Football, not Moneyball
The so-called ‘Moneyball approach’ has been getting some flak recently, whether it be Liverpool’s much talked about transfer committee or Brentford’s supposed total reliance on data.
But let’s take a moment. Moneyball was the name of a book written by Michael Lewis (later Hollywoodised with Brad Pitt), specifically about a relatively poor baseball team that was able to punch above its financial weight by thinking differently when trading talent.
Somewhere along the way, however, the story of Moneyball has been twisted, distorted and generalised to become this catchall phrase for using any data in football. It has become misrepresented and needs a serious brand overhaul.
Here’s the thing: football is an unpredictable and nuanced sport. Because of its low-scoring nature, the better team on the day often fails to win – about 40% of the time in fact, according to our analysis. Football is an unfair game, which of course is what makes it exasperatingly brilliant.
Data won’t change this (nor should we want it to), but it can be used to get a deeper understanding of the ‘why’ and nudge the odds in your favour. It can help to create constructive accountability around your club’s own long-term purpose. It allows you to look probabilistically at your developing talent pool and create succession pathways for the next generation. It can make you smarter in the transfer market. It’s not about counting shots, passes, crosses nor the distance covered in the game.
This is football, not Moneyball.