Moneyball for schools: can we use data like the Oakland A’s?

One argument for how to make constructive use of meaningful data…

Improving Teaching

The Oakland A’s were a fairly successful baseball team facing a problem: a budget half that of their top rivals.  In Moneyball, Michael Lewis explained their response: exploiting market inefficiencies which left great baseball players undervalued.  Other analysts used statistics reflecting dramatic but unimportant aspects of the game; baseball scouts focused more on players’ looks than their abilities.  Smart buying allowed the A’s to recruit fantastic players who had gone unrecognised by richer teams.  The A’s achieved impressive winning streaks against far richer sides: well used, knowledge – data and statistics – is power.


In my career so far I’ve moved from outright suspicion of ‘data’ to a recognition of its usefulness – under certain circumstances, interpreted carefully.  Moneyball reminded me of the limitations of relying on instinct, experience and conventional wisdom; one passage discussing Bill James, the first person to collect baseball statistics identifying effective players, led me to rethink the role of data in…

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