LITTLE ADVANTAGES ARE EVERYWHERE

Sometimes analytics comes into play in the most unlikely places.

After their late ’80s and and early ’90s heyday, Baseball’s Oakland Athletics were languishing. The team’s limited resources meant that their payroll was always among the lowest in the league and, Major League Baseball being a rigged game, the A’s needed to find a cheap way to win. That’s where analytics — whether out of innovation or desperation — came in.

Led by general manager Billy Beane, Oakland began to reexamine conventional baseball wisdom. As chronicled in the bestselling book and Oscar-nominated movie “Moneyball,” the A’s looked for every possible advantage that didn’t include spending more of their nonexistent money. Statistics like batting average and RBI had been used for over a century to measure players, but were they really the best way to tell which players could help you win? As it turns out, slightly less conventional metrics like on base percentage were a better predictor of future success.

The A’s were at the forefront of baseball’s statistical revolution, and in fact were largely responsible for ushering it in. After missing the playoffs for seven straight years, Billy Beane’s turn-of-the-century A’s went to the postseason four times in a row.

 

ADVANTAGES ONLY LAST SO LONG

What happened when the rest of Major League Baseball effectively caught up to the Oakland A’s? They missed the playoffs in seven out of eight seasons. By the middle of the 2000s nearly every team was using “sabermetrics”, as advanced baseball statistics had come to be called. And if nearly every team was using the same data, and conducting the same analysis, surely there were no more advantages to be exploited, right?

Wrong. Enter the Tampa Bay Rays, who took what the A’s had done for offense a few years earlier and applied it this time to defense. The Rays’ analytics team, along with stat-head manager Joe Maddon, is credited with helping the franchise go from perennial also-rans to perennial contenders, partly by focusing more on defense when few others were.

 

GOOD LUCK

The good news for both the A’s and the Rays is that their focus on analytics put them in a position to win. The bad news is, they haven’t. Neither team has won the World Series this century, and the A’s have gotten past the first round of the playoffs only once in eight tries. In the 162 game-long haul of a regular season, little advantages can pay big dividends. In a short postseason series, luck plays an outsized role. As Billy Beane himself observed, “My [bleep] doesn’t work in the playoffs.”

The good news for your business is that you’re in it for the long haul. You can’t take luck out of the equation, but solid analytics can put your company in a position to be successful. TS2 can help make that happen. To find out how, contact TS2 today.