Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game is a book by Michael Lewis, published in 2003, about the Oakland Athletics baseball team and its general manager Billy Beane. Its focus is the team's analytical, evidence-based, sabermetric approach to assembling a competitive baseball team despite Oakland's small budget. A film based on Lewis' book, starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, was released in 2011.

The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
AuthorMichael Lewis
CountryUnited States
PublisherW. W. Norton & Company
Publication date
June 17, 2003
Media typePrint (Hardcover)
Pages288 pp.
LC ClassGV880 .L49 2003
Preceded byNext: The Future Just Happened 
Followed byCoach: Lessons on the Game of Life 


The central premise of Moneyball is that the collective wisdom of baseball insiders (including players, managers, coaches, scouts, and the front office) over the past century is outdated, subjective, and often flawed. Statistics such as stolen bases, runs batted in, and batting average, typically used to gauge players, are relics of a 19th-century view of the game and the statistics available at that time. Before sabermetrics was introduced to baseball, teams were dependent on the skills of their scouts to find and evaluate players. Scouts are experienced in the sport, usually having been players or coaches.[1] The book argues that the Oakland A's' front office took advantage of more analytical gauges of player performance to field a team that could outsmart and better compete against richer competitors in Major League Baseball (MLB).

Rigorous statistical analysis had demonstrated that on-base percentage and slugging percentage are better indicators of offensive success, and the A's became convinced that these qualities were cheaper to obtain on the open market than more historically valued qualities such as running speed and defense. These observations often flew in the face of conventional baseball wisdom and the beliefs of many baseball scouts and executives.

By re-evaluating their strategy in this way, the 2002 Athletics, with approximately $44 million in salary, were competitive with larger market teams such as the New York Yankees, who spent over $125 million in payroll that season. Because of its smaller budget, Oakland had to find players undervalued by the market, and their system has proven itself thus far. The approach brought the A's to the playoffs in 2002 and 2003.

Lewis explored several themes in the book, such as insiders vs. outsiders (established traditionalists vs. upstart proponents of sabermetrics), the democratization of information causing a flattening of hierarchies, and "the ruthless drive for efficiency that capitalism demands".

Distribution of team salaries in 2002. Team salaries ranged from about $35 million (the Tampa Bay Devil Rays) to about $120 million (the New York Yankees)
The Oakland Athletics had the third-lowest team payroll in the league (about $40 million) marginally higher than that of the Montreal Expos, whose franchise was transferred to the Washington Nationals in 2005.

Moneyball also touches on the A's' methods of prospect selection. Sabermetricians argue that a college baseball player's chance of MLB success is much higher than the more traditional high school draft pick. Beane maintains that high draft picks spent on high school prospects, regardless of talent or physical potential as evaluated by traditional scouting, are riskier than those spent on more polished college players. Adding on, college players have played more games and thus there is a larger mass of statistical data to base expensive decisions off. Lewis cites A's minor leaguer Jeremy Bonderman, drafted out of high school in 2001 over Beane's objections, as an example of the type of draft pick Beane would avoid. Bonderman had all of the traditional "tools" that scouts look for, but thousands of such players have been signed by MLB organizations out of high school over the years and failed to develop as anticipated. Lewis explores the A's approach to the 2002 MLB draft, when the team had a run of early picks. The book documents Beane's often tense discussions with his scouting staff (who favored traditional subjective evaluation of potential rather than objective sabermetrics) in preparation for the draft to the actual draft, which defied all expectations and was considered at the time a wildly successful (if unorthodox) effort by Beane.

Moneyball traces the history of the sabermetric movement back to such people as Bill James (then a member of the Boston Red Sox front office) and Craig R. Wright. Lewis explores how James's seminal Baseball Abstract, published annually from the late 1970s through the late 1980s, influenced many of the young, up-and-coming baseball minds that are now joining the ranks of baseball management.


Moneyball has entered baseball's lexicon; teams that value sabermetrics are often said to be playing "Moneyball." Baseball traditionalists, in particular some scouts and media members, decry the sabermetric revolution and have disparaged Moneyball for emphasizing sabermetrics over more traditional methods of player evaluation. Nevertheless, Moneyball changed the way many major league front offices do business. In its wake, teams such as the New York Mets, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Guardians,[2] and the Toronto Blue Jays have hired full-time sabermetric analysts.

When the Mets hired Sandy Alderson Beane's predecessor and mentor with the A's as their general manager after the 2010 season, and hired Beane's former associates Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi to the front office, the team was jokingly referred to as the "Moneyball Mets".[3] Like the Oakland A's in the 1990s, the Mets have been directed by their ownership to slash payroll. Under Alderson's tenure, the team payroll dropped below $100 million per year from 2012 to 2014, and the Mets reached the 2015 World Series (defeating MLB's highest-payroll team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, en route).

