Skip Sauer on the Economics of Moneyball
Oct 23 2006

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.

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?
    • In the podcast
Private vs. Public Risk-Taking
    • Mike Munger discusses how people take more driving risks since seatbelts--an example of an
unintended consequence
    . Are there more examples of this?
Addendum: Check out the follow-up questions addressed in this Mailbag:
Bill James on Baseball, Facts, and the Rules of the Game
Baseball stats guru and author Bill James talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the challenges of understanding complexity in baseball and elsewhere. James reflects on the lessons he has learned as a long-time student of data and the role...
Michael Lewis on the Hidden Economics of Baseball and Football
Michael Lewis talks about the economics of sports--the financial and decision-making side of baseball and football--using the insights from his bestselling books on baseball and football: Moneyball and The Blind Side. Along the way he discusses the implications of Moneyball...
Explore audio transcript, further reading that will help you delve deeper into this week’s episode, and vigorous conversations in the form of our comments section below.


Max Roberts
Oct 30 2006 at 12:52pm

Hey Professor Roberts,

I’ve been listening to this podcast since the first few episodes and I am very happy to see how well you’ve expanded on the original premise. The guests you have are always entertaining and very knowledgeable. I always enjoy the economic jokes too. As an economics major in the college of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University I’ve found this resource invaluable in terms of reinforcing my economic analysis skills. I’ve been meaning to chalk the sidewalks outside the econ building to try and get you more listeners as this podcast is a complementary good to most of the classes these students will take. If I may offer a request regarding a future episode, I would really like to see an episode covering international trade, maybe discuss the Doha round and the future of trade relations in an ever flattening world. Keep up the good work. Max Roberts

Shaun Anthony
Oct 31 2006 at 4:46am

Another great podcast Russ. Just wanted to say thanks for the podcasts. I never miss one. I keep an eye out for interesting new economics content on the Net and your podcast is my favourite.

Canberra, Australia

Comments are closed.




Podcast Episode Highlights
3:05On-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.
8:30Billy Beane reveals trade secrets
11:10Statistics vs. the wisdom and instinct of scouts
12:30Alternatives: 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?
25:50Fan awareness of the controversies and new statistics as a factor
27:50Is baseball competitive?
38:10Critique of on-base %-age by Steve Levitt
45:21Pitching, fielding, other stats
47:00In passing, Sauer alluded to a quote from Yogi Berra. The quote is: "Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical." More Berra quotes

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