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Astroball: Awesome Summer Reading
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.
Play Ball! (Houston Astros Style)
When I’m not busy helping people build long-term wealth via evidence-based investing, in my daydreams, I’m a starting pitcher in the major leagues.
Admittedly, if my dreams ever come true, I’ll probably throw out my shoulder on the third pitch, after giving up a couple of home runs. But besides that technicality, there actually are a number of similarities between my real day job and my fantasy career. I know this, because the Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow happens to be a fan of Matt Hall’s Odds On book. He even wrote an endorsement for the book, and he has stayed in touch with us ever since.
As we’ve covered before, author Michael Lewis published his now-iconic book Moneyball in 2003. Both the book and the award-winning motion picture showcase how Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane employed empirical evidence over expert opinion, studied patience over rapid reaction, and cost control over splashy spending to take his underdog team in a dramatically new direction on a shoestring budget.
Sounds a lot like what we aim to do for investors, doesn’t it? But a happy Hollywood ending is one thing. Can the strategy really work over time in baseball, or was it a sensational flash in the pan?
That’s where additional data points from Luhnow come in, when he chose to take Beane’s analytical approach one step further with “extreme Moneyball,” as described in this 2014 Bloomberg piece. Similar to the A’s, the Astros were underperforming at the time – big time. They literally had the worst record in baseball EVER during the first two years of Luhnow’s tenure.
Then came his fresh, evidence-based approach. The Astros made the American League playoffs in 2015 and, as I draft this piece, this recent Wall Street Journal piece describes Luhnow’s data-driven shift to maintain the team’s home run averages while reducing its strike-outs. The results so far? The WSJ reports: “More than 40% of the way through the season, the Astros own the best record in the majors, blitzing the competition with a lineup that defies all logic.”
Well, not all logic. The article also describes Luhnow as the “architect of perhaps the sport’s most data-driven organization.”
If you ask me, that probably explains it. Will the Astros take their first World Series in their 55-year history? Either way, come what may, I look forward to seeing what they have in store for 2017!
Articles and Videos Worth Checking Out
- A short video on the market’s response to Greece. Click here.
- Did you like the Brad Pitt movie, Moneyball? Here’s the origin story of AVM Systems, the little-known company that jump-started sabermetrics and made Moneyball possible. Click here.
- A great piece from The New York Times on the complicated world of investing. Click here.
- A summary from DFA on the state of the mutual fund landscape. Click here.
- DFA’s video detailing their fund construction and trading practices. Click here.