In the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the Tampa Bay Rays were considered masters of Moneyball, reaching the 2020 World Series with a payroll prorated at US$28.2 million, third-lowest out of Major League Baseball's 30 teams.[4][5]

Lewis has acknowledged that the book's success may have hurt the Athletics' fortunes as other teams accepted sabermetrics, reducing Oakland's edge.[6]

Since the book's publication and success, Lewis has discussed plans for a sequel to Moneyball called Underdogs, revisiting the players and their relative success several years into their careers, although only four players from the 2002 draft played much at the Major League level.

Moneyball has also influenced and been influenced by other professional sports teams including European club association football (soccer). Beane has regarded Arsenal's former manager Arsène Wenger as a personal idol. Beane has held discussions with Wenger, former Manchester United F.C. manager Sir Alex Ferguson, and Liverpool F.C. owner John W. Henry.[7] His friendship with ex-Arsenal scout Damien Comolli and Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke allowed him to delve deep into the world of English football.[8] According to El País, Liverpool F.C. co-owner John W. Henry did not trust public opinion so he looked for a mathematical method similar to the one used for the Boston Red Sox (in guiding them to three World Series wins) which he also owns via Fenway Sports Group.[9] The mathematical model turned out to be that of Cambridge physicist Ian Graham, which was used to select the manager (Jürgen Klopp) and players essential for Liverpool to win the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League.[10][11]

People discussed in the book

Moneyball covers the lives and careers of several baseball personalities. The central one is Billy Beane, whose failed playing career is contrasted with wildly optimistic predictions by scouts.

Players and people discussed in Moneyball:

Oakland farm system

Nick Swisher, the prospect the traditional scouts and statisticians agreed upon.

Oakland bullpen

Other players

Scouts, management, and journalists

Analysis of the 2002 Major League Baseball draft

Beane's list

Beane assembled a list of twenty players they would draft in a "perfect world"; meaning if money was no object and they did not have to compete with the other twenty-nine teams.

The list, and the teams who drafted them:

  • Jeremy GuthrieCleveland, #22 (1st round)
  • Joe Blanton – Oakland, #24 (1st round Marin)
  • Jeff FrancisColorado, #9 (1st round)
  • Luke Hagerty – Chicago Cubs, #32 (1st round)
  • Ben Fritz – Oakland, #30 (1st round)
  • Robert Brownlie – Chicago Cubs, #21 (1st round)
  • Stephen Obenchain – Oakland, #37 (1st round)
  • Bill Murphy – Oakland, #98 (3rd round)
  • Nick Swisher – Oakland, #16 (1st round)
  • Russ Adams – Toronto, #14 (1st round)
  • Khalil GreeneSan Diego, #13 (1st round)
  • John McCurdy – Oakland, #26 (1st round)
  • Mark Teahen – Oakland, #39 (1st round)
  • Jeremy Brown – Oakland, #35 (1st round)
  • Steve Stanley – Oakland, #67 (2nd round)
  • John Baker – Oakland, #128 (4th round)
  • Mark Kiger – Oakland, #158 (5th round)
  • Brian Stavisky – Oakland, #188 (6th round)
  • Shaun Larkin – Cleveland, #274 (9th round)
  • Brant Colamarino – Oakland, #218 (7th round)

Oakland's picks

  • #16 – Nick Swisher – successful major leaguer, traded to Chicago White Sox after 2007
  • #24 – Joe Blanton – successful major leaguer, traded to Philadelphia Phillies in 2008
  • #26 – John McCurdy – never made MLB. Last played minor league ball in 2006.
  • #30 – Ben Fritz – never made MLB. Last played minor league ball in 2010.
  • #35 – Jeremy Brown – MLB experience consists of 11 plate appearances for Oakland in 2006. Last played minor league ball in 2007.
  • #37 – Stephen Obenchain – never made MLB. Last played minor league ball in 2006.
  • #39 – Mark Teahen – spent parts of eight seasons in MLB, played only in the minors in 2012 and 2013.
  • #67 – Steve Stanley – never made MLB. Last played minor league ball in 2006.
  • #98 – Bill Murphy – MLB debut in 2007, pitched approximately 18 innings in MLB. Has played only in foreign and minor leagues since 2009.
  • #128 – John Baker – traded to the Florida Marlins and has played around 300 total games in six MLB seasons.
  • #158 – Mark Kiger – MLB experience consists of 1+23 innings at second base for Oakland in the 2006 American League Championship Series. Never played in the MLB regular season. Last played minor league ball in 2009.
  • #188 – Brian Stavisky – never made MLB. Last played minor league ball in 2010.
  • #218 – Brant Colamarino – never made MLB. Last played minor league ball in 2007.


