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple and #3 seed Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake.

Now, in our original scoring, we rated the 30th Anniversary Chocolate Cake Cheesecake the highest, and we rated Adam’s #2.  You would think that a combination of these two – peanut butter with chocolate cake – would just make it even more delicilectable, but that would be just too easy!…

The Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake is really good, but it’s rich, and you’d be surprised how good a simple peanut butter chocolate cheesecake is, and how well it competes with total cheesecake richness.

Now, prior to the competition, Reese’s (or at least those that were looking for this to be a fair fight…) lodged a complaint against one of the judges.  Monroe had declared her intention to vote for Adam’s hours before the actual vote (bad Monroe…).  With no official governing body to weigh in on this (and especially since the cheesecakes can’t really do anything about it), it was decided that no significant harm was done, and that we’d “play on”!
I mean, anyway, we’re going to eat two pieces of cheesecake!  What’s the harm in that!?
So, we each took our shots at the peanut butter chocolate cheesecake, and as expected, Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple beat out Reese’s by a 2-1 vote.  Monroe and Stephanie each voted for Adam’s, while I cast my vote for Reese’s – basically, because I wanted it to seem like it was close.   Look, these are both fantastic cheesecakes, and it really depends on the mood you’re in at the time.  Reese’s is indeed rich, so if you’re not in the mood for that “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” feeling, Adam’s might be your best bet…
So, the final matchup is set – no Cinderella story here…  #1 30th Anniversary Chocolate Cake Cheesecake takes on #2 Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple.
Stay tuned!

Oreo® Turns Into a Pumpkin

Cinderella’s run is over! 

In the first Final Four matchup , the clock struck midnight on Oreo® Cheesecake, ending its improbable run in the First Ever Cheesecake Playoffs.  The number #12 seed, making it as far as the semifinals, couldn’t overcome the delectable chocolateness of the top seeded 30th Anniversary Chocolate Cake Cheesecake.

The Farris clan picked up both offerings this past Sunday, and for me, it was actually kinda tough – I personally think Oreo® put up a good fight.  But in the end, the 30th Anniversary Chocolate Cake Cheesecake (earning the most points from our previous run through the entire Cheesecake Factory menu of cheesecakes) proved its worth by gaining each of our votes.  Although it didn’t get any of our votes in the semifinal round, we’ve gotta give Oreo® its due.  It started as the #12 seed in a 12-cheesecake playoff, having to beat such contenders as the Original Cheesecake Factory Cheesecake, and the #4 seed Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake. 

This weekend, it’s a peanut butter cheesecake showdown, with Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake versus Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple.

Pumpkin Gets Squashed

In the highly anticipated return of activity in the First Ever Cheesecake PlayoffsPumpkin Cheesecake got squashed against #2 seed Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple, setting up a premier no-holds-barred peanut butter semifinal showdown.

This past weekend, the Farris family renewed its effort to make cheesecake eating an actual sport, by finishing up the quarterfinal rounds, where #7 seed Pumpkin Cheesecake took on the #2 seed Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple.

As you know, we ate each of the cheesecakes on The Cheesecake Factory’s menu this past year (35 in all), and then forced the top 12 to compete against each other in a single elimination playoff.  This weekend, the quarterfinals were completed, after a unaminous 3-0 vote sent Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple to the next round.

To be honest, I really liked the Pumpkin Cheesecake (and it’s really tasty as the seasonal choice during the Thanksgiving holiday…).  However, I’ll have to admit, Adam’s had it won hands down.  Monroe made her choice quickly, and my wife cast her vote first, saying it wasn’t really a competition.  As Stephanie said, “Pumpkin didn’t even have a chance!…”

So, here are the brackets as they stand.  In the first semifinal matchup, the top seed 30th Anniversary Chocolate Cake Cheesecake takes on the upstart, underdog, Cinderella candidate #12 seed Oreo Cheesecake.  And in the other semifinal contest, it’s a battle of peanut butter offerings, where #2 Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple is pitted against #3 Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake (definitely a battle I’m interested in!…)

Vacation Hiatus

So, we haven’t been posting for a while, but it’s NOT because we’re tired of the First Ever Cheesecake Playoffs.

It turns out that we’re on vacation in NYC this week!  So, we’ll be back this weekend and ready to continue the contests – in the last quarterfinal matchup, #2 seed Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple takes on #7 seed Pumpkin Cheesecake.

“Bye Bye Strawberry” – Reese’s Advances

In a unanimous 3-0 vote, #3 seed Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake eliminated #6 seed Fresh Strawberry from the First Ever Cheesecake Playoffs.

