Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Importance of Strategic Assessment: (The Origin of Moneyball.)

While the amateurs regard the act of gathering the data and implementing the plan as the monumental keys to project success, the professionals believes that the act of gathering intelligence and assessing it strategically are the keys to quality strategy development and implementation. A team that performs quality strategy development and implementation will succeed.

Compass AE Implementers use the assessed data as the foundation for building their Tangible Vision.

Those who properly build, connect and lead with their Tangible Vision, will prevail.
Just remember that "intelligence is assessed as information with value ."


The Red Sox' Stat Man And The Numbers Game
March 30, 2008
(CBS) At last the summer game is back, hope once again rears its pretty head, and the sound of "Play Ball!" is heard in the land. Baseball is a game like no other and despite the obscene salaries and even more obscene steroid cheating scandals, it remains rich in tradition - a favorite of poets and dreamers - and most of all of statistical wonks who believe that enlightenment lies in the correct reading of the numbers. This brings us to Bill James, the wizard hired by the Boston Red Sox five years ago. Since then the team - that was a congenital loser for 86 years - has won two World Series. James invented something called "sabermetrics," loosely defined as the analysis of baseball through objective evidence. Whether it actually works or not is open to debate, but baseball, with its unshakeable reliance on superstition, believes the Red Sox have found themselves one extremely lucky charm.
60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer found Bill James at spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., a shambling giant who strolls unnoticed among the stars and the star-struck fans, about as athletic as a night watchman at a pork and beans factory, which is exactly what he was. Asked if he tried playing baseball, James admits, "I did play baseball but I have no athletic ability whatsoever." "What position did you play?" Safer asks. "I played where anybody else wasn't playing," James says. He still does. The Red Sox created a new position, Senior Adviser for Baseball Operations. He's an unlikely guru, who for 30 years had been declaring that many of baseball’s hallowed beliefs were "ridiculous hokum." "I remember by the time I was 14 or 15 I'd begun to realize that a lot of baseball's traditional wisdom didn't actually make sense," James says. He says he realized that baseball was going to be his life when he "failed at everything else."

Growing up in Mayetta, Kan., rooting for the old Kansas City A's, James, consumed by baseball, couldn't help but adapt college courses to his first love. "I went to a state university in the Midwest and they tried to teach me economics. And I took everything that they tried to teach me and applied it to baseball," he explains.
He tried a variety of jobs, finally ending up as the night watchman at the Stokely Van Camp Pork and Beans plant in Lawrence, Kan.

To pass the time while watching the beans simmer, he brought a stack of box scores to work. Thus began the theory of sabermetrics.
"There were certain things that Major League Baseball traditionally believed that I argued were nonsense. One, that you could evaluate a pitcher by his won-loss record. Two, that I -- serious disagreement on what drove an offense," he says. Like batting averages: the oldest way to measure a hitter, James believed that players who got a lot of walks and wore down pitchers were overlooked. So he embraced a new statistic, "on-base percentage," which has become part of baseball's Bible. As for pitching, he has said that won-loss records do not tell how good or how bad a pitcher is. "The most accurate thing is to focus on the strikeouts, the walks, the home runs allowed. And to evaluate the pitcher on that level," James explains. So James stresses another statistic: the strike-out to walk ratio. He says for decades managers used outdated formulas or intuition in making decisions. So night after night, he crunched numbers until he came up with new statistics based on facts that would either support or debunk tradition. In 1977, the night watchman became so confident of his theories that he published them. The "Bill James Baseball Abstract" was born; it was 68 pages, mimeographed and stapled, and there was even an advertising campaign.

"Did you have a hard time convincing people of what is the basic truth of baseball?" Safer asks.

"I was a night watchman. I was working in a factory in Kansas. I didn't have a prayer of convincing people who had been in baseball for 40 years that I understood something that they didn't. Nor reasonably should I. I mean, it wouldn't have made sense for them to listen to me and they didn't," James says.

But James did gain a following that kept growing, and by 1982 a major publisher had signed him up.

"He's actually the pioneer of a whole school of thought," says NBC commentator Bob Costas, who is a true believer.

"It changed the way I looked at baseball. The idea that the most important hitting statistics are on base percentage or slugging percentage…it seems simple. But, basic baseball statistics hadn't taken that into account," Costas says.

Costas says James debunked of many of baseball’s myths, like the old belief that pitchers prevented stolen bases. James proved it was the catcher who made the difference.

Some other theories seemed unsupportable, like James' dictum that there is no such thing as a clutch hitter, or that batting order has no significance. But his numbers did show that the sacrifice bunt is rarely worth the out, and that the use of the so-called "closer" is a wasted pitching resource.

"Why does your closer only have to pitch the ninth inning?" Costas asks. "Bill has said for a long time, 'Why wouldn’t you bring in your best reliever with the tying or go ahead runs in scoring position and the best hitter for the other club coming up in the sixth inning or the seventh inning?' Maybe the game turns right there."

Costas says the key to Bill James' success is his simply expressed logic. "He writes very well. And, he’s funny," Costas says. "Bill James is a very, very smart guy. Who doesn’t just understand information, but, he’s shown people a different way of interpreting that information."

Though James' abstracts became bestsellers, and he became the "voice of God" to baseball geeks everywhere, Major League Baseball was slow to appreciate him. When James claimed that legendary manager Sparky Anderson was more lucky than talented, Sparky shot back that James was "a fat little bearded man who knows nothing about nothing."

