The Moneyball Effect: 5 Sports Franchises That Do More With Less Using Data
If you’ve ever seen the movie or read the book, Moneyball represents a revolution in sports. The book and movie were based on the true story of an Oakland Athletics baseball team realizing tremendous team success despite having one of the lowest budgets in the history of Major League Baseball. In Moneyball, factual analysis of player data and play statistics help run the team.
The whole point of Moneyball or Sabermetrics is to find low-cost or undervalued players and which scoring strategies work best. The result has been more wins and lower-cost rosters for the teams that institute the strategy.
Here are five franchises currently using Moneyball to their advantage.
Liverpool FC (Premier League)
Harvard graduate and physicist, William Spearman, joined the club in 2018 as the lead data scientist to use sports analytics as a way to transform how the club recruits and even plays the game through strategies like "pitch control." Prior to joining, he worked at CERN studying Higgs-Boson particles! Seriously!
The team’s 2011-2012 record was won: 14, drew: 10 lost: 14.
That record in 2021-2022 was won: 28 drawn: 8 lost: 2
What year did their win, draw, and loss record start to see massive positive change? 2018.
Houston Rockets (NBA)
Michael Lewis didn’t just write about the Oakland A’s but dedicated a chapter to the efforts of Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey in his book, The Undoing Project. A graduate of M.I.T. and Northwestern, Morey was called the "Moneyball" GM when he took the job is 2007. Although highly criticized for this approach, Morey went on to trade for James Harden, considered a great "6th man" player. Harden went from a 6th man to one of the greatest scorers in the league.
Morey turned the Rockets into a top-ten offense, based on the statistical conclusion that shooting threes is more valuable than field goals. Shopping for players that’d probably never make the All-Star Game and second-round draft picks, he created a winning record with one of the cheapest rosters in basketball.
Brentford FC (Premier League)
There is no other Moneyball success story like Brentford’s. Bought by a professional gambler that knew a few things about numbers, Matthew Benham started transforming the team using sabermetrics.
Considered nothing more than a feeder team for the big clubs, Brentford had a tiny budget and had finished the League One series in ninth place in 2012-2013. The team finished 5th in the championship in 2014-2015, the first time in their 62-year history that they had never been relegated. Brentford moved into the Premier League in 2021. The team had gone from the 2nd league to the highest in football in just 12 years.
St Louis Blues (NHL)
While Moneyball isn’t quite as developed in the NHL, the St. Louis Blues are the savviest spenders in the league. Despite a payroll ranked in the bottom 10 of the NHL, the Blues have consistently been a hot team. The Blues’ goaltending coach, Jim Corsi, measures the number of shots versus the number of shots while a player is on the ice. The name of this method is now called "The Corsi Number."
The Blues showed the fabulous results of Moneyball after winning the 2019 Stanley Cup final.
St. Louis Cardinals (MLB)
Using advanced statistics and analytics starting in 2003 for recruitment, the Cards are a premier team in MLB, with a farm system that has transformed the game. Finding the best talent to cultivate in their farm league teams through data, they know who to develop and who to draft. They produce a constantly winning record that keeps them at the top of their division.
Moneyball still has doubters in professional sports that prefer traditional recruiting out of an allegiance to the past, but the results speak for themselves. It is a discipline here to stay.