As long time readers of this blog know, I have an interest (obssession?) in the application of objective metrics, à la Michael Lewis's wonderful Moneyball book, in measuring law school and law professor performance. (See links below the fold.). But Dan Drezner suggests that the Moneyball phenomenon may be a victim of its own success -- Winning Strategy Loses Its Edge (Marketplace):
Some baseball traditionalists are delighted by the A's woes. To them, this represents a clear rebuke to Michael Lewis' 2003 book, "Moneyball." That book chronicled how Billy Beane allegedly out-drafted, out-traded, and out-thought other baseball GMs by relying on sophisticated baseball statistics known as sabermetrics.
This innovative strategy helped the A's outperform their payroll, because Beane signed and drafted players that performed better than baseball scouts expected. He applied a simple economic principle to the practice of building a baseball team: When a business sector is run by an insular old-boy network, an outsider can exploit market inefficiencies and reap significant arbitrage opportunities. For some of those traditionalists, the apparent decline and fall of the A's symbolizes the failures of the "Moneyball" philosophy.
But as sabermetric methods have become more accepted in the boardrooms of baseball, Beane and other innovators have fewer inefficiencies to exploit. Since the publication of “Moneyball,” almost every team in the major leagues has incorporated sabremetric thinking into their organization.
The Boston Red Sox won two World Series in the past four years while employing Bill James, the godfather of the sabermetrics community. Other franchises around the league have also hired young sabermetrics devotees to run their front offices. The result: The popularization of sabermetrics has left Beane with less of an advantage — it’s harder to find diamonds in the rough when everyone else is mining the same territory. The A’s are not struggling because of “Moneyball”’s failure — they are struggling because of its success.