His ideas were finally put into practice in 1997, when Billy Beane of the hapless Oakland A's used sabermetrics to fill his roster with young, underrated, cheaper players. It made the A's competitive.

In 2002, the new management of the Boston Red Sox came calling on Bill James, ready to try anything to break the 86-year-old curse. Two of the partners, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino, proclaimed James was part of a grand design-that the team would not be "your father's Red Sox."

"His reputation had preceded him so we knew we were getting a guy who was unusual. And I thought it was a giant step forward," Lucchino says.

"The truth is, Morley, this is a very sophisticated business these days. And it's very competitive. And I think when Larry and I first came into the business, the general manager relied fairly much on gut instincts. And I think that what we've done is we've taken a much more systematic approach, which really comes from Bill," Werner adds.

James sees his job as being the voice of cold reason based on hard evidence.

Example: Fenway Park and its infamous left field wall, the "Green Monster." Fenway was legendary as a right-handed hitters' park. But analysis showed it actually favored left-handed hitters, and the Sox line-up has been lefty-heavy ever since.

Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein says Bill James is the staff contrarian. "I know with Bill that I'm always gonna get a unique perspective. 'Cause he I think he does see the game from a different vantage point than most anyone else," Epstein says. "His basic questions about the game, I think, have allowed us to think more critically about the best way to develop players. Even if he doesn't have the answers, he always has the questions."

Neither the Red Sox nor James will reveal specific decisions based on James' input, but it is widely accepted that it was James who urged them to sign a jolly giant named David Ortiz.

But James refuses to take full credit for hiring Ortiz, nicknamed "Big Papi."

"Everybody was in favor of signing David Ortiz. I liked him because of his numbers. The scouts liked him because of his swing. Some people liked him because they knew he was a positive guy in the clubhouse," James says.

"Were there any people who said no?" Safer asks.

"Yes, there was. There was a guy. Yeah," James says.

Asked if that guy is still with the club, James says, "I think he is. But I haven't seen him around the office lately."

And what does the guru think about baseball generally? Best player of all? St. Louis Cardinal’s first baseman Albert Pujols. Most underrated? Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley.

And if he could have anyone on his team?

"David Wright," James says.

Asked why, James tells Safer, "Because he does everything I like and he's very young."

And age is just about the most important number of all to Bill James. "A player's best years are 25 to 29. That was true when I was a kid, and it's still true now," he says.

Many believe that James-ian theory was behind the Red Sox decision to not re-sign hugely popular but aging stars Johnny Damon and Pedro Martinez, a decision that seems to have paid off for the Red Sox.

But while Red Sox manager Terry Francona says James is an integral part of the Red Sox, you can’t always play strictly by the numbers. "This game's played by people. And, you know, I mean, certainly knowing the numbers, and I care about 'em, and it's important. But people play the game, and I never try to lose sight of that," Francona says.

"Of course in any given day any professional baseball player can defy all the numbers in his record," Safer remarks.

"Yep," Francona agrees. "And the only reason they're ever gonna be any good is if they believe in that. I would never wanna say, 'Hey, you're 0-for-20 against this guy. You can't play.' We don't share that with the players a lot. We want 'em to feel indestructible."

"He's made some what sound like pretty dogmatic statements like, 'There's no such thing as a clutch hitter,'" Safer points out.

"I've heard him say that. But then I would want him to be introduced to David Ortiz…You get my point? We feel pretty good when David Ortiz is hittin' in the clutch," Francona says.

James is rethinking that one. But the players, like Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell, say theories are for the front office-not the playing field.

"I don't think we come into spring training and say, 'Man, hopefully we have a .960 fielding percentage.' I don't think it gets that detailed," Lowell says. "But I think more teams are realizing that when you use these numbers you’re gonna win more games."

"In the final analysis, it's one guy with a piece of wood, hitting a ball that's moving at 90 miles an hour," Safer remarks.

"Absolutely. You can't put a number on that," Lowell says,

But one number, the number two, as in two World Series, still resonates.

"Whatever effect that Bill James has in the Red Sox, he’s certainly been a good luck charm. I mean, in four years, they’ve won two World Series after an 86-year drought," Safer tells Bob Costas.

"You certainly can't say that Bill James has had a negative effect on the Red Sox fortunes. And, that's bought a tremendous amount of good will, as well in Boston. I mean, 2004 changed everything," Costas says.

One thing 2004 did not change is the hatred for the New York Yankees, who are now playing the numbers game as well.

"Are you concerned that the 'evil empire,' I think, as he - otherwise known as the New York Yankees, are doing the same thing?" Safer asks Larry Luccino.

"Yes," he replies. "They are, but, there are several teams in baseball that are doing it. But, the Yankees always tend to spend a little more money at whatever it is they're doing."

James says he’s always looking for new numbers to help the Red Sox. But even he admits the numbers will never say it all.

"There's something in baseball that you really can't quantify. And that is, the mix of guys at a given moment, there's some magic or whatever, that goes on. That all the James-ian theory in the world will never find the answer to," Safer says.

"It's mostly intangible," James says. "I mean, I don't understand most of it. I don't think that anybody in the Red Sox would tell you that we have that magic stuff figured out. But there are people here who understand that part of the equation a lot better than I do."

Produced by Deirdre Naphin © MMVIII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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