Thursday's Thoughts: A New Strategy For An Old Favorite

While I was at the Real Trends Gathering of Eagles in Dallas, Texas a few weeks ago, not only did I get a chance to meet Roger Staubach but I also had the pleasure of meeting Paul DePoesta, currently the Vice President of Player Development and Scouting for the New York Mets.  Now you may know his story better through the name Peter Brand which was the name used in Michael Lewis’ book,  Moneyball, and the movie, to describe DePoesta’s influence on the quintessential American sport.  Paul DePoesta is the statistician and baseball executive who was the foundation of both projects.  They both document how major league baseball was changed forever through the careful measurement of performance.  He used sabermetrics (the mathematical and statistical analysis of baseball records) to strategically recruit players and associate a true value with them. DePodesta, who graduated from Harvard with a degree in economics, had no traditional baseball background.  His first baseball job was the van driver for The Cleveland Indians in 1996 (the Minor League Indians, not the Major – and no, I’m not kidding).  He spent three seasons there moving up to an advance scout for two years and, in his final month with the club, he was appointed to Special Assistant to General Manager John Hart.

In 1999, he joined the Oakland Athletics organization as an Assistant to General Manager Billy Beane.  Here is where the game started to change. The A’s were not doing very well and the leadership team was ready to try something different. They started thinking in terms of “If we weren’t already doing it this way, is this the way we should start?  After much thought, they basically ended up taking everything they thought they new about the game and threw it out the window.

They created a completely new metrics to recruit players that would make them a winning team.

Items that were important in this new system included:

  1. Each player brings something to the table.  They each have diverse skills on and off the field
  2. Consistency across the board in all parts of the organization
  3. Develop players to play the way we want them to play
  4. Believe in the new system and have conviction in the process
  5. Be relentless in asking the naive question.  Make no assumptions
  6. Continue to stress test the process even through successes
  7. And most importantly - Be open-minded

They looked outside of baseball to see how other businesses/organizations dealt with processes.  They promised to be honest with their outcomes and reviewed them whether they were good or bad.  They got their arms around the inefficiencies and uncertainties and did what they could to manage them.  They stopped relying so heavily on luck and intuition and instead looked at actual facts, and statistics. They changed the way the game works and helped the Athletics to become a stronger team.

If you have yet to see the movie or read the book, I highly recommend it. While the character of Peter Brand is not exactly Paul DePodesta, you definitely get a sense of what an amazing person he is.  See the pictures below and you will see Paul is no Jonah Hill.