As I promised back in February, I have reviewed the anti-Moneyball themed Scout’s Honor: The Bravest Way To Build a Winning Team by Bill Shanks. You can read it over at The Hardball Times. Here’s a preview.
The Braves may have developed their on-field success in a way that was different from the A’s, but this does not prove that the Moneyball philosophy is flawed. In fact, quite the opposite is true. That a careful understanding and use of empirical methods based on sound statistical principles employed by a few intelligent men can achieve success similar to a very large organization of traditional scouts is proof of success, not failure. The success of the Braves is something Beane wanted to emulate, but it wasn’t feasible given the constraints imposed by his bosses. Beane had to find a way to win with less, and he did.
The A’s still use scouts; they just use fewer of them and may use them in different ways. This is something that is also clearly stated in Moneyball. The sabermetric method that the A’s employ is simply a new technology no different from the radar gun carried by the scouts Shanks loves so dearly. And just as the Luddites wished to destroy a new technology that threatened their livelihood, scouts have reason to feel threatened by the new knowledge brought forth by sabermetrics. Moneyball is not the fad that Shanks claims but a new technology. It’s superior to the old methods in some areas, but not all. It’s not going away. And while traditional scouting methods are an old part of the game, the process of technological innovation (sometimes known as creative destruction) is much older.
Thanks to the guys at The Hardball Times for publishing my review.
Addendum: A few people have commented on my review over at Baseball Primer. I thought the comments were mostly good, and there are a few from people who have actually read both books at the heart of the debate. I’m very much looking forward to Mike Emeigh’s review, and Tango Tiger just nails it (If you don’t know what it is, you’ll see.). Although one person ripped me, he/she admitted to never reading the book. ????? I’m glad I don’t have the guts to criticize people about things which I have no knowledge. It’s funny how ignorance and arrogance often correlate positively, but I guess it makes sense. The anonymity of the internet doesn’t help. There’s no real reputational cost to saying stupid things, so why not act like a complete idiot. And, of course, now someone’s going to get his/her feelings hurt and be all upset about what I said; but, if no one’s willing to stand up these losers then they’ll just keep clouding good debates with noise. The more noise, the more we need a filter. The problem is that a filter is a public good, which is under-provided. So, consider my response as an altruistic gesture… and I’m not kidding.
Also, thanks to those of you who sent me e-mails. I appreciate your comments, and I will try to get back to all of you.