Ahead in the Count

Flaws in “Collected Wisdom”

posted by Ted Sullivan

I’m a big fan of author Michael Lewis and really enjoyed his best-seller, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

moneyballsbn4As quoted from wikipedia.com, “The central premise of Moneyball is that the collected wisdom of baseball insiders (including players, managers, coaches, scouts and the front office) over the past century is subjective and often flawed. Statistics such as stolen basesruns batted in, and batting average, typically used to gauge players, are relics of a 19th-century view of the game and the statistics that were available at the time.”

The story of Billy Beane and the small-market Oakland A’s is really entertaining. But in my opinion the book is a classic because it makes me consider how I might be blinded by “collected wisdom” or preconceived notions. 

I think there is flawed “collected wisdom” within youth sports, namely: a huge majority of parents and coaches believe that individual performance, wins and losses, batting average, ERA, etc. are the best way to measure the success of a youth team or player.

There are a few organizations such as Headfirst and the Positive Coaching Alliance who, like Billy Beane, are doing their best to create a whole new paradigm for measuring athletes. 

At every Headfirst Gamers baseball game, the traditional scorebook is kept by a volunteer parent, measuring hits, runs, strikeouts, RBIs, etc. However a separate “game chart” is kept by an assistant coach or a player. The chart is one page, with the Headfirst logo, the dates and the words: “Opponent: Doesn’t Matter” typed at the top. The roster of names is written down the left hand side and then there are a columns of boxes next to each name, one column for each inning. The bottom third of the page contains a numbered list of twenty-six “effort-based” metrics that are kept for each player and each inning. 

A few examples: 

“Sprint to 1B on a groundball”

“Picking up an opponent (after tough play)

Middle IF communication” 

“Down and ready every pitch”

“Thanking the umpire after the game”

and so on…

The Gamers are measured on these and many other effort based metrics throughout the season. It’s no surprise that these kids finish each season as better ballplayers, better teammates and better people. I’ve seen countless youth games in which an effort-based game chart was needed desperately around the bench or the dugout. I hope that as other teams play against the Gamers, coaches and parents will inquire as to why the kids are so disciplined and they will begin using their own effort-based metrics for measuring and motivating their teams. 

December 11, 2008 - Posted by | Media Commentary, On the Field, written by Ted Sullivan

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