Richard H. Thaler of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and Cass R. Sunstein of the University of Chicago Law School described the book as a "sensation... Lewis has a wonderful story to tell, and he tells it wonderfully... Lewis also raises some serious puzzles that he does not resolve, and his account has some large and perhaps profound implications that he does not much explore."[12]

David Haglund of Slate and Jonah Keri of Grantland have both criticized the book for glossing over key young talent acquired through the draft and signed internationally. Specifically, they have argued that the book ignores the pitching trio of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito, as well as position players such as Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada, all of whom were discovered via traditional scouting methodology and were key contributors to the success of the 2002 Athletics. In 2002, Barry Zito received the AL Cy Young Award and Miguel Tejada received the AL MVP Award. [13] [14]

Sheldon and Alan Hirsch also contended the view in their 2011 book The Beauty of Short Hops: How Chance and Circumstance Confound the Moneyball Approach to Baseball, pointing out the team being high up in allowing runs less other teams as opposed to being high on runs scored during their postseason runs.[15]


A movie based on the book was released in 2011. Actor Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane, while Jonah Hill plays fictional character Peter Brand, based on Paul DePodesta; Philip Seymour Hoffman plays A's manager Art Howe. Academy Award-winning screenwriter Steve Zaillian was hired to write the script, and Steven Soderbergh was slated to direct, replacing David Frankel.[16] But in June 2009, because of conflicts over a revised script by Soderbergh, Sony put the movie on hold just days before it was scheduled to begin shooting.[17] Soderbergh was eventually let go.

Bennett Miller took over directing duties,[18] and Aaron Sorkin rewrote the script.[18] Shooting began in July 2010 at Blair Field, the Sports Stadium for Wilson High School (Long Beach, California), Sony Studios in Culver City, Dodger Stadium, and the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum.[19][20] The film was released in theaters on September 23, 2011. Moneyball was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Actor and Best Picture.

The book is parodied in the 2010 Simpsons episode "MoneyBART", in which Lisa manages Bart's Little League baseball team using sabermetric principles. Bill James made an appearance in this episode. The film adaptation is mentioned in Brooklyn Nine-Nine as being Captain Raymond Holt's favourite film because of the beauty of its statistical analysis.

See also


  1. "A Study of Sabermetrics in Major League Baseball: The Impact of Moneyball on Free Agent Salaries" (PDF).
  2. Woolner, Keith (2007-05-04). "Articles | Aim For The Head: Aim For the Front Office". Baseball Prospectus. Retrieved 2011-09-24.
  3. "The Moneyball Mets". New York. 25 March 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-06.
  4. Rogers, Martin (October 10, 2019). "The Tampa Bay Rays are the undisputed kings of Moneyball" via
  5. Rubin, Shayna (October 20, 2020). "World Series: Why Tampa Bay Rays do 'Moneyball' better than Oakland A's" via
    N.B. While this reference uses "28th lowest", it clearly means 28th highest (out of 30), aka third-lowest.
  6. "Michael Lewis on A's 'Moneyball' legacy". San Francisco Chronicle. 18 September 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-23.
  7. Lyttleton, Ben (March 26, 2015). "Why Billy Beane was right to avoid the EPL and work with AZ Alkmaar" via
  8. Bascombe, Chris (October 13, 2011). "Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger is an idol of mine, says revered baseball coach Billy Beane". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2022-01-12. Retrieved June 18, 2012.
  9. O'Connor, Luke (2 November 2015). "Jurgen Klopp & Liverpool's 'Moneyball' Policy". Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  10. Maupomé, Ana Paulina (3 June 2019). "Moneyball, Liverpool's reason behind Jürgen Klopp's hiring". Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  11. Prentice, David (May 24, 2019). "Unknown LFC backroom boy who convinced Klopp to sign Salah & Keita". liverpoolecho.
  12. "Who's On First". New Republic. 2003-09-01. Retrieved 2017-02-09.
  13. "More Moneyball, Same Problems". Slate. 2011-09-21. Retrieved 2017-05-22.
  14. "Baseball's Big Three: A Look Back at Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito in Oakland". Grantland. 2015-09-23. Retrieved 2017-05-22.
  15. Barra, Allen (2011-09-27). "The Many Problems With 'Moneyball'". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2023-01-18.
  16. Siegel, Tatiana. "Columbia pitches Moneyball to Pitt", Variety (October 16, 2008).
  17. ""Benched: 'Moneyball' Flick on Hold at Last Minute", Associated Press (June 22, 2009)". 2009-06-22. Retrieved 2011-09-24.
  18. Fleming, Mike (12 April 2010). ""Finally, It's Batter Up For 'Moneyball,'" (April 12, 2010)". Retrieved 2011-09-24.
  19. ""'Moneyball' begins filming in Oakland", ABC7 KGO-TV San Francisco, California (July 27, 2010)". 2010-07-27. Retrieved 2011-09-24.
  20. "'Moneyball' films scenes in Dodger Stadium". Los Angeles Times. 2010-09-14. Retrieved 2011-09-24.
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