August 15, 2013


The Moneyball of the Mind : Is sport psychology the new market inefficiency? (Noah Davis, 8/06/13, Pacific Standard)

The truth about Moneyball, the Michael Lewis book about Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, is that many people missed the point. The story, which tracked how the small-market A's contended with bigger, richer franchises, focused on Beane's use of statistics such as on-base percentage and WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) that went beyond more traditional metrics like batting average and ERA. The book helped launch a data-driven revolution--first in baseball and later in other sports--that continues today.

But Moneyball isn't about those advanced stats. They are merely a means to an end. Beane's real epiphany was to focus on finding and exploiting overlooked areas in every aspect of the game. At the time, on-base percentage worked because other Major League teams didn't understand the correlation between OBP and victories. As a result, they undervalued some players, which allowed Beane and his staff to acquire them cheaply (or, at least, more cheaply than they should have been). But eventually the league adjusted and those players became properly--and even over---valued. Moneyball moved on to other metrics.

In a professional sporting landscape where brilliant mathematical minds pour over every bit of quantifiable data, it grows increasingly difficult to find those unknown or unseen advantages. When they are discovered, the benefits are smaller and opposing teams adapt quicker. The window slams shut faster and faster. Additionally, we are getting to a point where professional athletes approach the limits of human physique. They can only get so much faster and so much stronger.

Thinking about this while watching a recent edition of SportsCenter made me wonder if the next revolution isn't going to be in body but rather in the mind, a much less explored area in how it relates to athletic achievement. I wanted to find out, so I called up Dave Hurley, a friend of mine, but more importantly a Ph.D. candidate in sport psychology at Boston University and a faculty fellow at Stonehill College. keep the athlete's physical ability but replace his mind (with the coach's own)?

Posted by at August 15, 2013 12:29 AM

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