Monday, February 16, 2009

A few sports things

I read Bill James Baseball Abstract for the first time about 25 years ago. It took baseball insiders about at least 15 years to catch on to James, to believe that there was truth in the numbers he produced, and their old way of doing things was silly. Some, like the Colorado Rockies, are still catching on, using a leadoff hitter for the past 2 years with an on-base percentage of about .280 because he steals bases.

A few years ago Michael Lewis wrote "Moneyball", about how the Oakland A's were using the sort of numbers James would use to find underpriced players. The idea was that there were more important stats, as far as actually winning games, than the ones that the average fan looks at. And about 5 years ago, the Red Sox hired James as a special consultant.

Lewis has a piece in the NYT Magazine Section about how basketball execs are now creeping towards the same sort of analysis. It is a pretty interesting story, although a bit light on the details of what "hidden" stats might contribute towards winning. And I would have liked to see more discussion about how this thinking might change the way players are paid. But it is definitely worth reading.

Meanwhile, for you soccer fans, why the hell does the LA Galaxy want Beckham back? I guess they were holding out for more than the the $3 Million that AC Milan offered. Beckham limped off the field in the Milan derby yesterday (great game, I'm sure you all watched!), so now the Galaxy is going to be paying him around 8 mil to go out and get injured again every game. Certainly, the thrill of having the famous pretty boy has worn off at the gate. And the Galaxy is awful even with Beckham, whose talent and durability are not going to improve into his mid-thirties. The should have jumped at that first offer, and used that money to fill in all the holes they have.

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