As I mentioned in my last post, we (and especially Monroe) had a FULL day!  It started at 9 AM with Monroe’s soccer game.  She played well, making some big kicks and playing goalie for a period…  The team was down 2-0, but managed to come back strong to score two goals in the third quarter to tie things up.  Monroe’s team (the Snow Leopards) kept the score even through the rest of the game and took away a 2-2 tie.  Not a bad start to the day…

Next came basketball!  The Newbury Park girls basketball team hosted a tournament for 5th through 8th grade teams this weekend (luckily it was at home, so we didn’t need to travel…).  Monroe started for our 5th grade Newbury Park team, playing against a team (we think of 6th graders) from Torrance.  Unfortunately, we got blown out, which meant we had to go to another gym to play in the 5 PM game…

That game turned out better, but it didn’t land us in the win column.  It was close (we lost 20-16), but that meant Monroe played in the 7th place game on Sunday.

However, we weren’t about to allow this to put a damper on Stephanie’s birthday celebration (or, of course, the important quarterfinal matchup we had on tap!)

Earlier in the day, I took Monroe to lunch before her basketball games, and we secretly stopped off at the Cheesecake Factory located in the Oaks Mall in Thousand Oaks.  The afternoon manager John was incredibly helpful in planning a special evening for us, scheduled for 8 PM.  He mentioned that Kia was the night manager for tonight, so we knew we were in good hands, since she made sure things were great for Monroe’s birthday celebration a couple weeks prior

After the tourney, even though we were all beat, we headed out to the restaurant, and were promptly seated once we arrived.  Joel took care of us, making the whole dinner fun and entertaining!

One other cool thing was that the general manager Jenn was on hand and came by to meet us.  It was really great meeting Jenn (I had spoken on the phone with her to work on Monroe’s birthday…).  In my first conversation with Jenn, she happened to disagree with our assessment of the best cheesecake on the Cheesecake Factory menu – we voted the 30th Anniversary Chocolate Cake Cheesecake as our top ranked offering, while Jenn said she loved the Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake™.  However, I can’t hold that against her – To each their own!

On came our orders – I had the Tomato Basil Pasta, Stephanie chose the Grilled Chicken, and Monroe went with the Cheeseburger Sliders…  And after we downed the food (and a healthy offering of bread), we geared up for the contest…

The waiters came by with our cheesecake, decorated to celebrate Stephanie’s birthday.   But, that’s not all – Joel then presented Stephanie the gifts that Monroe and I got for her (that we had secretly left with John earlier in the afternoon…).  Stephanie was pleasantly surprised, and happy that they would make her dinner so special.

So, on to the contest!  The Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake was really fantastic – as Monroe put it “chocolatey peanut buttery bliss”!  Although the classic taste of the Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake made for a tough running – the extra decoration on the Fresh Strawberry plate also added an slight edge going in…

But, in the end, we all voted for the Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake, so Fresh Strawberry was eliminated from the Cheesecake Playoffs.  As Joel would say, “Bye Bye Strawberry!”

A special thanks really needs to go out to the General Manager Jenn and shift managers John and Kia for helping to arrange this special evening for Stephanie, and to our waiter Joel, who made it fun for all of us.

Here are the brackets as they stand today.  Next up, another peanut butter chocolate combo as #2 seed Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple takes on #7 seed Pumpkin Cheesecake…

Peanut Butter Chocolate vs. Strawberry – This is gonna be good!

This week’s quarterfinal matchup of the First Ever Cheesecake Playoffs pits the upstart #3 seed Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake against the classic (and yummy) #6 seeded Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake.

The Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake just came out this year – a newcomer to the stalwart cheesecake menu of the Cheesecake Factory.  In fact, when we started tasting every cheesecake on the Cheesecake Factory’s menu at the beginning of this year, it wasn’t even available. 

Personally, I really liked it (of course, ranking high with the Farris Clan with a solid ranking of 24 out of a possible 30…).  It seems to be a cross between the 30th Anniversary Chocolate Cake Cheesecake and Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple Cheesecake (apparently, merging the #1 and #2 seed together yields only the #3 seed – or at least they add…   1+2=3?…)

Hey, and also Stephanie is having her birthday this Saturday – so, woo woo!  We’re going to celebrate at the Thousand Oaks Cheesecake Factory after a full day of Monroeness. 

First, a soccer game and then a little studying…  Then, we go to practice shooting and rebounding in preparation for her girls basketball tourament this weekend.  She has a first round game, and depending on whether her team wins or loses, we may have to hoof it to another gym across town for the second game (yes, you heard me right – TWO basketball games on Saturday, in addition to her morning soccer game!…).

This leaves us with scheduling an intimate birthday dinner for Stephanie at around 8:00 PM (and I’m sure Monroe will be DOG tired!…).  And certainly, we’ll be celebrating another round of “delectaliciousness” with the Cheesecake Playoffs.

We’ll post the winners (and birthday pics!) later on in the weekend!…