Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

This Book Is Not About Baseball. But Baseball Teams Swear by It.

Kahneman, a professor emeritus at Princeton University and a winner of the Nobel Prize in economics in 2002, later wrote “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” a book that has become essential among many of baseball’s front offices and coaching staffs.

There aren’t many explicit references to baseball in “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” yet many executives swear by it. It has circulated heavily in the front offices of the Oakland Athletics, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Baltimore Orioles and the Astros, among others. But there is no more ardent a disciple of the tome than Mejdal, a former biomathematician at NASA who earned master’s degrees in both cognitive psychology and operations research.

“Pretty much wherever I go, I’m bothering people, ‘Have you read this?’” said Mejdal, now an assistant general manager with the Baltimore Orioles. “From coaches to front office people, some get back to me and say this has changed their life. They never look at decisions the same way. But others have said, ‘Sig, thanks, but please don’t recommend another book to me.’”

A few, though, swear by it. Andrew Friedman, the president of baseball operations for the Dodgers, recently cited the book as having “a real profound impact,” and said he reflects back on it when evaluating organizational processes. Keith Law, a former executive for the Toronto Blue Jays, wrote the book “Inside Game” — an examination of bias and decision-making in baseball — that was inspired by “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” Law said he found it through a suggestion by Mejdal.

John Mozeliak, the president of baseball operations for the St. Louis Cardinals, sees the book as illustrative.

“As the decision tree in baseball has changed over time, this helps all of us better understand why it needed to change,” Mozeliak wrote in an email. He said that was especially true when “working in a business that many decisions are based on what we see, what we remember, and what is intuitive to our thinking.”


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 24, 2021 at 12:30 PM | 14 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: analytics

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

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. bfan Posted: February 24, 2021 at 01:48 PM (#6006543)
the front offices of the Oakland Athletics, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Baltimore Orioles and the Astros,

One of these is not like the others?
   2. villageidiom Posted: February 24, 2021 at 01:56 PM (#6006549)
That's easy: the Astros, because they didn't relocate from another state.
   3. DL from MN Posted: February 24, 2021 at 02:00 PM (#6006553)
That is one of the best books I have ever read.
   4. Perry Posted: February 24, 2021 at 03:33 PM (#6006583)
That is one of the best books I have ever read.

It's a great one. We studied a lot of Kahneman's (and Tversky's) work in grad school in psychology, he's a legend, and the book is an excellent summation of his life's work, written in a very readable fashion.
   5. salvomania Posted: February 24, 2021 at 03:36 PM (#6006584)
Does he have to "convince" the reader of his premises via insightful prose or is it more about presenting evidence that leads inevitably to his conclusions?

What makes this different from say, a Malcolm Gladwell exercise? (note: I've never read Malcom Gladwell)
   6. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 24, 2021 at 04:03 PM (#6006590)
One big difference is Gladwell is a journalist, while Kahnemann is a psychologist and behavioral economist. So his book is a bit drier, but it seemed like less shoehorning of evidence to fit narratives.
   7. puck Posted: February 24, 2021 at 04:34 PM (#6006596)
The top amazon review when I went to look:

If you just read the 12-page introduction, you'll get it

A brilliant (indeed, Nobel Prize-winning) concept made unbearably tedious by endless case studies. Kahneman going on for over 400 pages about his two systems reminded me strongly of Bernard Shaw's comment on Darwin:

"If very few of us have read The Origin of the Species from end to end, it is not because it overtaxes our mind, but because we take in the whole case and are prepared to accept it long before we have come to the end of the innumerable instances and illustrations of which the book mainly consists. Darwin becomes tedious in the manner of a man who insists on continuing to prove his innocence after he has been acquitted. You assure him that there is not a stain on his character, and beg him to leave the court; but he will not be content with enough evidence to acquit him: he will have you listen to all the evidence that exists in the world."
   8. winnipegwhip Posted: February 24, 2021 at 04:40 PM (#6006598) is a journalist the other psychologist....

