Monday, April 6, 2015

Play Ball! (The Irrelevancy of Moneyball)

(updated 04.09.15)

Go [ Pick a Team Name ].  Play Ball!

True strategists have never been a fan of this unique "talent evaluation" approach.   It is an integration of hype and minor substance.   Ask Tony LaRussa.

Click hereherehere and here for Tony La Russa's view of Moneyball.

Quick Synopsis
The Oakland A's and many professional baseball teams have been using a talent evaluation process called Sabermetrics for numerous years. 

The A's management somehow discovered a few unique indicators within the process that most of its implementers did not noticed. They became successful with their Moneyball processthat a book was written about it. Then. many other baseball teams began to copy their process.

It was good publicity for the A's. However, no good deed goes unpunished.

Since the inception of the Moneyball book, the Oakland A's still has not won the World Series . However the Boston Red Sox team who possessed a larger strategic foundation (i.e, intelligence gathering resources, economics, logistics, etc.), used the Moneyball process as a part of their strategic foundation to win three World Series since 2004.

During the successful years of the A's, an associate and I had a discussion with a local sport media insider on the Moneyball phenomenon He told us that the A's management should have kept the technicalities behind the process a secret. It was a major blunder to allow Michael Lewis to get an inside look on the team's decision-making process. Even Michael Lewis agreed that his book caused the A's to lose a few opportunities.

Since 2012, the A's have regained some of their magic and began to make a push to contend for the playoffs.  They still have not been able to prevail over their first opponent.  

Assessing Competition From a Macro View
In the information economy, successful innovation is regularly imitated. ... 

The larger and well-resourced competition would usually adapt any successful process or tool quite well. In most cases, they can afford to err. The smaller competitors regularly operated on the margin of near-zero error. The outcome is obvious if they blundered. In most cases, they regularly focused on low-risk, low reward ventures.

Thoughts on the Moneyball Movie
Years ago, I saw the Moneyball movie and thought that it was ok. It was a nice narrative of a fairy tale.  

I knew people who were A's fans who loved the movie. After they saw the movie, I usually asked them about the projected timeline for the A's winning another World Series.  ... After a few moments of contemplation, they began to have anxiety attacks . 

Some of them were just bandwagon jumpers until the A's went through a dry spell of losing seasons. Then, they left their team and pretended to be Giants fans. Most of them do not even live in Oakland. 

These bandwagon jumpers do not know anything historical about the game, and the team but the score and the names of a few players.   It is so pathetic.

Click here on why one might question the loyalty of A's fans.

Ruminations from the Compass Desk
Following is a series of lessons that one can learn from the Oakland A's campaign from the days of Moneyball until now:

Lesson #1
Never provide your competition the opportunity to utilize your trade secrets against you.

Lesson #2
In the information economy, every relevant competitor has a similar tool set. Obtaining the exotic skill and the strategic experience to master the toolset is always the first challenge. Once one is successful, concealing their variation of the general toolkit becomes the other challenge.

Lesson #3
It is nice to cheer for the underdog. However, the majority of the masses only remember the grand winner, not the losers.

Note: So, do you remember the losers for the last five World Series? 

Lesson #4
The complete knowledge of one's grand terrain and the resourcefulness of each contending competitor have usually enabled the "persevering" strategist to succeed on the long run. (Read the last quote from Chapter 10 of the Art of War. You might understand why. )

Lesson #5a
No specific process is perfect. It evolves due to situational changes

Lesson #5b
The precise execution of the process is a prevailing factor. 

Lesson #5c
Regardless of the process or the strategy, the attribute of talent and the accessibility of resources have usually prevail in extreme situations.  A good strategy never hurts

Lesson #5d
In a predictable (and an even parity-based) situation, the strategic experience of the chief decision maker becomes relevant.

Lesson #6
The knowledge of identifying the pretenders, the underdogs and the contenders is quite important in all strategic situations.

Lesson #7
When the scarcity of resources becomes tangible, the competitive strategists have usually spend more time in the act of assessing the specifics.  Then, they compared their own assessment of themselves to the assessment of their competition.

Lesson #8
Connecting the specifics to the grand overview usually means that one has a understanding of the Big Tangible Picture (BTP).

Lesson #9a
One's own comprehension of the configuration behind the Big Tangible Picture (BTP) is usually proportional to the implementation of their strategic advantage (aka. strategic power)

Lesson #9b

Protecting the Advantage
In reference to lesson one, the first chapter of Jiang Tai Gong's Six Secret Teachings (The Civil Teaching) provides a sound and solid perspective on how to protect one's advantage.

Read, review and reflect.

King Wen asked Tai Gong:"How does one preserve the state's territory?"

Tai Gong said: "Do not estrange your relatives. Do not neglect the masses. Be concillatory and solicitous towards nearby states and control all that is under you. Do not loan the authority of state to other men. If you loan the authority of state to other men, then you will lose your authority. Do not hurt those of lower position to benefit those of higher position. Do not abandon the fundamental to save those that are inconsequential.

When the sun is at midday, you should dry things. If you grasp a knife, you must cut. If you hold an axe, you must attack."

"If at the height of the day, you do not dry things in the sun, this is termed losing the opportunity.

If you grasp a knife but do not cut anything, you will lose the moment for profits. If you hold an axe and do not attack, enemies will attack instead."

"If trickling streams are not blocked, they will become great rivers. If you do not extinguish the smallest flames, there is nothing much you can do when it turns into great flames.

If you do not eliminate the two-leaf sapling, you might have to use the axe to remove it in future." "For this reason, the ruler must focus on developing wealth within his state. Without material wealth, he has nothing with which to spread beneficence or to bring his relatives together.

If he estranges his relatives it will be harmful. If he loses the common people, he will be defeated. "

"Do not loan sharp weapons to other men. If you loan sharp weapons to other men, you will be hurt by them and will not live out your allotted span of years."

King Wen said:"What do you mean by benevolence and righteousness?"

Tai Gong replied: "Respect the common people, unite your relatives. If you respect the common people, they will be in harmony. And if you unite your relatives, they will be happy. This is the way to implement the essential cords of benevolence and righteousness."

"Do not allow other men to snatch away your awesomeness. Rely on your wisdom, follow the norm. Those that submit and accord with you, treat them generously and virtuously. Those that oppose you, break with force. If you respect the people and trust, the state will be peaceful and populace submissive." 
- T’ai Kung Liu-t’ao (Six Secret Teachings)

More on this topic can be found in the Seven Military Classics of Ancient China.


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