What Moneyball Taught Me About Ignoring the Odds
I love baseball. The dirt and field and chalk lines and foul poles and the musky scent of leather as you breathe deeply into your glove. Baseball is a great sport. Kara and I have been to all the MLB stadiums and we’ve been season ticket holders for the Rockies. We’ve taken date nights to go see baseball movies. One of my favorite baseball movies is Moneyball, the story of Billy Beane, GM of the Oakland Athletics, and the 2002-2003 Athletics baseball teams.
In case you’ve never seen the movie, here’s a short synopsis: at the end of the 2001 season, Beane knew he was at a complete disadvantage financially compared to teams like the Angels and the Yankees. The A’s payroll: $41 million, Yankees: $200+ million. You don’t have to be a math whiz to notice a little disparity there. Beane knew he was way behind the arms race of baseball payrolls and the A’s didn’t have nearly the resources of the Yankees.
So, Beane turned to sabermetrics, the competitive strategy built on select statistics from players, made popular by Bill James’ book Baseball Abstract. On-base percentage, slugging percentage, and pitches per AB were just a few of the statistics Beane and his Athletics staff considered when building their 2002 roster. Spring training was basically the biggest collection of no-names that baseball’s ever seen.
The A’s set an A.L. record of 20 straight wins (Aug. 13-Sept. 4) and ended the season with a franchise-record 103 wins and the A.L. West division title… after losing Jason Giambi, Jason Isringhausen, and Johnny Damon the year before. Sabermetrics worked and it has changed how many teams, including the 2004 World Series champ Red Sox used sabermetrics to break their 100-year championship drought.
There was nothing about the A’s strategy that made sense outside of Oakland. Their roster didn’t have the resources, connections, trade bait, or track record of productivity that the Yankees had, and yet they won just as many games as the Yankees that year.
You may not have the resources of a Google, Apple, NBC, charity: water, Saddleback, Chick-fil-A, or any other massive name changing the world today. You may not have the connectivity of a Seth Godin, Michael Hyatt, Scott Harrison, Dave Ramsey, or Blake Mycoskie. You may not even have the current skill set of any number of dynamic speakers, entrepreneurs, ministry leaders, or business executives.
But, if God’s calling you to a fantastic dream, none of that matters. The wisdom of God sometimes confounds the world around us, and sometimes we will be mocked for our dreams. Sometimes we are chided, ignored, disregarded, and even confronted for chasing God-given dreams. There will be times your dream may feel like bad math based off chaos physics, but if you will choose to follow God’s path for you, He will bend conventional reasoning into faith-rewarding skills and resources.
It doesn’t have to always make sense for it to be significant. Moneyball and chasing God-given dreams are two completely different worlds, but the principle is the same: challenging the status quo is one of the most dynamic ways to start changing the world around you.
Defy the odds, challenge conventional wisdom, and step out in faith to follow the path God’s made for you.
And, guess which team is the best team in baseball in 2014? The Oakland Athletics.