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Monday, September 01, 2014

Extreme Moneyball: The Houston Astros Go All In on Data Analysis

“The problem we’re trying to solve is that there are rich teams and there are poor teams. Then there’s fifty feet of crap, and then there’s us. It’s an unfair game. And now we’ve been gutted. We’re like organ donors for the rich. Boston’s taken our kidneys, Yankees have taken our heart. And you guys just sit around talking the same old “good body” nonsense like we’re selling jeans. Like we’re looking for Fabio. We’ve got to think differently. We are the last dog at the bowl. You see what happens to the runt of the litter? He dies.”

Luhnow’s appreciation of the predictive power of data grew out of his experience selling designer jeans. In the early 2000s, with a former president of Levi Strauss, he co-founded an online custom apparel company that made jeans for Lands’ End (LE) shoppers. “You’re taking self-reported inputs from a human being,” he says, “and then trying to figure out exactly what pair of pants to make them. Are they being honest with themselves? Is there vanity sizing involved? How do they perceive themselves relative to how they actually are?”

H/T to Jose Molina wants a nickname like “A-Rod”

Jim Furtado Posted: September 01, 2014 at 12:40 AM | 12 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros, moneyball

Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Weratych Posted: September 01, 2014 at 10:00 AM (#4783058)
What?
   2. The District Attorney Posted: September 01, 2014 at 10:51 AM (#4783077)
   3. Swedish Chef Posted: September 01, 2014 at 12:22 PM (#4783104)
Bo Porter has been fired, the Astros are acquiring a license to SAS to replace him with.
   4. The Duke Posted: September 01, 2014 at 12:46 PM (#4783121)
Very interesting article. Great news for them is that no one will take them seriously for 3-5 more years in which time they will be very far ahead of the rest of the league.

Not a big fan of their approach -- frankly I think, deliberately tanking for three years is against all the principles of fair play, but if the rest of the league is willing to put up with that, who am I to complain. That strategy could be derailed by simply making the top 10 draft spots a lottery of the 10 worst teams.

   5. McCoy Posted: September 01, 2014 at 12:50 PM (#4783125)
Nah, they'll just be the 6th best org.
   6. greenback votes nefariously Posted: September 01, 2014 at 12:54 PM (#4783127)
Bo Porter has been fired, the Astros are acquiring a license to SAS to replace him with.

I'm guessing the Astros only use open source software.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: September 01, 2014 at 06:35 PM (#4783309)
Bo Porter has been fired, the Astros are acquiring a license to SAS to replace him with.

Porter was cheaper.
   8. Ron J2 Posted: September 02, 2014 at 02:58 PM (#4783874)
#7 Somebody else has dealt with SAS I see.
   9. TJ Posted: September 03, 2014 at 03:01 PM (#4784720)
Note to Houston's computer- J.D. Martinez says hi...
   10. Jeff R. Posted: September 03, 2014 at 04:25 PM (#4784826)
Not a big fan of their approach -- frankly I think, deliberately tanking for three years is against all the principles of fair play, but if the rest of the league is willing to put up with that, who am I to complain. That strategy could be derailed by simply making the top 10 draft spots a lottery of the 10 worst teams.


Ugh. I live in Minnesota; every freaking NBA draft I have to hear about how the Timberwolves have been screwed because they've never moved up in draft position. We should've had Shaq, the lottery is fixed, woe is us.

What Houston is doing is unprecedented. I think the MLB draft is risky enough, even with top picks, that it remains a question if Houston's strategy will ever be emulated. I'd think that most teams would be too afraid of damaging their long-term brand and image to intentionally tank for too long.
   11. kthejoker Posted: September 03, 2014 at 04:47 PM (#4784858)
I'm glad whatever JD Martinez changed in his swing is working for him, but there was no evidence whatsoever that that guy was that guy when he was in Houston.
   12. Smitty* Posted: September 03, 2014 at 06:48 PM (#4784952)
I once wrote the following program in SAS

Data dontyouhatepants;
Set smittyhatespants;
Where pantsdisposition = 'HATED';
Run;

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