What is you have only one bullet Alex?
   9. McCoy Posted: February 24, 2021 at 04:40 PM (#6006599)
I felt like I grasped his concepts merely reading some of the Wikipedia page on the book.
   10. kcgard2 Posted: February 24, 2021 at 04:53 PM (#6006604)
It is a good book. I wouldn't mind if it were required reading for a pretty wide range of people. I definitely do not think the book was unbearably tedious by any means. Different case studies presented different aspects of the phenomenon under discussion. Yes, there are a lot presented, but almost all of them were interesting, IMO.
   11. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: February 24, 2021 at 06:42 PM (#6006629)
Teams embracing "Thinking ... Slow" explains a lot about the current problems in baseball.
   12. salvomania Posted: February 24, 2021 at 08:53 PM (#6006651)
from Wikipedia:
Part of the book has been swept up in the replication crisis facing psychology and the social sciences. An analysis[45] of the studies cited in chapter 4, "The Associative Machine", found that their R-Index[46] is 14, indicating essentially no reliability. Kahneman himself responded to the study in blog comments and acknowledged the chapter's shortcomings: "I placed too much faith in underpowered studies."[47] Others have noted the irony in the fact that Kahneman made a mistake in judgment similar to the ones he studied.[48]

A later analysis[49] made a bolder claim that, despite Kahneman's previous contributions to the field of decision making, most of the book's ideas are based on 'scientific literature with shaky foundations'. A general lack of replication in the empirical studies cited in the book was given as a justification.

I guess it sounds good, as long as you don't dig too deep.
   13. O Tempura, O Morays ('Spos) Posted: February 24, 2021 at 08:57 PM (#6006652)
Michael Lewis never should have written that Kahneman and Tversky book.
   14. mathesond Posted: February 25, 2021 at 08:41 AM (#6006678)
#8 - is Curt Schilling the contestant?

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.



<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Dynasty League Baseball

Support BBTF


Thanks to
Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt!
for his generous support.

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogOT - Soccer Thread - Spring is in the Air
(136 - 8:08pm, Apr 17)
Last: Pirate Joe

NewsblogOMNICHATTER for the weekend of April 17-18, 2021
(36 - 8:02pm, Apr 17)
Last: cardsfanboy

NewsblogCardinals' Yadier Molina becomes first MLB player to catch 2,000 games with one team
(46 - 7:17pm, Apr 17)
Last: Hank Gillette

NewsblogWhy the Cubs' awful offense could trigger full rebuild if downward trend continues this summer
(21 - 6:59pm, Apr 17)
Last: gef, talking mongoose & suburban housewife

NewsblogNBA 2020 Season kick-off thread
(2690 - 6:21pm, Apr 17)
Last: Fourth True Outcome

NewsblogPete Rose to sell picks for baseball, other sports through website
(35 - 6:19pm, Apr 17)
Last: Howie Menckel

NewsblogMLB salary down 4.8% in 2 years; top 100 earn half
(14 - 5:41pm, Apr 17)
Last: Walt Davis

NewsblogWhite Sox lefty Carlos Rodon throws no-hitter against Cleveland after losing perfect game in ninth inning
(77 - 5:15pm, Apr 17)
Last: SoSH U at work

NewsblogIn the minors, a major change as the Atlantic League plans to move the mound back a foot
(82 - 4:55pm, Apr 17)
Last: Hank Gillette

NewsblogMinnesota Twins, Timberwolves postpone games in wake of police shooting of Daunte Wright
(227 - 4:19pm, Apr 17)
Last: Mayor Blomberg

NewsblogEmpty Stadium Sports Will Be Really Weird
(12714 - 3:59pm, Apr 17)
Last: Eudoxus

NewsblogWaiter, there's OMNICHATTER! in my soup!, for April 16, 2021
(40 - 1:58pm, Apr 17)
Last: salvomania

Sox TherapyJust How We Drew It Up
(37 - 1:48pm, Apr 17)
Last: Nasty Nate

NewsblogBlindsided Joe Girardi mum on player's sudden decision to take leave from team
(5 - 9:09am, Apr 17)
Last: jingoist

NewsblogHow Fernando drew thousands of extra fans
(18 - 10:07pm, Apr 16)
Last: The Yankee Clapper

Page rendered in 0.2822 seconds
48 querie(s) executed