Skip Sauer of Clemson University and EconTalk's Russ Roberts discuss the economics of Michael Lewis's Moneyball. Michael Lewis claims that the Oakland Athletics [A's] found an undervalued asset--the ability of a baseball player to draw a walk--and used that insight to succeed while spending less money than their rivals. Is it true? Drawing on Sauer's research, Sauer and Roberts try and answer the question and lots of others along the way. How competitive is the baseball industry? Why do some baseball skills get more attention than others? How important is defensive ability? Along the way you'll learn why Kevin Youkilis is a better lead-off hitter than you think and some of the peculiar incentives facing baseball teams and owners.
On-base percentage defined. Avoiding making an out, Lewis's hypothesis that walks were undervalued in bidding on players till the Oakland A's exploited it.
Billy Beane reveals trade secrets
Statistics vs. the wisdom and instinct of scouts
Alternatives: Are the Oakland A's just trying to put together a "good-enough team" to satisfy their clientele, rather than consciously hiring partly based on on-base-percentages or walks? Or, a third hypothesis: Are they just stupid?
Fan awareness of the controversies and new statistics as a factor
Is baseball competitive?
Critique of on-base %-age by Steve Levitt
Pitching, fielding, other stats
In passing, Sauer alluded to a quote from Yogi Berra. The quote is: "Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical." More Berra quotes
Mailbag (Time mark 54:01)
In the podcast Economics of Religion Larry Iannaccone discusses the theory that state-sponsored religion should have the weakest adherents. This seems to work with countries like Sweden, but what about countries like Iran?