Featured entries from our Journal

Details Are Part of Our Difference

Embracing the Evidence at Anheuser-Busch – Mid 1980s

529 Best Practices

David Booth on How to Choose an Advisor

The One Minute Audio Clip You Need to Hear

Tag: Jeff Luhnow

Never Punt

Who will you be rooting for in Super Bowl LIII on February 3rd – the Patriots or the Rams? Either way, you’ll be among millions of fans tuning in for the big game.

That means the pressure is on, for both teams. You’d think this would encourage players and coaches to give it everything they’ve got. By some measures, I’m sure they do. But I also believe there’s a secret weapon neither team will be taking advantage of: Forgoing the option to punt.

What if more coaches were willing to let convention-challenging research be their guide? They might end up featured in an HBO “Real Sports” segment. That’s what happened to Pulaski Academy Head Coach Kevin Kelley from Little Rock, Arkansas. He earned a reputation for being “the coach who never punts,” after he decided to heed the data, and employ an atypical tactic of almost always going for the fourth down instead of punting. Check out the trailer here:

Of course, we feel the same sort of data-driven strategy and disciplined perspective should be applied to your evidence-based investing. So do others, which is why our friends at AQR featured a conversation between AQR Principal Toby Moskowitz and the same Coach Kelley in one of their podcasts, “Hot Hands and Cold Feet.” (Fast-forward to minute 10:00 to hear the specific conversation.)

While we call Kelley evidence-based, others have called him “crazy,” “insane” or “mad scientist.” If he is, his results don’t show it. In his conversation with Moskowitz, Kelley notes his record at Pulaski Academy is 179 wins/25 losses, with seven state titles in the past 15 years.

Consider these insights as you enjoy Super Bowl LIII. Consider it, too, as you stick with your best-laid investment plans in our competitive markets. I say, go ahead and let others call you crazy, if that’s what it takes to achieve your personal financial goals.

Astroball: Awesome Summer Reading

Like father, like son: “Little” Henry Bragg is an Astros fan too.

What do you get when you combine an evidence-based process with visionary team spirit and brilliant leadership? A World Series Commissioner’s Trophy, for starters. The “rags to riches” tale of the Houston Astros 2017 World Series victory is now available for your reading pleasure, thanks to Sports Illustrated senior writer Ben Reiter.

We love the recent approach to managing the Astros because it mirrors our approach to investing in two major ways:

  • First, it is backed by data. The Astros management seeks to fully understand the factors that drive wins, quantify them, and weight heavily toward them.
  • Second, like with investing, achieving your long-term goals may sometimes require short-term sacrifices. If you have the right philosophy and the right process, you can trust that the odds will work in your favor long-term.

Something of a visionary himself, Reiter actually predicted the team’s 2017 victory on the cover of the magazine’s June 30, 2014 edition. Was that luck or forecasting talent? You be the judge, when you read Reiter’s entertaining account in “Astroball: The New Way to Win It All.”

Reminiscent of Michael Lewis’ Moneyball tale of the Oakland A’s, the Astros applied similar evidence-based strategies to improve their game. They leveraged what the Oakland A’s Billy Beane began and took it a step further, incorporating (with help from the “Nerd Cave”) scores for more unconventional qualities, such as personality and grit. These elements and more are touched on in this review: “[R]oster-creation, all by itself, did not bring home the championship. Building an exceptional team is one thing, but making it work as a team is another.”

We’ve said it before; we’ll say it again: We couldn’t be prouder of our exceptional home-town team. Go Astros!

Bonus read: For more of baseball’s rich historical lore, I also enjoyed this recent PBS documentary on legendary hitter Ted Williams, in all his quirky glory (narrated by St. Louis’s own Jon Hamm). This related New York Times piece tells the backstory of how some of the film’s best footage was almost lost for good.

A Championship for Houston, and a Victory for Patience and Discipline

Kevin Burkhardt interviews Jeff Luhnow (and his son Henry) as the Astros celebrate their first championship. Photo courtesy of the Houston Astros.


All of us at Hill Investment Group are still buzzing about the Houston Astros’ incredible World Series victory on November 1. This is the first World Series title for the franchise since it was founded in 1962, and we know how much this championship means for a city still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.

We’re also thrilled for Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow, who is also a good friend and was one of the first people to read and endorse my book, Odds On. When Jeff took over in 2011, the Astros were the worst team in baseball. Now, they’re World Champions, and they got there by taking down the three richest, most formidable teams: The Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Any way you look at it, this was a monumental achievement. And even without these personal connections I’d still be thrilled by Houston’s victory, because of the way they did it: They adopted a rational, evidence-based strategy, and then had the patience and discipline to let it pay off.

The first thing Jeff and the Astros did to become winners was to take the long view: They didn’t have the budget to rebuild the team overnight with expensive players—and they probably wouldn’t have done that if they could because it wasn’t a sustainable approach. Instead, they decided to develop talent from the ground up, using advanced statistics to draft the best young players and to find veterans whose unique skill sets would diversify and strengthen the roster. Then they waited… losing a lot of games while slowly transforming themselves into a competitive team. Even as some fans grumbled about the losing, the team stuck with the plan and continued to make adjustments as needed, until their commitment was rewarded with the ultimate payoff.

This story should sound familiar to Hill Investment Group clients, because it’s a good analogy for what we’re doing in the investment world. Like the Astros, we’re taking on big, deep-pocketed competition. We’re also using a rational, data-driven approach that seeks to truly understand the factors that drive success. And once we’ve used those insights to develop a plan, we’re committed to see it through—trusting our process even in the face of temporary difficulties. Because as the Astros have proven, achieving the ultimate long-term goal sometimes requires short-term sacrifices.

So once again, Hill Investment Group offers our congratulations to Jeff Luhnow, the Houston Astros, and all of their fans. Nothing makes me happier than seeing people make brave choices, and then have the discipline to stand by those choices until they’re rewarded with greatness.

Take the long view,


Featured entries from our Journal

Details Are Part of Our Difference

Embracing the Evidence at Anheuser-Busch – Mid 1980s

529 Best Practices

David Booth on How to Choose an Advisor

The One Minute Audio Clip You Need to Hear

Hill Investment Group