Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Astroball

On a 2014 cover of Sports Illustrated, Ben Reiter predicted that the Houston Astros would win the World Series in 2017. They did. This is no small feat considering the salaries the large market teams are able to afford, and the armies of data analysts various teams employ in order to garner an edge. In Astroball: The New Way to Win It All, Reiter tells the story of how they did it.

If you're a fan of Moneyball, you'll probably be a fan of this book. You get some insights into who the key geniuses are that figured out how to evaluate players better than how it was done before, and how they rose up the ranks in the front office in a couple of stodgy, old-school-managed baseball organizations.

There is less detail about what they found, however, than in books like Moneyball; this is probably for competitive reasons. But there is still some interesting information about how they found it. For example, rather than just throwing scouting reports out the window in order to avoid biasing the quantitative data, these guys actually "statified" the scouting info: if a scout said a certain thing about a player, they would turn this into a variable of their regressions, back-test it against when scouts said the same thing about previous players, and use this to try to improve their predictions of current players.

Enjoy!

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